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The Running of the Brides

10 Tips for Finding a Bargain Gown at a Filene's Basement Wedding Dress Sale

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Updated February 02, 2011
Designer wedding gowns... cheap. Since 1947, those four words have drawn hundreds of women to Filene's Basement in Boston for the twice yearly wedding dress sale to beat all sales. It's been christened the "running of the brides," and indeed, when the doors are opened, eager women—some of them not yet even engaged—swarm the store in search of the perfect gown at an incredible price.

Filene's Basement buyers work to assemble a collection of more than 1,500 wedding gowns for each sale. These designer wedding dresses normally carry hefty price tags in the thousands of dollars, but for the sale, most are priced at $249, $499 or $699.

The next Filene's Basement Bridal Event will not be held at the flagship store in Boston, formerly located at 426 Washington Street (Downtown Crossing), because it has been demolished. However, the famous wedding gown sale will be held instead at Boston's Hynes Convention Center on Friday, March 11, 2011. For information, call 800-966-BSMT (2768).

Wedding dress sales will also be held this winter and spring at Filene's Basement stores in New York City (February 18), Atlanta (March 18), Chicago (April 8) and Washington, DC (April 29).

The Filene's Basement flagship store in Boston was set to reopen in the spring of 2009, but the Downtown Crossing reopening was delayed due to the company's May 2009 bankruptcy filing and the subsequent purchase of Filene's Basement by Syms Corp. Now, the redevelopment of the Downtown Crossing site is in limbo.

Here are 10 tips for finding a bargain bridal gown at a Filene's Basement wedding dress sale:

1. Arrive at Filene's Basement (Hynes Convention Center in 2011) very early, as the line starts forming hours before the store opens at 8 a.m. for the wedding dress sale.

2. Bring a team of at least two helpers with you. While it may be tough to talk a guy friend into joining you, if you can, you'll be glad for the help, as wedding gowns can be heavy!

3. Devise a way to keep track of your team once you're in the store. You might all wear bright colored sweatshirts or hats, carry flashing light sticks, don silly headbands with springy antennae or wear whistles around your necks.

4. Visit a bridal salon or study bridal gowns in magazines and on the Web to decide in advance what type of gown you prefer. White or ivory? Simple or elaborate? Sheath or full-skirted? Be sure to show your team pictures of what you have in mind. Also be sure your helpers know what sizes to look for, keeping in mind that most bridal gowns run small, so you'll need a size larger than what you normally wear. A good seamstress will have little trouble altering a gown that is too large, but you should avoid gowns that are too snug.

5. Wear comfortable shoes and a bodysuit or bathing suit under a sweatsuit. It's not likely that you'll find a dressing room, so you'll have to try on wedding dresses in the midst of the chaos.

6. When the doors open, be prepared to grab up as many wedding dresses as you can in the first several minutes. Once the racks are emptied and brides begin trying on wedding gowns, bartering begins, so the more dresses you score up front, the better your chances of swapping for "the one."

7. Don't be afraid to try on a dress that isn't exactly what you had in mind. You may be surprised once you see the gown on you instead of on a hanger.

8. Bring along a small mirror, as it may be difficult to get a place in front of the store's full-length mirrors. It won't be ideal, but it will give you a sense of whether the gown's neckline is flattering and help you decide whether to hold onto a dress or pass it along.

9. Be patient. As more brides-to-be either find their perfect dresses or give up, there will be additional gowns to try.

10. Keep in mind that no dress is a bargain if you don't love it. Filene's Basement won't allow you to return a wedding dress purchased at the sale, so save your money if you don't think you'll be completely satisfied. That said, if you do find a spectacular dress, run straight to the registers. Filene's Basement's wedding dress sale is a one-day event.

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