Every bride wants to look and feel beautiful on her wedding day, and the perfect gown is often pretty high up on the wedding wish list. Unfortunately, the price tag attached to that perfect gown can be just as high. The average bride spends at least $1100 to buy a wedding gown and that figure can easily creep up much higher when alteration and preservation is considered. And while the “big day” memories may last forever, that gorgeous, $1,000+ gown only gets worn once, giving brides little return on investment, especially in a tight economy.
That is, unless the gown comes from a store like The Frock Shop, Inc. The Chicago-based business allows brides to look fabulous without breaking their budget by renting gowns to brides-to-be for just a fraction of the cost. In addition to wedding gowns, the shop’s selection includes designer dresses for occasions ranging from proms to anniversaries. We recently chatted with The Frock Shop’s owner, Jennifer Burrell, to learn more about the shop, get tips for brides looking for their perfect gown, and to get advice for women looking for a cost-effective way to look great for their special occasion.
What drove you to come up with the idea of starting the Frock Shop?
Well, it happened by accident. I was cleaning out my closet one day and I noticed all of the dresses that I had worn over the years. This included my wedding dress, pageant dresses and cocktail dresses. These dresses were just sitting in my closet and were in perfectly good condition because they had only been worn once. I thought to myself, there has to be a way for women to look great for all of the special events in their lives, without spending money on dresses that we are only going to wear one time. So the idea of renting dresses was born. Men have been renting tuxedos for years, so why can’t women rent dresses?
What are the advantages to brides to rent rather than purchase a gown?
There is obviously a substantial cost savings. At the Frock Shop, we try to keep all of our dress rentals under $299. The average bride spends about $1100 when she purchases her wedding dress. When you rent a gown, you can use the money that you save towards something that can be used again. I recommend that brides use extra money on a nice pair of diamond earrings or a pearl necklace. They can wear this jewelry on their wedding day and again afterwards. Or, spend the extra money on an experience that you are going to remember forever, like your honeymoon. Or just put it in the bank! Also, when bride rents a dress from The Frock Shop, the cost of dry cleaning is included. There is no need to preserve your dress (dress preservation starts at around $150, so this is an additional savings). Also, all of our dresses are in stock. When I got married, I thought I could walk out of the bridal boutique with my gown. This is usually not the case. Most wedding dresses are special ordered, but you do not have to wait on your dress at The Frock Shop. This works well for brides that are planning weddings at the last minute.
Can rented gowns be altered in the same way as gowns that you purchase?<br />
Many brides think that they cannot get their dresses altered if they are renting it. But at The Frock Shop, we allow minor alterations on wedding dresses. The bride must pay for the alterations, but we work with an excellent seamstress (who is also very reasonably priced). When possible, our seamstress does temporary alterations. When a dress is temporarily altered, we are able to alter the dress back to its original state after it has been worn so that it can be rented again. We never do any drastic alterations to a dress because we want to keep the integrity of the original garment as much as possible.
What advice would you have for brides looking to rent a gown for their big day?
The best piece of advice that I can offer is to try a variety of dress styles on and be open to different styles, shapes and colors. I cannot tell you how many brides love the picture in the magazine, but when they try it on, they do not like it because it looks totally different on their body. Sometimes the style or color that you do not expect to look good, looks the best on you. Also, try to limit the number of people that you bring with you to try on dresses. Having friends and family with you is one of the best parts of looking for a wedding dress, but having too many people’s opinions can confuse a bride. I have even seen people that want brides to wear a certain type of dress because it is the dress that they have always dreamed of, not what the bride has always dreamed of. This just causes a lot of stress and confusion for the bride, which is never a good thing because a bride already has a lot of things on her plate!
Tell us a little about your dresses for special occasions other than weddings.
We started renting weddings dresses because to me, a wedding dress is the most logical type of dress to rent. But soon thereafter, people started asking about other types of dresses. So in addition to renting wedding dresses, we rent cocktail & evening gowns. We rent dresses for prom, pageants, wedding guests, bachelorette parties . . . almost any special occasion you can think of. We are a growing company, but we are still very small. But one of the reasons we have been successful and able to grow is because we really listen to customer requests. If we do not have a dress in stock, we look for it so that we have it the next time someone asks for it.
Do you serve people outside of the Chicago area?
Right now, we service Chicago-area customers only. But by this fall, we will have an online dress rental site. Once the site is complete, people from all across the United States will be able to rent Frock Shop dresses. But if someone sees a dress that they really like on our website (or Facebook page), they can call our 1-800 number and we will happily process the payment over the phone and ship the dress to them for a nominal fee.
Many people are pleasantly surprised when they see the quality of dresses that we carry. They probably have this pre-conceived notion that rented dresses are going to be out of style, tacky or dirty. We carry the same designers and brands that can be found at high end boutiques and department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. Also, all dresses are professionally cleaned after each wear and are “retired” once they are no longer in rentable condition. So basically, if we would not wear it, we do not rent it.
Frock Shop rentals range from $50 – $99 for cocktail dress, $75 – $125 for evening gowns, and from $199-$299 for wedding gowns. Visit the website at http://frockshopchicago.com/