Trying on clothes in a fitting room is stressful enough. Is that mirror tilted? Why can’t they just change the flickering fluorescent light? What was this designer thinking labeling these jeans size 8? Size 4 is more like it. Add those stress-inducing experiences to the pressure of finding that perfect dress for what is supposed to be the biggest and happiest day of your life and, boom: anxiety attack. But don’t fret; most dress shops are there to help. We talked to three shop-owners who not only offer tips for buying this very important dress, but who also make buying that dress a special experience through personal service.
Anne Gregory for the Bride
For brides looking for an upscale experience, Anne Gregory for the Bride on Washington Road, in Dormont, offers three floors of couture wedding and mother-of-the-bride gowns.
“What you see here, it’s not everywhere else. All of these dresses are made one at a time to your specification,” says store manager Marianne Sutto. “If you wanted to make a change to something, we absolutely could do that for you.”
Featured designers include Monique Lhuillier, Anne Barge, Eugenia Coture, Rosa Clara, Stephen Yearick, and the Waters Collection. Appointments are private in one of the several comfortable rooms, and Anne Gregory associates consult each client on style selection.
“Nine times out of 10, [clients] pick something opposite of what they’re looking for,” Sutto says. “That’s why brides should shop with an open mind.”
Four seamstresses work on the ground level of the building to make sure each dress is a perfect fit. “It’s how you should be treated,” Sutto says. “It’s your special day.” But don’t mistake Anne Gregory for a snobby place; it might sell haute fashion, but it’s not looking down its nose at anyone. “It is a beautiful store, but we would never be uppity to anyone,” says Sutto. Designer headpieces and jewelry are also available.
Appointments available Tue.-Sat. 2975 W. Liberty Ave., Dormont. 412-531-3160 or www.annegregorybrides.com
Located in a cozy brick building on Washington Road in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, Koda Bridal caters to plus-sized brides only.
“It’s our specialty, so we look at dresses differently,” says owner Mary Beth Ryfun. Curvy brides often run into dead ends at run-of-the-mill shops, trying on styles and sizes that just aren’t made for their shapes, she adds. Her shop offers only gowns that accentuate her customers’ figures.
“While the open-back dresses are lovely, most of our brides need to wear a bra. Most of the styles for a size 2 don’t translate to size 22.” Ryfun and her crew focus on ruching and empire waists, A-lines and ball gowns — styles that make her clientele look and feel beautiful rather than go home overwhelmed and frustrated. And anyway, she says, wedding-dress sizes can be bogus.
“Most bridal designers run small, so if you are a straight size 16, you’re probably going to need a size 20 in a wedding dress. Most stores only carry 6, 8 and 10 [on the floor], which are streets sizes 2, 4, 6.” Ryfun and Koda Bridal aren’t just talking the talk, either. You won’t find any smaller-sized models in their promotion materials. Period.
“None of us are a size 2. We know what it’s like to shop for clothes, so we get it,” she says. “And we don’t use any stock photos from the designer in our images. You’re not going to see a size 2 on our website, or in any of our advertising.”
Appointment only. Tuesdays, noon-6 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 246 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon. 412-343-3212 or www.kodabridal.com
Glitter & Grit
Glitter & Grit, in Lawrenceville, offers a small-boutique experience. Wedding dresses of varying styles flow to the floor in the shop’s front windows; inside, delicate sashes and belts hang on a refurbished wooden ladder, and slate-blue walls make the caramel hardwood floor pop. “We provide a very unique experience for Pittsburgh brides,” says Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter & Grit. “[We offer] an intimate opportunity to explore our original, nontraditional wedding dresses from small, independent designers, in a relaxed, yet fun, environment.
“A Glitter & Grit bride is a woman who may have picked up a bridal magazine, or looked around online for wedding ideas, and may not really see herself represented in the mainstream media.”
During a private, one-on-one appointment, brides can expect to find gowns that have 3-D floral appliqués, intricate backs or keyhole necklines, among several other designs.
“Just the smallest element can really set a dress apart. We’re also seeing more of a mix of fabrics, in designs inspired by lingerie, with dreamy silks accented by touches of lace and sheerness,” says Szymanski. Several jewelry, headpiece, sash and topper designs are available as well.
Appointment only. 5300 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-781-2375 or www.glitterandgritpgh.com