I just added Filene's Basement "Running of the Brides" to the February list of events. Remember that one Friends episode when Monica goes to a wedding dress sale and gets into a big fight with a woman over a gown? That's what I was picturing and I was not disappointed! I went to this sale last year in Boston and wish I had brought my camera -- it really was a *complete* frenzy. I arrived about a quarter to eight in the morning right before the doors opened, and I was by myself (big mistake!). Since the event took place on a Friday, I couldn't find anyone willing to take a day off from work to help me find a wedding dress bargain. I was amazed, however, to see a large number of brides with an entourage of helpers...and all these women were wearing matching t-shirts! This was by far the most hard-core bridal event that I have ever attended, and I didn't stand a chance by myself.
As soon as the doors opened, all the dresses were quickly swooped up by brides and their helpers. I managed to pick up only ONE dress that someone had dropped on the floor. After that, I wandered around trying to find someone who would let me try on dresses from their pile, but noooooooo...they would only "trade" dresses. Since I only had one dress, I didn't have much luck. I continued this process for over an hour and tried on a few dresses here and there. Most were hideous. Then, around 10am, Filene's Basement employees started to pick up all the dresses and put them back on the racks. By 11am, the store was completely back to normal and it was easy to search the racks for dresses. However, since I had gotten there so early and wandered around picking up stray dresses to try on, I was exhausted and hungry by lunchtime. So, my advice to you, if you just want to check out what they have and are going by yourself, head there in the late morning. The one drawback is that by this time, all the dresses have been dragged on the floor, look quite dirty and might have some tears as well.
While this event is a media sensation, I wish Filene's Basement would structure it better to avoid the dresses getting completely trampled. They do have a decent selection of some higher-end designers, but you have to sort through a lot of lower-end brands to find those gems. And come prepared! Remember to wear a tank-top, sports bra and leggings/bike shorts and bring a small bag for your regular clothes. There are additional tips below, but the most important hint they omit is to know your wedding dress designers. The dresses range in price from around $299 - $699 and you have to calculate that a dress bought at this event could cost another $500 with dry cleaning and alteration fees. If you really want to get a bargain, you should know what designers you love and seek those out. The labels are intact (for the most part) so you can really search for your dream dress. FYI, I only found one Vera (and it was ugly) and no Monique Lhuilliers but it was fun searching!
Here is the list of Strategies for Success at "The Running of the Brides” sent to me by Pat from Filene's Basement. If you head to this year's event, good luck and let us know if you have any success!
The Week Before the Sale
Pick a team—people whose taste you trust and are willing to get in there and do shopping battle for you
Hold a pre-sale meeting with your team
• come up with a team uniform—matching hats, t-shirts, headbands, carry whistles-anything that would make it easier to find each other in the crowd
• assign jobs to team members—someone to gather, someone to trade, someone to help you in and out of the dresses, someone to guard your inventory from prowlers
• tear out pages from bridal magazines, or print styles from on-line wedding gown sites to show your team what you’re looking for
• pick place to rendezvous in the store
The Morning of the Sale
Dress code-- wear a sports bra and shorts or a bathing suit so you can try on dresses anywhere in the store; DO NOT WEAR FLIP FLOPS if you plan to participate in the “rush to the racks” (we’ve seen a couple of nasty tumbles)
Leave your handbag at home—you’ll need both hands for this.
Please, NO MAKE-UP. You wouldn’t want to see the dress of your dreams only to find it smeared with lipstick. CLEAN HANDS are appreciated.
No food or drinks inside the store; get rid of trash before the doors open in the receptacles provided
Best Time to Arrive
The doors open at 8am. Brides-to-be and their teams who have been in line the longest will get to the racks first. In fact, it’s possible that the racks will be bare by the time you get into the store. DON’T DESPAIR! The dresses are not all gone. You’ll see brides trading or putting dresses back on the racks almost immediately. Use the first hour to look for brides who are trying on dresses you like. Then, be there to grab or trade for her “rejects.”
If you’re not up to the chaos of store opening, arrive late morning or anytime up to store closing (9:30pm). Dresses will be back on the racks and the atmosphere will be much calmer. REMEMBER, this sale looks a lot more competitive than it really is—most of the hundreds of people you see in the rush to the racks are helpers, not buyers. Each team ends up with just one dress. (Alright, sometimes two, but that’s rare). There are still plenty of dresses to choose from. In fact, last year over 90% of the brides-to-be who came to this sale found their dream dress.
At the Event
Be nice—with all the excitement, shoppers have been known to get a little territorial and competitive. As our security manager once said to a TV reporter, “you don’t want to be walking down the aisle knowing you had to punch somebody out to get the dress.”
Be considerate—have your helpers put dresses you don’t want on the hangers and back on the racks. Think of how disappointed you’d be if you found your perfect wedding dress, only to see that it had been trampled on and damaged. Be fair–keep only the dresses you are seriously considering, and set the others free as soon as possible.
Remember, wedding gowns don’t always run true to size—look not only for your regular dress size, but try a size or two bigger as well. Even if a dress isn’t the perfect fit, at this price it may be worth the cost of alterations. Experts on gown cleaning and alterations will be on hand to advise you.
Try on whatever comes your way--sometimes a gown that isn’t what you pictured yourself wearing turns out to be “the one.”
Be decisive--it’s only a one-day sale and gowns are not returnable.
Have fun--if you find a dress, great. If not and you still have some time to look, check out the website for another city and date of the next sale.