Bargain-hunters and Bridezillas

This morning was the semi-annual Filene’s Basement Bridal Event, otherwise known as “The Running of the Brides.” The store has thousands of designer and regular wedding dresses (and this year, bridesmaids’ gowns) and they are hella cheap. How cheap? I saw a Carolina Herrera for $450. And a Vera Wang for $600.

So wherefor the nickname, “the running of the brides?” Well– at those prices, the lines to get into the sale are crazy, and this year, the event was held at one of the convention centers, due to construction at the “real” Basement– brides bring their entourages to help them grab the first dresses they see, and then the trying on and trading for sizes begins. The running part? When they open the doors, everyone dashes in to grab dresses and haul them (literally, those suckers are heavy) back to their brides.

I went this morning to assist my brother’s Fair Fiancee in the dash & grab. Five of her friends and coworkers also came along. We all wore the same color shirts, and there were decorated painters’ hats and flashing light wands to help us find each other. But we were hardly outlandish. One team wore veils, beneath huge papier-mache diamonds on headbands. Another smart set of women wore glow in the dark bicycling vests, for quick locating in dark corners. And my favorite team was decked out in green and white shamrock scrubs, green shamrock face paint, and headbands with glittery shamrocks on springs.

We were about 75 yards back from the door when it started, so we got in early and everyone was able to grab a good armful of dresses. Once we all found each other, the trying on and sorting through began. The Fair Fiancee is one of those women who are a perfect size six, so we were looking for bridal 10s and 12s. (How messed up is that? I won’t even tell you my bridal size. Mortifying, I tell you.) She’s a cool customer, so she didn’t bother with the bathing suits and other more self-conscious undergarments that others wore as they stripped, right out in the open. (They could never get enough dressing rooms, so they don’t even try.) Not in all the years of playing sports have I seen so many bras and boyshorts, sportsbras and shapers. The few boy friends and brothers who’d some along were game and minding their manners, carefully ogling only dresses, and getting into the spirit. One who came over to us looking to trade dresses was all prepared– “size 8, white, and poufy, not too many sparkles,” said the linebacker. Seriously, this kid could have taken out half the petite flowers guarding dresses.

Once we went through all the dresses that we had rounded up, and decided which ones could be gotten rid of without trying on, the work began. I brought some clips and things to “tailor” the dresses in the event that the gown of her dreams was a little big. We were quickly surrounded by other skinny minnies, looking to trade off dresses once the FF had decided they were a no go. One wench stole a gorgeous v-neck creamy lacy mermaid number that I’d found, and that FF’d liked, and despite my eagle eye, I couldn’t find it or her to wrestle it back. Hopefully karma will give her a nasty set of pimples that spell out “DRESS THIEF” on her wedding day.

We then started with the search for more dresses. Some of us stayed put at the rack we’d pulled up at, and traded dresses with the wanderers, as well as the adjoining brides, all of whom were very nice, complimentary, and cooperative. I grabbed some dresses and started looking to trade. “Size 10, cream, strapless? Poofy’s good!” I called. Some of the bridal teams were being unnecessarily picky, hoarding dresses they didn’t want and not giving them out if I didn’t have something they wanted. But others were being generous, and even if they didn’t want my dresses, they’d give me some of theirs if I thought they would work. I only got in two and a half rounds of attempted trading before I learned that the FF had found her dress. It’s lovely, fits her perfectly, and it was a steal.

We then fought our way through the throngs over to the registers, and the FF claimed her prize. I looked at my cell phone, and was amazed to see that it was only 9:05 a.m. We’d only been at it for an hour– I felt like I’d run a marathon. I opted out of breakfast with the FF and the rest of the crew– I was feeling sweaty and shaky, since I’m still recovering from this stupid flu, and knew I’d make less than sterling company. But now I feel like a “real” Bostonian– for all that I’ve lived here all my life, I’d never gone to the sale before. It was an experience, that’s for sure, but the hassle is worth it for the money you save. And the costumes were cute.

One thing I don’t like about the press coverage of the event, though, is the characterization of all the brides and their helpers as “Bridezillas.” We saw more than a few, but most of the people were helpful and friendly. Everyone was just looking to save some money, if they could– and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. “Bargain crazed?” Somehow, I don’t think that a sales event appealing to men would earn that epithet. Women are often characterized as greedy, spending too much, and frivolous in their buying habits. But who doesn’t want their wedding to be nice, and to get to wear something that makes you look on the outside the way you feel on the inside when your beloved looks at you? I also had a moment of satisfaction, as I surveyed all these women trying on dresses that weren’t being sold at a massive profit margin. As a wise woman once said, “more money for the open bar.” And that’s what a wedding’s really about, right?


20 thoughts on “Bargain-hunters and Bridezillas

  1. Marci

    WOW!! What an adventure! I remember hearing about the sale when I lived in Boston, but I never got to hear about it first-hand. I hope you continue to feel better, and get plenty of rest after your crazy morning 🙂

  2. MamaBird

    Awesome account of the Filene’s Basement sale (I never went when I lived in Boston either) and excellent commentary too — you’re right, women trying to be careful with their resources is a good thing. No to mention more dinero for the open bar! (You might like Michelle Singletary’s column in the WaPo The Color of Money — she often writes about women’s finances.) And the dress snatchers are basically the opposite of the Mrs. G-like blog fairies, huh? Love the karma you wished on them.

  3. Molly

    I have also always wanted to go to that. Sounds like fun! Wedding dresses are so expensive. It would be nice to get something wonderful, but not spend a third of your budget on it.

  4. Mrs. Chicken

    I love this story. I wish I could have done this when I was a bride. I was so boring, bought the third dress I tried on.

    But I loved my dress.

    This was a really super post.

  5. magpie

    That’s a great tale.

    I went shopping at Eileen Fisher with my friend Peter. He picked stuff out, I tried it on, we were done in a half hour. But then, I didn’t much look like a BRIDE.

  6. Eileen

    The way you wrote about it, I felt like I was there. I have always wanted to experience it, even thou I hate shopping and crowds. I do love a good deal, and I don’t blame the future brides for trying to find the perfect dress that way. What way to spend the morning, I think I would have needed a major nap!

  7. thordora

    ALways wondered about that. I’d never do it since I’d have a heart attack in that many people-rage would be trigger fer sure.

    I’m sure she’s pleased to have found a beautiful dress for cheap though. I’d say now you don’t have to buy them a present. 🙂

  8. Angelina

    I think I would have been both enjoyably engaged in people watching as well as terrified at all the people and the bustle. It sounds like a worthy event to participate in- a real Boston cultural experience.


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