Introducing: APW Dress Boutiques

Leave the shopping to us

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer


When I got married, I had a dress budget of less than $500. At the time, the landscape for stylish, affordable wedding dresses was so bleak, it might as well have been zero dollars. Everything was either too expensive, or not wedding-y enough. I felt like I had no options. Which is how I ended up with a David’s Bridal gown that felt like it was made out of windpant material (at the very top of my budget, sigh). These days, affordable (wedding) dresses (which we define as “dresses so pretty they should totally be someone’s wedding dress”) are being produced en masse, and some of them are even prettier than the dresses you see on certain TLC shows that shall not be named. But most of them aren’t being marketed as wedding dresses, which means endless wading through retail websites, where 90% of the stuff is horrible, and 10% of the stuff is out of stock in your size. SHOPPING. Ugh.

Since joining APW, it has been my dream to create a place where all of those stylish, affordable should-be-wedding-dresses, can live in one place. Dresses that feel special and important and are damn good looking. Dresses that come in your size and can be found online or in regular stores that have walls and everything and don’t require an appointment. Dresses you can return if they don’t fit! Dresses you don’t have to spend the next one thousand days finding. And now, with the help of APW’s business intern, Breck, we’re making that a reality!

Starting today, you’ll notice a new tab at the top of APW, dedicated to “shopping.” If you hover over it, you’ll see options for:

All of the dresses on these pages have been personally curated by the APW team and are seriously hot shit (in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes). Since the stock on affordable dresses is changing all the time, each week we’ll be updating the pages with our newest best finds from around the Internet, meaning you spend less time checking All The Websites to see if anything new is in stock, and more time doing really important things like watching Game of Thrones. What’s better, even though all of these dresses are from regular stores you’d normally shop at, making a purchase from one of our dress pages goes directly toward supporting APW. Double win!

For the time being, we’ve stuck to a palette of white, blush, lightly colored, and sparkly dresses (with a few black dresses thrown in for good measure), since those colors are usually the hardest to find outside of a standard bridal salon. We’re also working hard to include plus-size options when those are available, and we live in hope that retailers will get the hint, and plus-sized options will get a lot better FAST. If you’re having a particularly hard time finding something for your wedding (like more plus-size gowns or different colored dresses), leave it in the comments and we’ll take stock of what might need its own page in the future!

I am beyond excited to see something come to life that I wish was around when I was getting married. (I would wear every one of these dresses in a heartbeat. Would it be weird if I owned about fifty kinda-wedding-looking gowns? Yes?) So enjoy shopping my new favorite store. Buy what I can’t, and maybe send me a picture.

Editor’s note: We will do our best not to post any dresses that only have one or two sizes left in stock, but sometimes those are the best deals! And y’all know we love a bargain. We promise to keep the inventory fresh and available, though.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

Staff Picks

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  • Impressed with the dresses

    What a fabulous resource! Just wanted to point out that BHLDN is another great resource for relatively affordable wedding dresses, and they have a very reasonable return policy.

    • swarmofbees

      especially if you get the dress second hand from another bride. BHLDN dresses seem to show up on Tradesy and similar quite a bit!

    • JDrives

      Yep! I had a really good experience trying on dresses at their Beverly Hills store, but I also love that you can order their dresses and gorgeous accessories online. They do have some really pricey dresses, but some great options under $1000. And many of them have sleeves/straps! Bless you, BHLDN!

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, they’ll show up on our pages now and then, for sure. I just didn’t want to START with stuff some of you already knew about. We had a whole debate about it this morning in fact. But they’ll sneak in.

  • Laura C

    I’m feeling like it would probably be a bad idea for me, at this point, to look at those pages too closely. Because I like my dress and don’t need to develop yearnings in other directions. But if this had been there a year ago, I’d have been all over it.

    • Meg Keene


      Agreed. :)

      • Laura C

        Hang on! I did the thing that’s a bad idea and my dress IS a version of one of the dresses on the under $2,000 page and I got it on sale for $398, so I officially win. (This one, silver, non-beaded belt, slightly different neck maybe.)

  • OMG game changer! YOU PEOPLE ARE AMAZING!!!!

    • swarmofbees

      There is a dress with a built in mini-cape. If I win the lottery I will be buying this dress for all of my future formal attire needs.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        I’m just starting to think all dresses should have capes. Am I wrong?

        • swarmofbees

          Absolutely not. Though, perhaps some of the capes should be detachable. Bonus: mix and match capes!

  • Heather

    Omigosh. These dresses are fabulous, esp for someone who’s not feeling a lot of what I’ve tried on at traditional wedding dress stores (I put a huge value in being comfortable and not carrying around a ton of fluffy dress or a large train-and don’t tell me I can just bustle it and that you can’t buy a wedding dress without a train!). However, I’m not getting the links to go through for me to the dress page? Not sure if it’s me or the links :/

    • Meg Keene

      Huh. It should be working!

  • JSwen

    Oh man I should have done this post for you. I’ve seen every single one of these dresses in my search.

    I would add that has every bridesmaid dress designer I have ever heard of. You can search by “ivory” color and there are a ton of options. It is better than going to a bridal salon for two reasons: 1) the sales people don’t know much about bridesmaid dresses, and 2) they don’t carry samples of the more expensive dresses because most bridesmaids don’t want to spend over $200.

    The nice thing about bridesmaid dresses versus department store dresses is that they are built to be altered, which means less $$$ spent with the seamstress. Oh and silk > polyester.

  • Fiona

    Good job, Maddie and Breck! If this had been available many months ago, it would have shaved DAYS of internet surfing off my wedding dress search.

  • Annie

    Aghhhh why did this only start to exist now?

    • Alyssa M

      This is exactly what I’m feeling… aaaahhhh… only after I’ve got my dress…

    • Nikki

      YES, Yes! I already ordered a dress, wasn’t all that expensive. But now I can look for a backup. I hope everything isn’t white and ivory though…

  • This is awesome! I definitely second the idea of having a separate plus-size page or being able to filter by size!

    • Meg Keene

      We can’t build filtering tools (this isn’t our tool, it would cost a fortune to build, so we have to work with what we have). But we’re considering a plus sized page for sure!

  • YOQ

    Nice! I’ve already got my dress, but based on my experience and what I’ve seen in posts and comments here, I would suggest two additional category pages: 1) dresses with sleeves; and 2) dresses with which you can wear a your regular bra. (For the latter, I’m assuming most of us don’t usually wear racerback, backless, or strapless bras…)

    • Meg Keene

      I don’t think those will have their own pages, because most of us shop by price, but they’ll OBVIOUSLY be in the mix. Though, dude. As someone with boobs, if I can wear it with a racerback bra, GREAT. Not like I have a problem buying a bra for an expensive ass dress.

      • YOQ

        To each their own. I also have boobs, and definitely didn’t want the hassle of having to find another bra. (I also spent under $200 on dress and shoes, with an eye to being able to wear them over and over again. That may also have contributed to my unwillingness to purchase specialized undergarments, etc.)

        • Meg Keene

          I mean, I feel you. I just am never, realistically, not going to have to purchase a bra to go with a dress this important. It’s just not gonna happen. I’m not going to mess up a $500 dress with a bra that shows, and lotsa boobs means they need various kinds of careful care in various kinds of fancy dresses. Plus, I show too much skin for that to be a reality. If I went higher neck longer sleeved on stuff, I wouldn’t have that problem. But I don’t.

          Anyhooo, those dresses will show up right in the mix. But because I think we all shop by price (You’re not going to spend $2K to get a dress that means you don’t have to get a new bra…) they’ll show up sorted by price!

          • Ann

            I totally get why it’s not a separate section, and sorting by price just makes sense.

            At the same time, I was firmly in the “must fit with regular bra” camp when dress shopping. Also, because of my picnic wedding, I was in a “must be cover sunburn prone shoulders” and “must be able to play frisbee” camp. But the bra thing was huge. As a unusual size (30F/28G depending on the brand–I am a very petite person with BOOBS), I’d have to fork over several hundred bucks to order a longline bra from Britain to get something decent. A dress budget of $400 meant getting a new comfy bra would have taken >25% of my dress budget. Most of my bras are from across the pond and cost $$$ and they are COMFY, but as a grad student, I can’t afford to many. Getting a bra that would fit and be comfortable with me being active that would accommodate a low back/other necklines was really, really impossible.
            (Though I will also say that the BOOB factor played in on several levels. I have found with certain cuts, white tends to accentuate boobs. I ended up with a shallow v-neck dress with short sleeves from JCrew, which met all requirements and was on clearance. It was designed to be loose around the boobs, which it wasn’t on me, but it still looked good.)

            On that note, perhaps a tab of awesome bras to go with the awesome would be cool…

          • Sarah

            Finding an affordable bra was one of the hardest parts of my “dress shopping” experience and I think some sort of roundup (with reviews!) would be an awesome resource.

            Also, I don’t think it’s a totally ridiculous request to have dresses that work with bras you already own (especially if they’re imported, near custom expensive ones you’ve already invested in). Buying a dress shouldn’t mean you HAVE to by a new bra.

  • Since I am kind of perpetually planning my “other” weddings (all to my same husband, but maybe on a beach! Or in a fully sequined gown! Or eloping to Paris! etc.) this is perfect for all my daydreaming/scheming/plotting. Also super helpful for ladies who are actually in legit need of a dress, I suppose :)

  • MC

    If I wasn’t totally in love with my short, turquoise dress (which I re-tried on again yesterday after a few months and definitely still love), this would be great. Gonna recommend it to all my engaged friends right now!

  • Jessica

    Yay! This is perfect. I just returned my latest round of dress fails. I am trying to buy a short white dress off the rack for our city hall wedding. It’s been crazy how hard it is to find a simple white dress! Now I won’t have to peruse various online sites sorting dresses by “white.”

  • Sarah E


  • Lawyerette510

    Love it!!! I ordered tons of dresses from Nordstrom, Dillards, and a few other places around the web with easy return policies, then had a try-on party with my besties. It was like being at a bridal store, but I knew the dresses would zip up/ go over my hips and boobs, plus we had the exact sparkling wine and snacks I wanted.

    • Meg Keene

      LOVE. Love love love.

    • Maggie Ray

      Obsessed with this idea!! I was wondering how to reconcile having the “shopping together” experience for my mom and FMIL etc while having my favorite (AFFORDABLE) online pics as options! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  • Dacia E.

    This is FANTASTIC. The dress is the part that’s giving me the most worry – I’m a med student and our budget is reallly small. Can we make suggestions if we know of others? There are a couple of Adrianna Papell dresses at Macy’s that are under 500 and that are really pretty.

    • Adrianna Papell is a great option! There are actually quite a few of her dresses in the boutique ;)… Affordable AND a pretty good plus-sized selection!

  • JenClaireM

    This is so amazing! I’m so glad you guys are doing this and only wish that I could have benefited from it when I was going through my own wedding dress misery. Such a great idea with so many really gorgeous dresses. Yay APW!

  • WOW! There are some GORGEOUS options. Too bad I don’t need to buy a fancy dress of any kind… But I will remember this if ever I do. :) And I just sent the info to an engaged friend…

  • Jules

    Soooo, this falls under the “stuff you [might] already know about” category, but I totally suggest Jim Hjelm bridesmaid dresses in cream/white colors, particularly if you’re ok with simpler styles. His stuff is usually $$$ for bridal, but the bridesmaid stuff is all under $500.

    I bought a Jim Hjelm bridesmaid dress for a sorority formal, and unfortunately it’s not on sale anymore so I can’t find a photo. It was a sweetheart neckline, slightly ruched top, natural waist dress with a long-tailed sash. I loooooved that dress. *sigh* I got good mileage out of it lending it to my little sis, but never managed to sell it. It was gorgeous though…

    • Meg Keene

      Here is my favorite of our roundups on bridesmaid’s dresses you should wear as wedding dresses: It’s a little old, but great for inspiration still.

      • Jules

        Oooo, some of those are simply gorgeous! This was before my APW days, so I missed it. I just peeked at the Joielle site, and they have some adorable short styles in lacy numbers.

        Funny that these could be such a steal for a bride, because if I were a maid, I would faint if I had to buy a $276 dress.

  • Jade

    I’m having a relative make my dress… but I picked up a reception dress that is making me ALMOST rethink wearing anything else. And I picked it up on sale for $50. It is normally under $100.

    • ART

      that’s really pretty. you know what has been really annoying in the whole looking for a department store wedding dress thing? their photos of white dresses against white backgrounds. thanks macy’s, i’ve always wanted a dress that’s partially an invisibility cloak! so unhelpful lol.

  • Katie

    OMFG! Someone needs a Nobel prize in Awesomesauce!!!! I’ve already fallen in love with half a dozen. I might be in some trouble… But THANK YOU THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

  • Anon

    Fantastic addition to the site. Well done!

  • CPR

    Ladies, this is the best idea ever. Totally bummed I already have my dress, which is, of course, non-returnable. I’d send it back in a heart beat for that Alice + Olivia lace column number!

  • What a terrific idea! I’ll put in a little plug for the dress that I plan to wear when I get married (after buying a more expensive ~$350 one that I can’t return and is beautiful but not as beautiful on me as I thought it would be). This dress is only $35 on Amazon, perfect floor-length dress for a more relaxed/beachy/outdoor wedding (I think):

  • Kristin

    Man I almost hate how awesome this is! I already have my dress but if I had seen these…maybe I wouldn’t have blown my original $700 budget.

    Love looking at all the pretty dresses anyways.

  • aldeka

    First: This is awesome.

    Second: Webdev bug note: All I see on any of the shopping pages is an endless spinner in Chrome (version 34.0.1847.116, on Linux). Firefox loads the dresses just fine, though!

  • NB

    This is awesome!!

    Also, on the off chance that it helps somebody: Ideeli’s evening gown sale has several long, white/cream gowns for under $300—sale’s going on until tomorrow, if anyone wants to scoop one of them up. I’m particularly into this number (

  • Lily

    1. Where was this six months ago?? Seriously!
    2. Any chance of getting a Petites section?

    • Sharon M.

      also a Plus size section too?

    • Meg Keene

      Oh THAT’S interesting. We were pondering if it makes sense to break out plus sized (or have them sorted by price). There are pluses and minuses to both options.

      We hadn’t thought of Petites. I’m wondering how many of you would use that.

      • Lily

        Petites are generally defined as being for women 5’4″ and under. I’m 5’0″ and for me, it’s pretty much not worth even trying non-petites. But I know many women in the 5’2″-5’5″ range for whom petites sometimes fit better than regular sizes. Although that’s obviously a totally non-scientific answer.
        For some reason, I’ve noticed that a lot of department stores seem to be eliminating or cutting back their petites departments, which makes it that much harder to find petites. Also, I noticed that a higher percentage of the wedding dresses in the APW Shopping pages seem to have straps/sleeves than in the general “wedding dress” population. (Which, AWESOME, of course.) But the difference between petites and regular sizes definitely makes more of a difference for a non-strapless dress because it’s a lot harder to alter the shoulders/armholes of a dress than to just chop inches off the bottom.
        Just my two cents.

        • Sarah

          Yes to petites! I’m 5’2″ and trying to find long dresses is particularly hard. Last summer I finally found a maxi dress that was actually a good length, didn’t swamp me and had straps that were the right length… soo exciting!

      • Jules

        *raises hand*

        5’2″ here. I’d definitely look if it were there, but I run into this problem more with pants/shorts than dresses. Those tend to be cut in ways that mean you can’t just take three inches off without altering the whole appearance.

        I’d personally vote for a plus section over a petites section. I’ve always had to get dresses hemmed because they come with SO MUCH extra length, but I’ve never felt like *finding* a gown was a problem. Generally, the bottoms of floor-length dresses are designed so that you can hack it off to length. It’s more of a problem if you’re going for knee-length or if it is a halter (I don’t have problems with sleeved or most other necklines). Examples: I have a dress with eyelet overlay that ends 1″ above the bottom of the dress, and as a result I can’t move the bottom hem. I also had to get the neck strap shortened on a halter dress, which was done by a good seamstress. Most of my petite-dress problems end up being solved by alterations rather than shopping in a different section.

        In either case, you still have to make sure that you’re happy with the end look (in terms of proportions) once it is on YOU instead of a 5’10” size 2 model. I happen to think that tends to be harder for pluses, but I’m not really sure.

  • Caitlin_DD

    I love you people. That is all.

  • Kippster9

    Tech issue: when I hover over the “shopping” link at the top of the site, I see only the 1k, 2k and short dresses links — not the one for $500 dresses, which is definitely the only one I have any business looking at.

    Super fun resource, though — thanks!

    • Meg Keene

      Check your screen settings, it’s probably cutting off for you somehow, based on screen size. But the links are in the post.

  • Jaimee L

    So I would just like to add to this discussion/resource page, and Rentals aren’t just for the men anymore! Little borrowed dress has adorable bridesmaid dresses that can be rented for as little as $50, or can be purchased for usually under $200. What I like about them is they show each dress on multiple body types (including lady’s who may be expecting!) and they send you free color swatches in the mail. And let’s be realistic, no one wears a bridesmaid dresses twice. Rent the runway has a great selection of white/cream designer dresses pretty enough to be wedding dresses and can be rented for $300 or less. They also have a selection of bridal jewelry, veils, sashes, and hair pieces that are available to rent for less than you would find in a bridal salon. Hope this helps some of you lovely ladies and have fun browsing!

  • KateW

    I’m not even looking because I feel pretty good about my dress ( and I don’t want to risk seeing anything else. BUT I wanted to jump in and make sure everyone knows that Ann Taylor has wedding dresses and there are some pretty good ones. I stumbled upon them completely by accident and never would have thought to look there, but I’m glad I did!

    • ART

      I was looking at that one a while back – it’s gorgeous!

  • EF


  • Simone Shifnadel

    I shouldn’t even be looking because I JUST picked up my non-returnable dress yesterday, but why do all the dresses go to this link?:

    • Simone Shifnadel

      aaaaand i still managed to find the dress I was eyeballing and freaking bought it. Now if it looks fabulous, I have to sell the first one! Hah! But, I’m not sure if I bought it from your link technically, so unless it’s just a glitch with my computer/me, (very possible) you might want to check the links for affiliate purposes!

      • That’s awesome!!

  • Sarah

    You ladies have amazing taste! The floral dress in the $2000 bracket… *swoon*

  • Kathleen

    Just wondering if you would consider an “APW Readers Pre-owned Dresses” section? Or, if you would possibly list a pre-owned dress in the dress boutique? I have a beautiful dress that I would love to sell! :)

  • Butternutb


  • Brianna K

    Okay, this doesn’t come in my size but absolutely SOMEONE has to wear this dress SOMEWHERE.–1

  • melgibbs

    Love those short wedding dress!