|The Running of the Brides
||[Aug. 27th, 2010|04:15 pm]
Today was the day for the Running of the Brides in Cleveland. For anyone who does not know what this event is, a brief synopsis. Filene's Basement does not carry wedding dresses, but it has buyers who are in regular contact with bridal designers and bridal shops, and those buyers purchase dresses that are overstock, sample dresses of discontinued styles, concept dresses that were never produced, fashion show dresses that were never really intended for production, etc. They gather these dresses in the thousands, and schedule special one-day sales of the dresses. The dresses are sold for one of three prices: $249, $499, or $699. The original retail prices on the dresses are $900-$10,000, so there are some real bargains to be had. The dresses are sold "as-is," and some of them have marks or stains, or have sustained damage like missing beading or blown zippers from being floor samples, but for their bargain price cleaning or repairs can still be a real bargain. For decades the sales were only in New York, then New York and Boston, and now they hold sales here in Cleveland and in Atlanta.
The sale earned the nickname "The Running of the Brides" because the opening moments are very much like the running of the bulls in Pamplona - in other words, stumble and you're likely to be trampled. Brides rush the racks and they are denuded faster than pirhanas devour a water buffalo. Once the racks are empty, brides try on dresses and then "shop" the unwanted ones in their hoarde to other brides, and pretty soon dresses are found.
Part of the secret of success is arriving early and getting in line. With that in mind, I of course stayed out with friends until 11pm the night before, not getting to bed until midnight. So when the alarm went off at 3am, how did I feel?
Why completely psyched and ready to go. I popped out of bed, woke up Erin and Meaghan, hustled into my clothes and started cooking breakfast!
I know that paragraph sounds like it might be sarcasm, but honestly that's what I did. The girls were dressed and we were out the door by 3:45, arriving at Filene's at 4:20. We had been wise; we packed folding chairs and blankets for the wait. And our timing was good; we weren't first by any means, but there were only about 20-25 parties ahead of us. We snuggled under our blankets and visited with our neighbors. The people in front of us had a party of about 14 and had hired a party bus, but there was no drunken revelry. Mostly, they were using it to stay warm and to make runs to the Starbucks. The people behind us were a party of 4 who had driven through the night from Ft. Wayne, IN, and who were driving back today. After we'd been there for a while, and the lights were turned on inside Filene's, Erin and I walked to the front and peered through the window to scope out the situation.
Now, in New York and Boston, the Filene's Basements have warehouse space in the actual basement in which to hold the sales. But here in Cleveland there is no such space. Instead, all the merchandise had been removed from the left side of the store and replaced with rows and rows of white and ivory, each dress sheathed in plastic. After a few minutes, we headed back to our place in line--noting as we left the easing of the "I will cut a bitch" posture of the women at the very front. (I can't blame them; I'd've been the same!)
At about 5am the press showed up. We were neither a group costumed for "The Price is Right" nor one so large and boisterous as to draw attention, so you won't be seeing footage of us on the local news.
At 6am a DJ arrived. The music pierced our sleepy brains and we protested, but then he played "Dancing Queen" and Erin and I got up and danced and sang, and so the awakening truly began. This was the hour in which we strategically made our move to hike over to the Marriott (in shifts, of course) and use the bathroom. (Hey, these things are important!) At 7:10 an angel of mercy descended upon us: my friend Kat arrived with a thermos of mocha. Revived by caffeine, we repacked the chairs and blankets in the car, which everyone in line was doing. Suddenly we found ourselves much closer to the front door as the crowd tightened up. The DJ then played the Cupid Shuffle and the bride and friends in front of us danced out to the middle of the street. After a minute Erin and I joined them. Meaghan took videos of these moments, which she promises to upload onto YouTube. I don't promise to provide links.
"FIVE MINUTES", the DJ announced, and the crowd compressed. There was much cheering, and as we moved down to the one minute mark and the outer doors were opened, I got shuffled away from Erin, Meaghan and Kat and ended up about five people back from the front door. There was a countdown from 10, and the running of the brides began.
There was a moment, just as I was getting through the first door, where the crush was such that I think I could have just picked up my feet and been carried along. The breath was pressed from my lungs. Then we popped through like a champagne cork and the charge was on.
Our plan was that Kat would grab from the closest rows, I would head to about a third of the way back, Meaghan would head for the middle, and Erin would sprint to the back. A plan gave us an advantage, because there were people who were hesitating for just a few seconds, getting their bearings.
I raced to a rack and grabbed about seven dresses, then four or five more off a second rack. My arms completely loaded, I headed for our designated meeting place, "the back right corner." Because I didn't have to worry about anyone keeping up with me, I was able to get back there first and park us right in front of a large mirror. Then I waited, guarding my stash like Smaug.
Kat arrived next, then Meaghan and finally Erin. Between the four of us, we had a mountain of dresses.
|Pile of dresses
Now, some people go off into the dressing rooms to try on dresses with a modicum of modesty. I do not recommend this. Because we were right in the aisle, we were able to shop off the dresses that Erin rejected, spot other dresses that bride teams were shopping, and ooh and aah over the other dresses that were being tried on. One of the first dresses that Erin tried on was a striking two-tone dress that we kind of liked.
So we developed our "Maybe" pile away from our "Still in Queue" pile and our "No" pile. As people first came around, there was serious horse-trading: do you have anything we'd want to trade out? But as our No pile grew, we took to looking at the offerings and even if there was nothing we wanted inviting people to look through the pile. I think that earned us friends, because we saw the same people coming back with dresses closer to what Erin was looking for.
Erin must have tried on 30 or more dresses. Many were outright rejects. Many more, some of us would like but Erin just wasn't thrilled. A few more went into the Maybe pile. As the Maybes piled up, people asked about certain dresses among them. Some we guarded, but others were far enough down by comparison that we let them go. Kat started shopping dresses while Meaghan and I kept pushing through the original pile and the trades with Erin. Along the way, Erin found a dress that was very close to what she wanted, but had just a bit more beading in the bodice than she was looking for. Also, the dress had obviously been a floor sample and had sustained some damage to the beadwork, though nothing that wouldn't be repairable. It went into the Maybe pile as a strong contender.
A willowy, red-headed bride came along and gasped, pointing to the dress. "I wanted to try that one on! Is it available?" We told her it was one of our stong maybes and she wandered away, only to return in 15 minutes with a look of hopeful desparation. "Are you sure you're going to want it?" She asked. Erin said, "Tell you what: I don't want you to take it away, but I'll let you try it on right here, okay?" She agreed and slipped into the dress. When she turned to the mirror, her hands flew up over her mouth and she burst into tears. "It's perfect..." she whispered behind her hands, sobbing. By that point, I was crying, Erin was crying, the girl's mother was crying. She looked at Erin and said, "Please. Oh please can I have it?"
We liked that dress? But this was love. This was her dress. Erin said, "Of course!" and the girl threw her arms around Erin's neck. There were hugs and tears all around, and she took one last look at the dress she loved before packing it away. Like every girl, when she reached the register her name was announced: "Heather has found her dress!" "Susan has found her dress!" "Molly..." "Kathy..." "Diane...." And all over the store people cheered.
A part of me secretly wondered if we were going to be one of those happy bridal parties.
We kept working through the dresses, Meaghan now off with Kat tracking down trades. People came by with interesting-looking dresses and we asked for a chance to try them on if they didn't work for their bride. Our Maybe pile was down to the pink dress, a striking dress with black embroidery on the bodice and enough length to add "pick-up" to the skirt and make it more interesting, and a simple but elegant dress with a beige bow. Erin had charged off in the midst of this to track down a bride to whom she wanted to give a dress, and our pile was getting low.
Halfway into a dress, Erin gasped at a dress that was being carried by. "Are you trading that?" No, they were going to their bride with it. "If she doesn't want it, can you please, please, please bring it back to me?" They agreed and went on. Erin tried on a dress that was so delightfully hideous that as a joke she sent it to her fiancee in a text: "this is it!" Kat channeled our friend Jenn and commanded Erin out of the dress. It will find no bride and needs to be burned.
And then the assistants were back with the dress that had gone by minutes before. Erin slipped it on, we fastened her in, and I just stood there, frozen, holding my breath, until she turned to the mirror.
I didn't think it was going to happen. I didn't think we were going to have that moment. But Erin gasped. Her hands flew up to her mouth. And we both burst into tears.
This was the dress. We were in love.
I swear there was good karma involved from giving up that other dress. Because this dress is perfect. The beading is completely intact, the bodice fits Erin perfectly. The only alteration that she will have to make is to shorten it. I don't know where it came from, but it's in perfect condition. And it's everything she wanted.
We went to the cash registers. The announcer called out, "Erin has found her dress!" And we cheered through our tears.