The hunt for The Dress in the City
Flying in the face of those who dare question the integration of personal lives in blog entries, I will hereby post an entry that has to do with one of those most personal of tasks: The hunt for the perfect wedding dress.
The fiance proposed to me in July 2003, and ever since then dreams of white chiffon gowns haunted my mind. I did not want a train, nor a veil, nor a huge overblown production of a gown. But I did want something elegant, yet simple. As my mind raced with possibilities, time flew by, and since we had not decided on a date yet, thoughts of the wedding sort of fell by the wayside. That is, until a month or so ago when we finally decided to set the date on February 12, 2005. The wedding would be a casual one, in a backyard garden, so I had to find a dress to fit. I stuck with my idea of casual elegance, and I began my wedding gown search online. I started to go through Citysearch and various bridal sites to seek out a bridal salon/boutique in San Francisco, especially one that would fit within my measly budget. I didn’t know whether to go J. Crew or Vera Wang (the bridesmaid dresses that is; I could never afford those full-blown gowns). But one can only learn so much from a website. It was time to do some pavement-pounding.
First stop, Grace Couture. I had noticed on their website that they were having a sample sale for 50% to 75% off all gowns. It sounded like a deal. So I grabbed the #1 California down to Locust Street, hiked up the small hill, and found that there were quite a few brides-to-be ahead of me. The sales ladies seemed busy tending to them, and sort of left me on my own to filter through the remaining samples. I felt rather lost in the small store, and those beautiful dresses seemed intimidating and overwhelming. The prices of the dresses were shocking. Sure the sale was 50% to 75% off, but the original retail prices of the gowns were anywhere between $3,000 to $5,000 — even if you took 75% off the tag, it would still be astronomical. I decided to select a few anyway, which were then placed in a holding area as I waited my turn. It was 3 p.m. by then, and there were still a couple of ladies ahead of me. It then dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t have time to really try on the gowns anyway, as the store closes at 4 p.m. The sales lady noticed that too, and politely saw me out. She asked me to come back the next day at 10 a.m. when the store wasn’t as busy. Scared off by the prices and the borderline pretentiousness of the whole experience, I didn’t (If you still want to take advantage of the 50% sale though, you only have until this Saturday before the sale ends).
Instead, I made an appointment at Just Engaged Bridal Salon. I saw the ad on Citysearch, and I read the customer testimonials. It seemed quite good, I thought. The salon’s website boasts that all of their dresses are under $1,600, with a majority of them under $1,000. That definitely sounded more like my kind of store than the one before. Encouraged by the pretty gowns on their website, I decided to make the appointment as soon as possible, which happened to be earlier today.
It was more of a hassle getting there than to Grace Couture, as the Just Engaged salon was clear across town in the SoMa/Potrero Hill district. Also, as I climbed up the steep Utah Street hill, the out-of-the-way location made me wonder about whether this was the right place. But all my doubts were cleared as soon as I entered the store. Deb DeFanti, the owner of the salon, greeted me personally. She was the only person there, and she guided me through everything. She gave me the rundown on the prices and the gowns, which were separated into the formal and less-formal. She told me upfront that there would probably be an additional $100 or so for alteration costs, and that they don’t do them in-house (However, they do have a relationship with a particular seamstress, and they usually recommend her for alterations). She then said I was to pick out any dress I wanted, and she would personally assist in dressing me up.
And that’s exactly what happened. I picked out several dresses, and she recommended a few. After I changed into my undergarments, she then became my personal dressing assistant — she helped to place the dress on for me, made a few necessary adjustments on-the-go, gave honest opinions, and even took several digital snapshots of of me in the dresses (I had brought along a digital camera to help me make my decision). She put me completely at ease, and was very friendly and helpful. After trying on half a dozen dresses, I finally decided on three I liked best. Of those three, we narrowed it down even further by trying and retrying the dresses and comparing the digital photos.
In the end, I had picked the one. Yes, ladies and gents, I had found The Dress. And the best thing of all? The price of the dress was only $285. I am not kidding you. Even with alterations, it would only cost around $390 (Aside: As it turns out, the seamstress for the alterations lives just a couple blocks from me!). The dress is a beautiful Jessica McClintock ivory satin gown, with laced cap sleeves and detailed beading on the bust. It’s perfect. And I wouldn’t have ever found it had it not been for the gracious help of Deb DeFanti. For any of you in San Francisco who are looking for a low-cost high-quality solution for your wedding gown needs, Just Engaged Bridal Salon is the place for you. I can’t recommend it enough.