A Sale to Benefit Charity and Thrifty Brides-to-Be
BOSTON, March 22, 2009, The New York Times — Kellie-Jeanne Smith, a bride-to-be from Roslindale, made a big decision Friday.
“With the economic situation, we decided to change our wedding date and downsize the whole thing,” said Ms. Smith, 31, an office manager for an online media company who said she was trying to cut her wedding budget by half because of uncertainty over her financial future. “It was a stressful afternoon.”
But that night, she said, a neighbor gave her a shopping tip about a two-day bridal gown sale at a Goodwill in the Roxbury section of Boston. About 1,200 designer dresses donated by a local retailer and valued at as much as $7,000 for a single dress would be sold for $80 to $250.
Ms. Smith, who will marry in September, was at the store Saturday morning with her fiancé. She was second to last in line at 7:57 a.m. but was first to check out, at 8:25 a.m., with a gown designed by Emerald for $250. From her research online, she estimated that the dress was worth more than $1,000.
Even in good economic times, brides are often looking for bargains.
Boston is the original site of the best-known and first blowout bridal sale at Filene’s Basement, which started in 1947. The sale is called the Running of the Brides because the event, which features designer dresses starting at about $250, inspires tugs of war for dresses and leaves frenetic brides-to-be with no time for dressing rooms stripping down in the aisles.
Now the economic downturn is pushing many brides to do more with less.
With the deep discounts, Goodwill was prepared for a Filene’s-type horde. It hired two Boston police officers and four security guards to help the 20 employees and volunteers overseeing more than 25 racks of dresses in the store’s large auditorium.
But perhaps because of the chilly 30-degree weather, the crowd numbered only about 50 people when the doors opened at 8 a.m. All were well behaved as they filed inside to be greeted by balloons and clapping staff members. By 9 a.m., 200 people had arrived, and by noon, 350, with more steadily streaming in.
The store sold about 110 dresses for roughly $17,000 by the end of the sale, at 3 p.m., said James Harder, a Goodwill spokesman. About 500 people had visited, Mr. Harder said.
Some buyers had also anticipated a large crowd, so they arrived in the wee hours and camped out in the parking lot. Aleksandra Ivanovoska, 23, a student from Maine, and her fiancé, Rob Roberson, 25, a painter, who are to marry in July, arrived by 3:30 a.m. but stayed in their car until around 7, when they lined up behind about 15 people.
First in line was Sarah Burdulis, 25, a kindergarten teacher from Somerville, who brought what she described as a “crazy, pokey hat” to wear so that her entourage — her parents and her younger brother — could find her if it turned into a zoo inside.
“Dad carries, Mom finds the right size and my brother does what he’s told,” said Ms. Burdulis, who is planning a wedding in May 2010.
But the family left empty-handed at 9:30 a.m.
Others had more success. After trying on about 20 dresses in two hours, Susan Brown, 31, an assistant attorney general from Somerville, bought a dress for $80. She brought a friend who offered diplomatic feedback like, “That looks nice, but I don’t know if it’s what you’re looking for.”
“I want to find something that doesn’t look like a craft box threw up on it,” said Ms. Brown, whose wedding is set for September. “I don’t go for the tight mermaid thing.”
Ms. Brown managed to find a simple dress with a sash and lace on the top. “My dress looks just like the couture dresses I tried on in expensive shops,” she said.
One couple from Brazil bought 11 dresses to sell there, and another couple bought 7 dresses to sell in Africa, Mr. Harder said.
Shoppers learned about the Goodwill sale mostly from radio and newspaper advertisements and at Shecky’s Girls Night Out events, evenings of fashion and beauty product sales that offer to “cure your recession depression.”
Mr. Harder said all proceeds from the bridal sale would go toward Goodwill’s job training and other programs.
Joanne Hilferty, the chief executive of nine Goodwill stores in Massachusetts, said a goal was to bring in about $50,000 from the sale, which continues on Sunday.
Word about the sale reached not only brides.
One groom-to-be came alone, equipped with a cellphone headset through which he communicated with his fiancée in China. The man, Rui Si, 29, a doctor in Malden, bought one dress for $160 to “free his hands,” then made his way back to look for more options as he continued to chat away.