Short Guide to Buying a Bridal Gown

You may be asking yourself why you should consult an independant bridal ordering service for your bridal needs. The answer is plain and simple: financial savings from beginning to end, and the knowledge that you "didn't get taken by the greedy bridal industry". If the person you choose to work with is also a seamstress, she can anticipate issues and help solve them. Let me explain how this happens.

Gown selection dilemma
Perhaps you have heard that it takes a year or more to plan and prepare for your wedding.  That may be true for many brides because of where and when they want to be married.  It shouldn't be so when it comes to selecting your gown and related products.  Visiting 10 bridal stores isn't necessary when you have the internet for comparison shopping, plus a proven personal assistant offering guidance through this maze. Wouldn't you rather have collections from 40 manufacturers to select from than just 5-6 at each store?   Maybe you have already been to a bridal shop or seen several bridal magazines with all their luscious advertising.  A stunning gown that looks fabulous in a catalog and/or on you, should not be the main reason you select a gown. I would be happy to help you decide what shape gown suits your figure, which features are suitable for the style wedding you want, do a little research on who has combined the desired gown elements you prefer in one dress, and help you find where you can see a gown or two that interest you.

If you are like most brides, you will need some alterations done to achieve the perfect fit.  Not only do you need an experienced bridal seamstress for the sewing, you will need one to advise you about what alterations you can expect to need BEFORE you buy the gown.  This might influence which gown you select based on the amount of time needed to do certain kinds of alterations.  Some companies have as much as 3" extra in the side seams that are easy to access, and some have nothing extra to let out.  Some have deep and elaborate trim at the hemline with no easy way to shorten the dress, so shorter brides might need to order custom length, adding to the cost of their purchase.  I know which companies have petite sizes for no extra charge, and I also know which one does custom length when shorter than standard for NO extra charge.  You won't be led by greedy sales staff into buying something you don't need or could easily avoid.

Let me illustrate with a situation I handled recently.  A bride brought me a fabulous designer gown she had purchased at a greatly reduced price at a local store.  The gowns by this designer are made for 5'7-8" in 2-3" heels.  She is 5'2" and planned to wear 2" heels.   For most gowns, this is not such a difficult alteration because gowns only need to be shortened in the front.  This bargain gown had elaborate embroidery and beading around the entire hemline, and the waist had 8 large box pleats set on a waistband with a zipper in the back.  Since it was full-skirted, it also had 5 layers under the satin top, all caught into the waistband.  Since so much length had to be removed, the only place to do it was at the waist and it had to be taken up all the way around, including the zipper.  This meant releasing all layers from the waistband and the zipper, shortening the outer layers by taking all the gores apart and re-tracing the shape and width at the top of each of 7 panels, than re-assembling them without cutting off the netted slip at the top, followed by cutting off the slip and all other layers at the bottom.  The whole alteration process just for the skirt, can't be done in less than 8 hours, so her total alterations bill was about $200, and that was much less than what a bridal store would have charged.  Even though the sales woman sold the gown discounted, she had hoped to recoup some of that loss in expensive alterations.   If I had spoken to the bride in advance of the sale, I would have advised her not to purchase this gown, but rather one with no trim at the hemline, easily moved trim or located at least 6-8" above the front bottom of the skirt. 

Large Size Gowns

Let's not forget the larger brides who have to pay extra to get a gown that fits.  If you are over size 16, you can expect to deal with this, but not all companies are the same.  Some want $20, some $100 and others up to $300.  That is when it is very important to have objective advice about when something is needed and when not.  One bride told me she could cut down on her eating to save the $100 it would cost to buy a size 18.  I also knew that the gown she selected was made by a company that had 3" of extra fabric in the side seams, so I had no problem agreeing to order her the size 16. We represent several manufacturers that do not charge more for larger size gowns, others start their extra charges at size 20 or 22, and that might be where you want to start your comparison shopping.
Custom-made gowns
There are times when you just can't find the right style, fabric or trim that you have hoped for all in one gown that you can afford.  Maybe you are a hard-to-fit shape or you want a silk gown that doesn't break your budget.  That's when you explore a custom-made gown.  I can work from a store-bought pattern just as it is, or I can alter the pattern to achieve what you want.  There are things to know, such as which fabrics will drape the way you want and which linings will give a gown body or soft lines.  I can show you samples of fabrics, cost out the gown for you, and you can then decide if this is what you want to do.  Having said that, I would also caution that sometimes a custom-made gown is more expensive than the designer gowns when discounted through Affordable Bridals, Inc.  I'll be happy to discuss my sewing background with anyone considering this option.
Modernizing an heirloom gown
This is another area that sometimes presents itself.  It is often possible to remake your mother's gown of 20-30 years ago into something that looks more modern and fits you.  Even buying one from the internet and adding pizazz is what I consider fun!   Over the years I have cut out new back pieces from lengthy trains, removed sleeves and added sleeves, removed and added collars, banded the skirt with brocade and matched it in a shawl, or created a whole new neckline trimmed with lace flowers from elsewhere on the gown.  Always I have heard back from the brides how pleased their mothers were when they saw the changes.  I also know when something is not possible or too expensive and will say why.
Ordering Your Gown
Did you know that most gowns are made in China and that there are times of the year when gown-construction delays occur? I stay up on these things, having access to most manufacturer shipping dates, and help you decide how soon you should order each category of gowns with time enough before the wedding for alterations. I will also know when to rush an order so you don't have to worry about the timing, and when to suggest certain designers who have gowns available in just 2-4 weeks.
Changing sizes     

There are times when members of the bridal party hope that they will be changing sizes smaller, or sometimes there is an illness or a pregnancy that occurs.  We’ll need to know if someone is enrolled in a program and already having weight loss results, and we’ll want to know how that same person might respond to stress as it directly affects sizing.  Considering these factors, I will help you decide which size to order, bearing in mind that I also have used my skills as a seamstress many times to make garment changes look like part of the original design of the dress. 


Since there are so many possibilities of styles, colors, body shapes and price categories, you will need help with this area.  Do you have each bridesmaid select what looks good on her, or do you pick one gown that all of them will wear?  Do you pick a wear-once throwaway gown, or one that can be worn many times?  Who buys the gowns, you or your attendants?  Assuming you know your attendants rather well, how can you please all of them, or should you?  These are all issues you could discuss with a caring expert as well as with your bridal party.  After doing my own two daughters' weddings as well as ordering dresses and accessories for several hundred more, I feel competent to help with all these issues.  I read articles in the bridal magazines and I have a network of other bridal experts who have addressed these things over and over.  We help each other repeatedly by being on an exclusive chat board where we share ideas and opinions on all bridal topics.  Often we make referrals for things like travel packages, order products for each other, and generally assist as any need arises.

Other Incentives
If you purchase a bridal gown or set of attendant gowns from Affordable Bridals Inc, you are entitled to some perks: significant discounts on invitations, veils, shoes and accessories, the loan of a slip instead of having to buy one, the rental of a steamer for the whole wedding party, and more. You have only to ask about something, and I will accommodate or advise about the best way to save in that area as it relates to the clothing and accessories.

For even greater savings, please visit our Clearance Section.

We Also Represent the Following
Excellent Resources

Mrs. Lockwood is an authorized retailer for the following:

wedding reception, wedding gownsInvitation companies:
Carlson Craft
Classic Thermographers
Taytex Thermographers

Jewelry companies:
Carley Designs
Mariell Jewelry, handbags and headpieces
Tiara Jewelry

Headpiece and Veil Companies:
AA Bridal
Betty Wales Veils
Milliners Supply Company
Randy Lynn
Washington Millinery

Slips and bras:
Merry Modes Inc
Sweetheart Slips

Bridal Potpourri
Randy Lynn

Tailoring supplies:
Atlanta Thread and Supply
Milliners Supply Company
Quality Zipper and Supply

Bridal magazines and books:
Bridal Bargains
Bridal Guide
Elegant Bride
For the Bride
Modern Bride

Tuxedo Rental companies:
Anderson Formal Wear
Ptak's Formal Wear

Saugus Shoe

Other Bridal Services:
Wedding Gown Preservation Company
L&L Gown Rentals
Ru-Nell Bridal Supplies/bridal garment bags

We have the solutions to all your wedding, sewing & alteration needs. Click on any of the links at the top of the page for answers to your questions, our special services and discount bridal gowns and accessories.

Contact Karen

Karen Lockwood
4406 Dogwood Trail
North Olmsted, OH 44070
(440) 734-2680
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