APW Goes Inside the David’s Bridal Summer Sale

You know, for research.

apw davids bridal


The thing about having champagne taste on a beer budget is that the wedding industry is never really all that keen on showing you where the good beer is at. Which is why, last year, I was really excited to see David’s Bridal upping the ante in the affordable-yet-fashionable wedding dress game (you can see some of my favorites from last season right here). If you’ve been reading APW for a while, then you already know my feelings about David’s Bridal. Long story short: after I bought an off-the-rack dress for my own wedding that was so see-through my mom and sister staged a wedding dress intervention. I swallowed my pride and headed to the Manhattan David’s Bridal expecting to walk away with some poufy cupcake thing that didn’t feel like me at all. Except color me surprised when I walked away with a $500 dress that I really liked, that didn’t need to be altered, and was available in a petite. I literally carried it home on the Metro North that day. The bottom line: if you’re shopping with a sub-$1,000 budget or wear (god forbid) a plus size, then David’s Bridal is often the only place to find something that’s stylish, fits well, and has some structure to it. Plus, now they even have sequins.

So when David’s Bridal asked if we wanted to go in and shop their annual Summer sale (often known as the $99 sale, it’s their biggest sale of the season; a huge selection of dresses are $50 to $200 off, and a ton are just $99) I was like, “Show me the way to the tulle.” Because, you know, research.


I’ll be honest, though. As excited as I was to go inside the belly of the beast, I was also just as nervous. Because no amount of industry know-how or APW magic is going to make me any less of a size fourteen. Which, as you know, isn’t exactly the standard of the wedding industry. (Though at David’s Bridal, pretty much all of the dresses go up to a fourteen, and the plus-size selection is nothing to sneeze at. Related: if you’re shopping for wedding dresses and you’re curvy or plus size, this post is a good one to read before you head to the stores.) But they set me up with the folks at the Milpitas store, and my new friend Stephanie (aka the store manager) took really good care of me. If you’re in the Bay Area, I genuinely recommend checking out this location. It’s big and open and breathable and the people there were so nice. Stephanie kept saying to me, “How could I not love this? Look at what I get to do.” And then she’d run off and find me accessories or anything else I asked for.

Since my own wedding dress budget was $500, we challenged ourselves to find dresses that were close to that: $550 and under. The first was this $99 dress that actually reminded me a lot of more form-fitting version of the one I wore for my wedding:

Then I remembered that the first lesson in shopping at David’s Bridal is that the dresses really are true to size, which means if you’re normally an eight, you’re still an eight. Not a bridal thirty-two or whatever. The flip side is there isn’t much vanity sizing either, so sadly, that meant I had to put this awesome size twelve $99 gown back on the hanger. (Strapless A Line Gown with Ruched Bodice, $99. Also available in plus sizes.)

Since I was shopping for you guys and not actually for myself, I wanted to try on as many different kinds of dresses as possible. I usually have pretty clear idea of what looks good on me, so I was surprised by how many different dresses worked once I removed that presumption. If you’re going dress shopping for the first time, I recommend taking a page from Meg’s book, who suggests doing an “I’m shopping, but I’m not here to buy” trip to take the pressure off yourself. You may surprise yourself with what you end up liking. (Chiffon A-Line Gown with Beaded Waist, $349. Also available in plus sizes, petite sizes, tall sizes, plus size tall.)


Case in point: I never thought I’d want a short wedding dress, but as soon as I tried this one on with my leopard print shoes, I was like, “Oh hey Maddie, there you are!” Side note: this dress is a fortress for big boobs. They were not going anywhere. (Tea Length Gown with Floral Lace Appliques, $499)

Excuse me, I’m bride-ing. Which is like Voguing, but with a wedding dress. (Tulle Trumpet Gown with Lace Detail, $549. Also available in plus sizes and petite sizes.)

I really wanted to try on one of the Zac Posen dresses (it’s basically the same as being on project runway, right?). Sadly this one didn’t look quite as Madonna-esque on me as it did on the hanger. Maybe this one will go on sale next year? A girl can dream. (Lace High Low Ball Gown, $499.)

Remember how I said my fear was that I would go into David’s Bridal and walk out with some cupcake-y thing that didn’t feel like me at all? Well that almost happened here, except not for the reason I expected. I always figured it would be the sales person who would pressure me into the big tulle dress, but I put this bad boy on and had a bona-fide Say Yes To The Dress moment, complete with “Oh my God, I’m a BRRIIIDDEE.” I made eye contact with Stephanie, who went and got me all the crystal accessories, and then I twirled around for a few minutes until I was tired and dizzy. If I’d had an entourage with me, I can see how easily I would have gotten swept up in that moment. But after about three minutes the adrenaline wore off, then I tripped over my tulle, and it was time to try on something with a little less volume. (Strapless Tulle Ball Gown with Lace Embellishments, $499. Also available in tall sizes.)

Game over. I had pulled this dress because it was part of our roundup from last year, and I’d loved it, but I half wrote it off, assuming that the column style and empire waist would look horrible on me. Whoops. Just goes to show you never know what’s going to look good on your body. This dress was so comfortable, and my boobs aren’t even doing their normal “Hey you, look at me!” thing. I would have bought this on the spot if I, you know, had somewhere to go that required me to wear a wedding dress. (Cap Sleeve Crepe Sheath Gown with Beaded Bodice, $399.)

If there’s a downside to the summer sale, it’s that it means there’s allllll kinds of new dresses just hanging out on display in the store (with sleeves!). So I broke the rules and tried this one on too (it’s from the new collection). Please buy it. If I can’t wear it, you should. I felt like a sex bomb and I’m not even wearing Spanx. (Long Sleeve Sheath with Beaded Lace, $1350.)


Coming out of my shopping experience, I was reminded of the three most important things I’ve learned about wedding dress shopping from APW:

1. The sales associate is your friend (and if they aren’t acting like it, you have my permission to request a new one). They should know their inventory like the back of their hand, so if you like a certain silhouette, but want a sleeve or a different neckline, ask for it. You are not an imposition.

2. Never go by the model in the picture. What looks good on your body is a whole different ballgame, and it’s nearly impossible to tell by looking at a mannequin or a model what’s going to flatter your shape and, well, just plain make you happy.

3. Finding the right dress can take time. After the first few dresses I tried on either didn’t fit or weren’t flattering, I was a little afraid I wasn’t going to find anything I liked. The good stuff came at the end after we got into our groove and started learning about what looked good and what didn’t. Patience is key. Rushing things will only increase your chances of getting a dress you only kind of like. And there’s too much pretty up in here to let that happen.

This post was sponsored by David’s Bridal. The David’s Bridal summer sale is happening until July 28th. And there are way more sale gowns than I could ever try on (as in, hundreds). Like thisthis, this, and this, oh and this. And if you find something you love, but they don’t have your size in the store, there are tons of extra sale dresses online (and a surprising amount are available in twelve or fourteen). And of course, there’s always the standard collections (like DB Studio, which is normally under $500 even when it’s at full-price). So if you’re not doing anything this weekend, and you don’t have a dress yet, then I recommend making an appointment at your local David’s Bridal and playing dress up for an hour (or in my case, three). Thanks David’s Bridal for helping make the APW mission possible! (And for making dress shopping for this size fourteen not suck.)

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  • jubeee

    That long sleeved dress though!

  • InTheBurbs

    Those sheaths…damn Maddie – you look great!

  • BSM

    My bridesmaids and I had an awesome time at DB (we went to the one on Pico in LA). One Vera Wang lovely (linked below) was beautifully constructed and looks SO DAMN HOT on me. I ended up not buying it (I’m not really a full-skirt type gal at heart), but I was seeeeeriously tempted.


    • Meg Keene

      I didn’t end up buying at DB either, but I did a lot of shopping trips (including to salons where I couldn’t afford anything, but hell, you only get married… in theory once… and I wasn’t going to miss my legit chance to try on a $10K dress. Which I didn’t like, but I digress.) Anyway! Of all of my shopping trips, I’d say hands down DB was the nicest experience, and I didn’t even make an appointment, I just waltzed in on a holiday weekend.

      I remember asking very trepidatiously if I could take a picture (I’d been SNEAKING them in the dressing rooms to have something to show my mom/ my friends in NYC I’d just moved away from), and the saleslady looked at me like I’d lost my mind and was like “Why wouldn’t we let you take a PICTURE?” So nice, SO many dresses and options. And since I’ve done a ton of wedding dress research since for the upcoming book, I now think that if you’re not a sample size, a DB shopping trip is probably a must do. It’s one of the few places in the industry that REALLY caters to all body sizes with zero shaming.

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  • eating words

    david’s has been surprisingly great for me and my partner, especially during the summer sale. she found her dress, i found a shrug/cover-up thingamajig.

  • Elizabeth

    So several months ago I was part of a market study for David’s Bridal wherein I basically only talked about APW and echoed Maddie’s sentiments of how DB’s huge selection means it’s very practical for a lot of people…. I wonder if that had anything to do with the emergence of this post. If it helps APW grow, I’m happy to help. :)

    • Maddie Eisenhart


  • Sara

    Maddie, that tea length one is adorable. Are you sure you don’t need it for something?! :)

  • Kelsey

    Stone cold fox, Maddie….

  • Ashlah

    I’m gonna need to get married about a dozen more times. Husband will understand.

  • Alexandra

    Oh Maddie, you look so lovely in all those dresses. Just gorgeous. Hat’s off to David’s Bridal. The one with the empire waist made me gasp a little. Now I want to go try on my wedding dress, but alas, I sold it two weeks after the wedding. Practical self just got slapped by sentimental self.

  • Awesome post! I loved my Just-trying-wedding-dresses-on-because-I’m-engaged day at David’s Bridal. I knew I wasn’t going to wear white, but I wanted to see what silhouettes would look good on me and this is a superb place to do that. I went armed with your post from last year and I am just as in love with the cap sleeve crepe sheath gown with beaded bodice (http://www.davidsbridal.com/Product_cap-sleeve-crepe-sheath-gown-with-beaded-bodice-srl644_sale-wedding-dresses) now as I was then, dammit. They didn’t have it at the time for me to try on (wah), but I tried on some similar shapes. Why don’t I have an extra $400 to throw around so I can wear that gorgeous dress for some random “long engagement” party in the next year?!

    • Also, do not underestimate the power of the cupcake! Running around in that much tulle is definitely a life experience. Glad I didn’t go with it (or a train) for my dress, but felt like a total ridiculous princess in a Vera Wang ballgown I could never afford.

  • VKD_Vee

    Last two are DROP DEAD! Why isn’t trying on a bunch of wedding dresses MY job, eh?

  • Eenie

    This makes me kind of sad for my August 1st appointment…

  • Victwa

    That short dress is adorbs on you.

  • I was not a fan of anything I tried on at DB six or seven years ago (I forget exactly how far along into The Engagement I was) but I’ve been forced to reassess them over the years, as client after client has rocked GORGEOUS gowns from them. These dresses look hot. I do wonder if part of the problem for my shopping experience is that I was a size 2 at the time. The sales associate was putting me in size 10s or something in that neighborhood and clipping the crap out of ’em, but that doesn’t really emulate a size 2 very well (no more than asking a plus size gal to imagine what a dress would look like if only you could zip it up). I’m sure that’s a common bridal shop problem and not exclusive to DB, but as I wound up buying from a consignment store and only trying on their gowns that fit me, I didn’t have that first hand “use your imagination!” experience anywhere else.

    • Jess

      Oh, I am SO worried about how to dress shop when nothing fits correctly. The lines of a dress make a big difference on whether or not it looks good on me, and I am so terrified that using my imagination will lead to me picking a dress that costs thousands just to alter to a point that works.

      • idkmybffjill

        Obviously this depends on your size but I had great success at BHLDN because they carry both 4s and 10s as sample sizes! I had the same problem as Mary in that all the too big dresses at David’s made me feel like I was playing dress up/not able to see what I looked like.

        • Jess

          Ooooooooh That’s amazing.

  • I had the pleasure/agony of a 2nd wedding reception thrown by my in-laws in France. I needed something formal but I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I scored such a deal at DB for my 2nd wedding dress ($100 for a $1000) gown, that I actually called up the DB in my home town (6hr drive) and put my size on my credit card and had them hold it for me until I returned for a visit. If it were my 1st wedding I would have done some minor alterations but luckily I could get away with not doing any. The dress was exactly what I wanted and a hit!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I LOVED this dress.

    • Jennifer

      Aww. So pretty. <3

  • Clare Caulfield

    I’m curious, when you go on a “I’m shopping but not buying” trip, is there any weird vibes with the sales people? Like you’re wasting their time? Are you up front about it, or do you keep it to yourself?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think it’s better for everyone if you’re up front about it. Meg tells a great story about how as soon as the sales person found out she had no intention to buy, the lady was like, “OMG, then can I put you in the crazy awesome expensive dress?” But that way you don’t feel like you need to put on a show, and the sales person won’t feel like they missed a potential sale when you don’t like something. (Especially if plan on coming back; you can always make a point of coming back on one of their shifts and letting them handle the actual sale. That’s what I do whenever I don’t buy something on the spot, but got great service.)

      • Clare Caulfield

        Thanks for your response Maddie. Too bad we don’t have DB (or an equivalent, that I know of…?) in Australia.
        Love the title shot of you with the blurry white edges :)

  • Thea

    I loved several of these on you, and opened the links. Let me tell you, DB seriously owes you, because on the models, I would have passed right over them and not noticed how freaking pretty they are.

    • Meg Keene

      I do not even KNOW what is up with wedding dress models. First up, wedding dresses are made for all sized (thank GOD) and they tend to look better with curves. But do the models ever have curves? Nope. Second, wedding dresses are made for HAPPY, and the models are often SAD.

      Funnily, the more expensive the dress company, the sadder the models look. So David’s Bridals models are pretty ok, but Vera Wang’s models look like they’re at a funeral? It’s SO ODD.

      • idkmybffjill

        RIGHT? Seriously every wedding dress add I sent to my MOH she was like, pretty dress but why so sad, lady? And the poses. I mean. I get that high fashion calls for hunching sometimes, but can’t you just like … stand like a person?

      • sswpss

        There are so many styles of dresses that it’s not fair to say they all look better on women with curves :/ A particular dress can flatter any figure curves or not, thank you.

  • CutePants

    This is perfect timing; I have an appointment at DB on Thursday evening! I figured that after work would be pretty chilled out and I found some dresses online that look nice. Maddie, The tea length dress looks amazing! All of these photos look better than the models on their website. Mission accomplished: I am now excited to go to David’s Bridal.

  • Garymreagan


  • Wow those are some great wedding gown discounts! The dresses look amazing too, it’s not like they only gave discounts to their ‘not so good looking’ wedding gowns. http://www.grandeurweddingstudio.com/

  • StartCloseIn

    I kind of feel like you need to go somewhere fancy in one of those. Can DB sponsor you on a date night out somewhere amazing? B/c DAMN.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Ha, I should ask. :)

  • Kristine

    You look so pretty Maddie and I REALLY love the last one!!

  • Williamecornish

    Get It Now.-p-r-a-c-t-c-a-w-e-d-d-i-n-

  • AGCourtney

    I got my wedding dress from DB at the winter $99 sale. The funny thing was, I’ve had it pinned for at least two years (i.e., even pre-actual-wedding planning) and was looking at the board the day after Christmas and realized it was currently just $99 – I made an appointment right away. I actually had a really shitty experience (the salesperson was AWFUL) but with the help of a manager, was able to order my dress at the sale price even though they didn’t have it in my size in the store. (The sales associate told me if they didn’t have it, it was out of stock, they weren’t making the dress anymore and that’s why it was on clearance. I just checked the website and that dress is on sale for $300.)

    All in all, I’m pleased to have gotten the dress from them – just one caveat: if you go in, give them a fake email address. Trust me. I think it depends on where they are, but damn, if they didn’t sell my information to every vendor in the metro area.

    Here’s a picture of my dress (on the model):

    • LisaG

      I think I tried that dress too. Totally agree about the contact info. I made the mistake of giving them my phone number and then I was getting cold calls as well as emails from other wedding vendors for months. The sales associate also called to see if I wanted to visit again, but that I didn’t mind since that was kind of what I assumed would happen when I gave them my number.

  • Cynthiananderson

    ^^^^^Now Get It -aapprracticalwedding

  • Last one looks the best on you;)

  • I love clearance when i am shopping. especially the big sale.
    I love the short one you worn, it is beautiful and cute, think it will be good for a beach wedding party.
    Tony from

  • silksarees online

    very beautiful wedding dresses that i am seeing here. i always wore wedding sarees

    kanjivaramsilks.com and newer wore a wedding dress all my life. After checking your beautiful dresses , i would try one