Finding the perfect bridal look starts with trying on a single dress. Our Real Brides, Real Beauty photoshoot allowed our six lovelies to test drive dresses they may not have considered for their wedding. The shoot day was a fabulous dress-up party for the upcoming brides. They tried on various ‘personas’ while being photographed under the crystal chandeliers of Manhattan Manor—a stunning grand ballroom located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
Photographs by Cleo Sullivan
Brides From Left: Seidah, Kristen, Sonia, Suad, Jasminelee, Dujonette
One of the retailers that allowed us to borrow dresses was Ivan Meza from The Sample Room NY— a discounted designer showroom. He distilled his simple philosophy; “A woman finds out what is flattering to her simply by trying on and seeing what looks good,” he states. “We recommend that a bride goes to several traditional bridal stores to try on different silhouettes and see what looks best— then come to us. We carry all the major brands at our salon at 19 West 21 Street in the Flatiron District of NYC.” It’s that simple.
We asked Mr. Meza when a bride needs to begin the dress hunt: “The Sample Room NY is more flexible than conventional bridal retailers where you need to allow one year before the wedding before getting the final dress. It can take up to six months for the dress to come in, and you may require two months of alterations. At The Sample Room NY, we sell dresses off the rack, and although we do not do alterations, we have independent seamstresses who work with us. We are very accustomed to accommodating rush situations and have even sold a bride a dress on Tuesday, had it altered— and the woman got married in City Hall on Friday! We try to make the process as easy as possible,” says Mr. Meza.
Designer Loft is located in the heart of the garment district and houses a plethora of brands, with sizes up to 24. Liz Sellassie, an owner of the boutique, flipped the industry on its ear with its rigid sample sizing. She pushed to have samples in sizes 10-12. “It’s important to have the brides try on the dress,” she says. When brides should start looking for their yes dress, Ms. Sellassie recommends a year in advance. “We have designers who deliver in 6 months, so it’s important to give yourself at least a year to start the process. Once the gown arrives, we need one to two months to complete the fittings, so it’s best to give yourself time.” Designer Loft’s dress prices start from $1600 and go up to $10,000, and they offer one one service to make the experience as seamless as possible. They also have trunk shows at the boutique so that brides can see the full breadth of their favorite designers. You can find trunk show schedules on their website. Designer Loft 226 West 37th Street, 2nd Floor NYC
For designer Jude Jowilson it’s all about personalized service and fittings at his salon in the garment district. “I create my gowns with satin, silk faille, silk taffeta, silk wool, and Mikado fabrics, ” he says. “A bride ideally needs eight to twelve months before the wedding ( to start shopping for a dress), so there is time for alterations which will start three months prior to the big day.” When asked how brides should approach the dress hunt, he says, “Brides need to have an open mind. Instead of obsessing over what they pin on social media, they need to try on dresses in person to see what silhouette works on their body and what makes them feel wonderful. It’s important to have an open mind and have fun during the process,” he says. There seems to be a trend here—the in-person reality is much preferred instead of social media FOMO. Jude’s gowns are exquisitely crafted to accentuate a woman’s body, and he lets the luxurious fabrics sing by designing simple yet architectural silhouettes.
At Mark Ingram Atelier, brides will find white glove service from his staff and Mark himself. This jewel box of a shop offers many big-name designers and his eponymously named collection Bridal Couture by Mark Ingram. He’s super optimistic about the current state of weddings despite gloomy economic news. “The last two quarters have been powerful in gown shopping,” he says.
When asked what women are looking for, he states, “I think that brides no longer define themselves by the ‘one’ bridal look. The trend of wearing a minimum of 2 looks on the wedding day allows the bride complete fashion self-expression. My brides continue to strive for super sophisticated looks and those that project a fashion-forward vibe.”
Since beginning his business in 2002, he has found a change in attitude. “Brides know more about everything, and expectations are super high. The challenge is to meet those expectations with a high-level experience in all areas, from gown selection to alterations,” he says.
We hope our Real Beauty photoshoot inspires you to start your dress journey. Only you will know the one that sings to you as you look at your reflection, but you’ll have to kiss many frogs before you find the one for you.