With the bankruptcy filing of bridal retail giant David's Bridal, one must wonder if bridal retailers have indeed provided today's brides with what they are looking for. Shopping for your wedding gown has always been an experience driven by high expectations, needing to find THE dress, and an overall concept of what the budget might be, plus an elevated level of emotions. That was pre-covid. What does today's bride want? Affordable, meaningful, sustainable, and adaptable. Is the bridal retailer today providing that? The answer is as complicated as the retail giant's finances.
David's Bridal's business model worked for many years because it provided brides with a plethora of fashion options, sizes, and competitive price points. While a smaller bridal boutique may provide an intimate setting, personalized service, and more couture fashion trends, David's Bridal provides brides with a quick order turnaround, multiple locations throughout the country, and a very one-stop-shop find it all experience. So why are today's brides turning from the more prominent retailers to smaller boutiques?
Could social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have exposed the flaws of the giant retailers? Videos of upset brides crying in dressing rooms, angry brides who didn't get good customer service, and tons of weight-shaming stories are being uploaded to social media platforms at a remarkably high rate. Today's bride is a research bride. And though social media isn't necessarily a fountain of facts, the barrage of videos does make an impression. Because of the geographical spread that retail giants have, one could argue that all it takes is one rotten apple.
According to a CNN report, David's Bridal claimed in a bankruptcy filing that "an increasing number of brides are opting for less traditional wedding attire, including thrift wedding dresses, which has significantly exacerbated" the company's financial crisis (CNN, 2023). Could it have been as simple as not catching up to the trends? With the exit of Vera Wang, Zac Posen, and other notable designers, dresses that have been a staple at David's Bridal for years are no longer "fashionable." The name Oleg Cassini, who was associated with Jackie Kennedy for many years, and the elegance of the 1950s and 1960s isn't exactly falling out of the mouths of today's brides.
Is it the price point? Once considered an affordable place to purchase a wedding gown, brides are learning that the buck doesn't stop with the purchase. The costs of alterations sometimes match the price of a second dress. A 2021 article in Brides Magazine Brides Magazine (Kellogg, 2022) tells brides to expect anything from $50-$1000 in alteration costs. When the average price for a wedding gown runs between $750-$1300, having to spend an additional $500 or more on alterations can be daunting.
Could we make the argument that today’s bride is more sustainable? Between thrifting, renting, and purchasing dresses that are made with recycled materials at a local studio, some brides are conscious of their carbon footprint. The Reimagine DB line that launched March 2023 was the company’s response to its consumers wanting an eco-friendly option. But is a line of recycled materials enough to attract the eco-friendly bride? Only time will tell.
When the shopping experience makes the bride-to-be feel princess-like at one point, some brides are finding that shopping at the giant retailer is less like Cinderella going to the ballroom and more the clock hitting midnight and the fantasy disappearing.
CNN, N. M. (2023, April 17). One in four brides wear David's Bridal to their wedding. Now, it's filing for bankruptcy. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/17/business/davids-bridal-bankruptcy-retail/index.html),
Kellogg, K. (2022, May 1). Wedding Dress Alterations 101. Brides. https://www.brides.com/story/wedding-dress-alterations-tips