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Wedding and Formal Wear


586 Sixth Street (near Brannan), San Francisco.

(415) 861-4696. M-F 10-5, Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

Bridal Image has come a long way since it first opened its doors. The new two-story location across the street from the Flower Market is posh compared to its former site. Even better, there are more designer labels in the custom-order selection and a wide range of choices for every budget. The styles are au courant—lots of simple under-stated designs, but still some gowns in synthetic fabrics, heavily beaded, and very ornate in both full and sheath styles for those wanting more embellishment. Prices range from $99 to $2,000 with a good mid-priced range from $500 to $1000. Check the second floor for a buy-today-for-week-end-wedding selection. Many gowns are available for purchase off the rack. Sizes: 4-30 in stock in upstairs off-the-rack selections; any size for custom orders. Bridesmaid dresses are 15% off when at least three are ordered. Check the racks for prom dresses and good values on beaded mother-of-the-bride dresses.


300 Brannan Street (bet. Second and Third streets), San Francisco.

(415) 495-7922. M-Sat 10-5, Sun 11-5. MC, VISA. Parking: street.

You won't find the elegant salon feeling of most bridal shops here; its no-frills, no-glamour, close-to-tacky decor keeps prices down. But if you covet gowns in the $250 to $1,000 range at retail, you're a good candidate for the selection. Of course, dresses at more modest prices are available, too. Discounts are about 20% off retail, but may be more because many salons take a higher markup. You can buy right off the rack for a wedding on Saturday. Other dresses may be ordered for delivery in a week or two, or at most two to four months. Discontinued styles may be discounted as much as 50% off retail, while fluffy petticoats are 20-30% less than salon prices. I spotted a few dogs, but in order to get the best styles, the owner some-times has to take a loser. The same discounts apply to gowns for bridesmaids and flower girls, or a dress for a prom or a quincinera. Large selection of gowns in sizes 4-42 (off the rack or special order).



494 Forbes Bou/evard, South San Francisco.

(415) 553-8390. M-Sat 9:30-5, Sun 11-5. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: lot.

The Gunne Sax outlet is supermarket-sized! It's the Bay Area's resource for prom and party dresses. wonderful if you're enchanted with the feminine, romantic Jessica McClintock look or excited by the more contemporary Scott McClintock line. Suits, skirts, and dresses come in a wide variety of fabrics for daytime or evening occasions. Many brides and bridesmaids have found beautiful dresses here that would have been off-limits at full retail prices. Prom-trotters and GenXers can find slinky, saucy, and fun party fashions, long or short. There are also infant christening gowns and First Communion dresses. Except for a few samples and irregulars, most of the inventory is past season. Discounts are 50-80% off retail. The prices are tempting, but take care to scrutinize for flaws, which are easily acquired on delicate fabrics. Sizes: Junior 3-13; Women's 4-16; Plus 14W-24W (Scott McClintock only); Girls dresses in 2-4T (very limited), 4-6X, 7-14; Preteen 6-14. All sales are final. Fellas appreciate the "waiting room" next to the outlet. Leftover fabric from factory production is sold at the outlet, plus laces, beaded trims, and appliques, at prices that make home sewing worth the effort.



350 South Winchester Boulevard (off Stevens Creek), Second floor, San Jose.

(408) 241-8136. M-F 11-8, Sat 10-6, Sun 1-5. MC, VISA, AE, DIS. Parking: lot.

New Things West has multiple personalities. First, retired samples of bridal, bridesmaid, formal wear, and some MOBs from its first floor main store (Bay Area Bridals) are sold at modest to maximum discounts. Bridesmaid dresses start at $19.99, bridal gowns at $99, and prom dresses generally range from $19 to $79. Clearance racks of formal wear (some mother-of-the-bride and cocktail dresses) are always reduced a minimum of 60%, many 80%. Naturally, you'll find some forlorn fashions on the racks, but also some real beauties. The "new" bridal department at New Things West covers the spectrum, with gowns priced for every budget. The owner utilizes his connections to buy special closeouts and factory overstocks. These are discounted a minimum of 20% off regular retail and some styles can be special ordered. There are gowns available off the rack in sizes 4-44. Any sample is available as a special order. A nice dressy shoe clearance department offers outstanding values. If you strike out in the clearance department, don't leave without checking out the first floor full-service salon. Note: Before driving miles, call first. Renovations to the shopping center may force a move to another location in the area.



11 Duncan Street (at Valencia), San Francisco.

(415) 255-6192. By appointment only. Cash/Check. Parking: pay lots.

Here you'll save at least 20-50% off retail on samples and discontinued headpieces and veils for brides and bridesmaids from this bridal veil manufacturer. Prices range from $45 to $145, while retail prices would be more like $150 to $300. You'll find veils in informal to cathedral lengths, and headpieces in tiara, crown, bandeau, Juliet, wreath, pillbox, and other styles. Many have exquisite beading and appliques on fabrics that include silk shantung and satin. Special orders and custom designs are available, but at strictly "custom" prices. The bridal gown selection with an emphasis on a mid-price range is lovely, alas not discounted.


Rental, Previously Worn, and Vintage



524 Bryant Street, Palo Alto.

(650) 327-4480. T-Sat 11:30-4. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: street, pay lots.

Past-the-ingenue-stage brides (first and second weddings) seek out this charming shop for dresses that are bridal, special, but also feel appropriate for their stage in life. That's the appeal of the hundreds of vintage gowns gathered by the owner in her scouting trips around the country. About 90% of the older gowns are in sizes 6 to 8, so brides needing larger sizes scout through the more recent versions from the `50s and `60s, or they have a gown made from some of the vintage fabrics that are available. The average price on gowns is around $500. Everything is cleaned and restored; in-house alterations save headaches. The very personal service includes free hugs and hankies for when moms and daughters get weepy after finding the perfect dress.



2635 North Main, Walnut Creek.

(925) 280-0128. T-Th 11-7, Fri-Sat 10-5. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: street.

Consignment shopping for wedding gowns makes sense when you're trying to trim wedding costs. The owner brings her special understanding and expertise to the business—for many years she owned an upscale bridal salon. Whether you're hoping to spend a modest $200 or ready to pay more than $1,000 for a gown that may have been worn at an elegant country club reception, chances are you'll find many to consider within your budget. The gowns are in excellent condition, a requirement for consignment. Prices are approximately half off the original price. The styles reflect anything that may have been shown in bridal magazines from the past few years. Some gowns are new—retired try-on samples or can-celed orders from the inventory of other bridal salons. These are also reduced in price from 40-75% off original retail. Some labels you'll find on the racks: Vera Wang, Richard Glasgow, Badgley Mishka, Amsale, Helen Morley, Manale, and others. Sizes generally range from 4-38. Bridal veils available too. If you're retiring a gown, bring it in—you'll split the selling price 50/50 with the owner.



118 South Boulevard (south end of B Street), San Mateo

(650) 345-4302. By appointment. T-F 12:30-6:30, Sat 11-5. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: street.

At this boutique-style salon crammed with beautiful fashions, those needing a wedding, cocktail party, formal, or semiformal dress have a good chance of finding a real dazzler. It may be a show-stopping beaded and sequined formal, tea-length cocktail dress, even a chic black cocktail dress. The selection provides options for women of varying ages and style orientations, in sizes 4-20. Most designer dresses and bridal gowns come with well-known labels like Bob Mackie, Sho Max, Oleg Cassini, Demetrios, and Victor Costa. You have two options: buy the dress outright, or rent it just for the event. The owner handpicks the latest fashion gowns each season to keep the inventory up-to-date. To allow the staff time to give you the personal service and attention you may require, appointments are essential.



1839 Divisadero Street, San Francisco.

(415) 567-7332. M-Sat Noon-6. MC, VISA, AE. Parking: street.

Many love the vintage and antique collection of bridal gowns sold at this unique establishment, in business since 1967, but for those who prefer a fresh start, there are always racks of new, discontinued sample wedding gowns priced for the most straitened budget (lots under $200). The samples may be somewhat shopworn; they're sent over from the company's bridal salon in San Anselmo. On racks of preowned or vintage gowns you may find a beauty (probably in a tiny size) from the 1870s or more recent gowns from the '30s, '40s, up to the '80s. Make it a tandem shopping excursion; grooms can rent a vintage tux, tails, or really gallant-looking morning coat (from the 1900s to the 1960s) and ensure a truly charming wedding picture.



1419 Burlingame Avenue, Suite 0 (in the Fox Mall), Burlingame.

(650) 347-3250. M-Sat 9:30-6. MC, VISA. AE. Parking: street or lots.

No appointments required, plus the owner's personal and friendly service at this small consignment boutique, add up to a hassle-free shopping expedition. It's worth a shot for the opportunity to save 50-65% off the original prices on these worn-once consignment gowns and never-worn discontinued sample gowns. If you've studied bridal magazines you'll recognize the labels— Demetrios, Bianchi, Marissa, Galina, Eden, Jasmine, Venus, Diamond Collection, and many others. You can find some gowns for second weddings, occasionally MOB'S and more informal gowns for simple affairs, plus new veils and headpieces. Check for accessories. Sizes depend on what's come in, but count on a reasonable selection in 4 to 16, larger sizes often available although they go out pretty fast. Referrals for alteration services. Check here too for 25% discounts on your invita-tions, wedding-related stationery, and other paper goods available by special order from about 20 books (the same popular books shown at most stores). Brides: call for the particulars of selling your gown after the wedding.

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