The Gown Merchant

Photo: Danny Kim

Lanie List, Owner of Lovely

Your store is so much more laid-back than many of the fancy bridal places.
That was the idea. When I went wedding-dress shopping with friends, I found there wasn’t a good ready-to-wear type of experience in stores, and you sometimes felt uncomfortable if you had a budget under $5,000. It was all very formal and gilded and overdone. My goal was to give bridal a cool, hip sensibility.

You carry a lot of designers that brides-to-be have never heard of.
I wanted to bring up-and-comers to the forefront. Some, like Elizabeth Dye, only sold on Etsy; others, like Delphine Manivet from France, had no U.S. distribution. This is a boutique experience in the bridal world.

Does that mean you don’t have overbearing sales associates?
We have stylists; that’s what we call our associates. They’ll help you find things if you need it, but all the dresses are out, and you can shop them yourself. I think it’s important to give brides some room.

So many women feel pressured to find the perfect dress—the one that will transform their lives.
It’s a crazy expectation! I hate that term: the one. My advice is to not focus on finding the one. Because there might not be just one; there might be three that look great on you.

Do brides ever buy more than one dress?
Yes. The wedding day is now the wedding weekend, so they are getting one for the rehearsal dinner, one for the reception, and one for the ceremony.

What kind of dress is the New York woman gravitating toward lately?
Something relaxed. They all say they don’t want the cupcake or the pouf, the bling or the over-the-top. Some girls like to reference eras, like the whole flapper thing or classic Audrey Hepburn. And short always does well for us. A lot of girls wear them for City Hall weddings.

How short is too short? No one wants to scandalize Grandma.
The fingertip rule applies: When you put your hands at your side, your skirt should come to where your fingertips land. But it all depends on where and how you’re getting married, and who is at your wedding. At the end of the day, though, it’s just a dress, and we let people know that. It’s not going to be the only defining thing in your wedding. That’s maybe ironic for a bridal shop to say, but it actually helps the brides make their final decisions.

Don’t Limit Yourself

“Come in with just a couple of stipulations—say, strapless and lace—and leave the rest up to what works for your body type.”


The Gown Merchant