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Wedding Bliss: Low-Cost Gowns

Finding the perfect wedding dress without breaking the bank seems like an impossible task. But Carley Roney shows that brides have lots of options and don't necessarily have to wait for a sample sale. Roney is co-founder of theknot.com and editor-in-chief of The Knot magazine.

On Wednesday's Chic on a Shoestring, she puts The Early Show co-anchors Hannah Storm, Rene Syler and Harry Smith to the test. Harry ended up being the loser. Hannah and Rene tied for first place.

Roney says there are three things women should consider when buying a wedding dress:

  1. Style of wedding: You don't want to look too casual if the rest of your wedding is very formal
  2. Your budget
  3. Your body type: Buy something that is flattering to your body as well as your overall look. You don't want your dress to be a huge departure for you. You should determine what your "style" is: classic, modern, feminine, etc. before buying your dress.

Trends we will see in the spring/summer 2004 dresses are: the feminine look, ready-to-wear clothes, color, and retro with lace, cap sleeves, etc. Big ball gowns are returning as well.

The national average on what women pay for dresses is about $1,200. But Roney points out that many discount stores are showing dresses for considerably less.

One of the biggest mistakes brides make is ordering the dress too late, Roney notes. It adds a lot of unnecessary stress. If your heart is set on a couture gown, be sure to order by the six-month mark since your dress will be custom-made and, many times, made overseas. In addition, most off-the-rack dresses will require alterations. To make certain that you have enough time to get the gown fitted properly, you'll want to leave plenty of time for shipping and for your fittings. The same goes for the bridesmaid dresses.

The following are the dresses featured on The Early Show:

Sexy, V-Neck Dresses
These exemplify a '40s-starlet elegance - sexy, but chic. These are great for a sophisticated, swanky, city affair as well as a wedding on the beach.

Splurge:
Dress from Monique L'Huillier: $2,100.00
Diamond Chandelier Earrings: $1,380.00
Kleinfeld Shoes: $200.00

Grand Total: $3,680.00

The dress is sexy, body-hugging silk charmeuse v-necked sheath with low-dipping back and sweep train. Monique L'Huillier is a big time designer.

Steal:
Dress is from J.Crew's new wedding line: $275.00
Crystal Earrings: $15.00
Nine West Shoes: $69.00

Grand Total: $359.00

The dress is a simple v-necked, bias-cut sheath made of heavy triple-ply silk called "silk tricotine." It gives the dress a very sensual drape for a figure-flattering elegance.

Difference between the two: There are three things here: the splurge uses the finest quality silk, you're also paying for the designer name, and finally you're getting a dress made-to-measure while the J.Crew is one right off the rack.

Romantic Vintage:
Lace is everywhere this year and it isn't your grandmother's lace.

Steal:
Dress is from Jessica McClintock: $388.00
Nine West Shoes: $89.00
Faux Diamond Necklace: $23.00

Grand Total: $500.00

Dress is empire-waist slim sheath gown embellished with netted tulle and sequins, with delicate cap sleeves. Tulle overlays the rayon underslip.

Splurge:
Dress is from Badgley Mischka: $4,300.00
Diamond Necklace: $1,450.00
Shoes: $280.00

Grand Total: $6,030.00

This dress is a French lace sheath made by one of the designers to the stars. It features delicate cap sleeves, rosettes at the bodice and delicate sweep train. This dress was worn by American Pie star Alyson Hannigan in her fall real-life wedding -not in the movie.

Difference: The splurge uses imported French lace versus tulle. The splurge is made of silk versus rayon on the steal. Plus the splurge is from one of the big design houses.

Opulent

Splurge:
Dress from Reem Acra: $6,800.00
Reem Acra Tiara: $450.00
Reem Acra Veil: $1,900.00
Diamond Studs: $3,150.00
Shoes from Kleinfeld's: $130.00

Grand Total: $12,430.00

This is a regal ball gown made of imported ivory duchess satin. It is embellished with hand-embroidered and beaded gold details. It has a square neckline, beaded waistline, and elaborately beaded illusion sleeves.

Steal:
Dress is from Christina Wu: $650.00
Veil from Kleinfeld's: $150.00
Tiara: $70.00
Nine West Shoes: $89.00
Faux Diamond studs from Claire's: $10.00

Grand Total: $969.00

This regal ball gown is made of ivory satin. It is embellished with beading and antique-gold embroidery, also with a square neckline. The dress also features a beaded Basque waistline and elaborately beaded illusion sleeves.

Difference: You're paying for hand beading and embroidery on the splurge. You're paying for more detailing on the splurge. And you're paying for a big designer name.

All "splurge" dresses were borrowed from Kleinfeld Bridal in Brooklyn, N.Y. Diamonds were also provided by Kleinfeld's Fine Jewelry store.