Bridal divisions are more important than ever now to some fashion labels who hope to use the category to make up for all those fragrances and bags that went unsold in the economic downturn. To make sure they sell, some labels are slashing prices significantly. That includes bridalwear queen Vera Wang, who cut prices by 40 to 50 percent. Her dresses start at retail at $3,600 this year, as compared to $5,500 last year. Wang told WWD that retailers' jaws dropped when they learned of the cuts. And then they wrote orders. Monique Lhuillier's new bridesmaid line retails for the low, low price of $250 to $390 (though it will only be sold on her website, so as not to undercut retailers who sell her mighty expensive wedding gowns).
But bridal customers aren't skimping on what most consider the most important dress purchase they will ever make. Wang's top-selling styles retail from $8,500 to $13,900 (who needs a new car when you can buy a giant dress you'll wear once?). Lela Rose's top-selling wedding dresses last week were her most expensive, for $8,000, and her cheapest, for $3,495, which is $500 cheaper than her cheapest dress last season (she added "understated" sparkle embellishment to justify the price increase.)
This is not to say brides aren't cutting back on their weddings. They're splurging on their dresses and inviting fewer people, which is good for everyone who hates spending money on weddings for people in their friend periphery. Destination weddings are even more popular now, since no one goes to those. But just as before the economy went bad, bridesmaids will remain the most screwed parties in all of this. Because now there is really no chance of the bride purchasing the ugly dresses she's forcing her maids to wear for those few painful hours of her wedding. And it is more likely that those girls will have to pay to fly to far-off beaches to wear them.