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The Ultimate Online Shopper (and Bride-to-Be)

Wedding Style Special Edition
November 4, 2011 Deadline
Special Issue

The Ultimate Online Shopper (and Bride-to-Be)

“I bought my wedding dress online.”

When a young coworker told me she shopped for almost everything online, I naturally doubted her. Why would you buy a wedding dress online?

“I wanted a classic dress,” she explained, “something vintage. So, I went online.”

It all started with a simple wedding dress in a classic movie. Off my colleague went to The Knot (theknot.com), one of the leading online resources for brides-to-be. Several of the dresses featured were “almost” what she wanted, but none of them were perfect. She then visited local shops, but still failed to find what she wanted.

After explaining what she wanted, a local seamstress mentioned to the frustrated young woman that an existing dress could be altered. This was a moment of inspiration. The bride-to-be was transformed into the ultimate online shopper.

Somehow, she found her dream dress for $1200 on Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org). The dress was two sizes larger than she needed. It had been fitted, worn and then dry cleaned several years ago. Messages were exchanged with the original owner and the dress was shipped from the Seattle area.

Buying a vintage replica dress did not save my colleague money, but that isn’t always the reason to shop online. My coworker had to pay for some minor repairs to the dress, in addition to some alterations.

There was the real risk that the dress wouldn’t be close enough to her size that it could be altered effectively. But, the seamstress who had inspired the online quest for a dress was able to work miracles. The dress turned out to be the ideal starting point. The simple vintage dress was transformed into a full gown. Ivory gloves and other touches are also planned.

Admittedly, since things are still in the planning stages as I write this, I cannot attest to the final results. I’m confident the results will be amazing.

To match the dress, she wanted complementary accessories. These were located online on Etsy (etsy.com) and other artisan websites. She also found a classic cameo, though it needed to be repaired.  

I thought back to when my wife and I were engaged. Her diamond was purchased from a woman in Southern California. We had a local artist create custom rings for us, using the diamond and an amethyst in my wife’s ring. Maybe we didn’t save any money, but we have unique rings.

The online shopping style maven told me most of her jewelry is purchased in a similar manner. She buys stones, pendants, charms and other items she likes and takes them to local artists. The result is a mix of local artistry with items from the past.

This excited bride-to-be is having pearl and shell fragment flower broaches created for bridesmaids. The pearls are from an old necklace purchased on eBay, the shell fragments were found on a surfing-themed website and the pattern for the broaches is the work of an artist she knows.

Consider the lessons this savvy shopper demonstrates. First, shopping online isn’t always about saving money or convenience. She spent days looking for a simple dress or gown that could altered to fit her. The dress she found was not the cheapest dress, it was the dress she wanted. Her virtual hunt was little different than traveling to Los Angeles or San Francisco to search the vintage clothing stores or specialty shops. She also needed a local seamstress willing to make alterations. Whether buying a new gown or something vintage, you need a local expert to help make your vision a reality.

Finding the cameo and other accessories was also only the beginning. A local expert had to restore the pieces my friend located online. I don’t know if she saved money or not on the accessories, but she’s happy with them.

As mentioned earlier, the pearl flowers being made are a project for a local artist. The elements required, from the pearls to the shell petals, were ordered online just as someone might order beading supplies from a catalog. The flowers will take two to three weeks to assemble. The bride-to-be is getting customized gifts for her party, handcrafted locally using items gathered from various sources.

The artists and craftspeople helping my colleague need time to perform their magic. She knew that shopping online was only a way to find pieces of the puzzle. If you’re going to explore the Web to locate unique items for your wedding, don’t wait until the last minute. Local specialists are busy, so give them the time they need.

Tips for Brides-to-Be Shopping Online:

1. Talk to local experts first, before you rush to shop online.
2. Read reviews of vendors so you know they have a good reputation.
3. Use PayPal or another escrowed payment system, so no one can take advantage of you.
4. Buy early in case an item has to be returned, repaired or altered.
5. Have a back-up plan for anything you want to order that might not be available.
6. Understand that you are unlikely to save time or money, but you will find unique items.

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