As many of you know, I spent a good portion of 2016 unpacking big brown boxes filled with tulle and lace and creamy white crepe. I found myself squealing “That dress was MADE for you” and hugging giddy brides and their mothers as they skipped happily down the stairs dreaming of the day their dress would arrive. In January, I started working for a well known bridal boutique called, The Dress Theory. I can’t say enough good things about my past coworkers, the quality of the dresses and the experience you receive as a bride at The Dress Theory. If you have the opportunity to shop at The Dress Theory at any of its three locations (Seattle, San Diego or Nashville) I highly recommend it.
Still, working as a bridal stylist was not what I was meant to do long term. It was never my dream to work retail, it has always been my dream to work in fashion-though I never knew in what capacity. I appreciate everything I learned from my time at The Dress Theory and can honestly say working retail at an appointment only, boutique bridal salon is nothing like my high school retail job spraying perfume and greeting teenagers at Hollister.
What I learned working as a Bridal Stylist:
Bridal Stylists are TRULY Experts in Wedding Dresses
When I walk into Urban Outfitters I don’t really expect much from the sales associate other than helping me find a size and taking my money if I decide to make a purchase. When I worked at Hollister I surely didn’t know much beyond the organization of the store and the current promos and discounts going on. Bridal stylists aren’t paid to sit in a room of giant cupcake dresses and look pretty. The first month of working as a stylist required constant studying. I made flashcards to memorize who designed which dress, the prices, the fabrics, the body types that looked best in each. Even after a month I was still learning! Each dress can and should be altered differently, each designer has different customization options- as more dresses were brought into the shop the more there was to learn. I was constantly impressed by my manager and her ability to seemingly know everything about each dress, designer and alteration possibilities.
Selling is an Art
When I started working as a bridal stylist most of my family and friends couldn’t resist telling me how perfect I was for the job. I love wearing tulle skirts! I like peonies! I dance around my house to Taylor Swift love songs! I very much enjoy dressing in clothing that makes me look and feel a lot like a cupcake! Seemingly, there were a lot of surface level reasons the job was perfect for me-but there was one big reason it wasn’t- I’m not much of a salesperson, and believe it or not when your job is to sell things it’s sort of a big deal! A bridal stylist should never push you into purchasing a dress that you don’t like or doesn’t flatter you. I thought as long as I helped a bride navigate through a sea of gowns and cheered when she felt happy in one the dresses would ultimately sell themselves. In actuality shopping for a wedding dress is confusing, especially for 99% of people who don’t work in the wedding industry and try on gowns every day. Even if a bride loves a dress the role of the bridal stylist cannot be overstated.
Wedding Dresses are a Whole Lot more Complicated than every day Dresses
Trains and bustles and built in bras make those huge, beautiful gobs of silk and lace a tad more complicated than your favorite Free People maxi. While there are ready-to-wear dress options available, the traditional wedding gown must be ordered 4-6 months before your wedding day. I can’t think of a single item I’ve purchased 4-6 months before I need it, in fact, I know I will need a car charger for my phone tomorrow and I still haven’t submitted payment for the magical Amazon Prime gods to process just yet. Being the thread between a bride and a designer is a big responsibility. If you let a bride purchase a dress without sufficient time for production you could be facing huge designer rush fees or possibly a heartbroken bride without a wedding dress. If you accidentally order pale ivory instead of champagne, there’s a solid chance a bride who has poured her life savings into her wedding won’t be so pleased with you. Unless you’re Taylor Swift strutting the red carpet on a daily basis, a wedding dress is probably the most costly, custom piece of clothing you’ll ever order! As a stylist it is crucial you continue to keep in mind the magnitude of the purchase and treat the bride accordingly. Brides expect to be treated like princess goddess fairytale-creatures and as a stylist it’s your job to make the experience fit into their fairytale.
Positivity and Kindness are Always Important
As with all industries, working in customer service means putting on a happy face even when you’re not having the best day. Though I consider myself a pretty positive person in the workplace, working in bridal emphasized the importance of a good attitude. There were super sweet brides who literally made my personal issues fade away just by chatting with them but there were also brides who were more…difficult. Learning to work with difficult customers takes patience and positivity. Planning a wedding should be exciting, but can often cause a lot of stress for some brides. Dealing with an upset bride and placing her happiness above my own issues has refined my skills working with other people. Bonus points-as an introvert I really had to improve my “small talk with strangers” skills which is an area I can always grow.
Having a Great Team is Everything
Rumor suggests that certain bridal boutiques can be a nightmare to work for. The art of selling can easily breed competition and cattiness among coworkers especially in a small boutique environment. In my experience, this was never the case- all of the women I worked with were as sweet to me as they were to the customers they were assisting. Our team had a monthly bonding activity (going to sushi, getting our nails done, etc) and generally got along very well. I truly felt like friends with my small team and appreciated their companionship. Working evenings and weekends (as retail demands) can feel isolating-you’re on the opposite schedule of most of your friends/families and may not have two days in a row off (I didn’t). Having a great support system in the workplace helped make the unconventional schedule feel “not so bad”.
Though I was sad to say goodbye to my work in the bridal industry, I am so excited for a new opportunity in the fashion industry. I am thankful for my experience at The Dress Theory and can’t wait to embrace the new challenges that lie ahead.
What have you learned from your previous jobs? I would love to hear what your favorite job has been and what has surprised you about it! What do you think are important qualities in a workplace?