The Difference Between A $400 & $4,000 Wedding Dress

It’s hard not to feel like you’re playing a game that the salon always wins when shopping for your wedding dress. At least, that’s the way I’ve felt as I’ve plunged into the process.

Boutiques never list prices online, so you have to make an appointment to go in and get sticker shock in person. Or, if the prices are listed online, you can’t try on the dress until you order it to your home. (And no, a glass of Champagne and fawning sales associate don't come in the box.) Plus, when you’re so used to paying less than $100 for an LBD, you have to wonder what on Earth makes a white dress cost $5,000.

Every interaction is a tug-of-war between, This is such a scam; they are playing on my insecurities, and Wow, this dress really is gorgeous. The pictures would be amazing.

So I decided to figure out exactly what makes a wedding dress costs more, so I could shop like an expert and smack down any upsells that aren’t necessary to my personal nuptial bliss. Giant taffeta skirt? No, thank you. 100% silk? Necessary. Well, at least to me — I know you may have other priorities. That’s the point.

I turned to Rebecca Schoneveld of Schone Bride for guidance. Schoneveld is down-to-earth, yet passionate about making sure her customers get something they love. And as the owner of a Brooklyn boutique selling dresses by more than a dozen independent designers, and a wedding dress designer herself, she has a unique viewpoint on why white dresses are priced the way they are. And no, it’s not just because the word “wedding” is attached.

“There’s a lot of reasons why dresses cost what they cost,” Schoneveld says, whose own dresses — all designed and made in New York — range from $1,200 to $5,200. (The average cost of a wedding dress in the U.S. is around $1,300, according to The Knot.) “I want to be transparent and educate people about this. The dresses we make, they aren’t cheap, but you are really getting something for that.”

But what exactly are you getting? That answer's in the infographic below. Empower yourself with this information, and you can decide what you personally think is worth paying for on your big day.

Just keep in mind that these are all mix-and-match options, rather than prescriptive prices. For example, you could get a short, lacy number that’s made in Asia for the same price as a long, plain gown that’s made in L.A. in a vertically integrated company (that owns all the factories and studios involved in every step of its production process). And there are always sales and pre-loved dresses to look at, if you’re willing to get creative!
Image: Designed by Elliot Salazar.
Ed. note: For more information about why we chose to point to child labor when it comes to beading and embellishments, please read this Huffington Post article.
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