Little Green Shoots: Goin’ to the Chapel … on the Cheap

The luxury wedding fabric store Sposabella Lace on West 40th Street in Manhattan was nearly empty, but it wasn’t because of the rain falling steadily. “Business hasn’t been this bad in years,” said owner Albert Sposabella. “[Now] people come in to buy just the veil, piecing it together with something cheaper elsewhere.” During the Great Depression, the economist George Taylor conceived the hemline index (finding that skirts got longer as the economy slowed). We decided to check the bridal gown index. After all, people are still getting married (2.16 million in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), and they’re still having weddings, albeit with a budget.

“It was pretty normal to see girls spending $4-5000 on a dress,” said Janet Sampieri, owner of The White Gown, a jewel-box boutique in Brooklyn. “But, now it’s come down to $1500, maybe $2000.”

Which means: out go poufy sleeves, beading and bling, according to Sampieri, and in come less costly fabrics like chiffon and organza. The most popular skirt isn’t the billowing princess. “A-line shapes are popular right now,” Sampieri said.

Gerald Lee, a manager at Wedding CafÈ, which is positioned as “New York’s premiere wedding center,” admitted the gowns have become as toned-down as the weddings themselves. “We’re letting the lesser-known designers (take on projects),” Lee said.

But over at Abe’s Formal Wear, the tuxedo index was soaring. “Profit and sales may be down,” the manager said, “but rentals are sky high.”

- Oli Foster

A special dress for a special price