12 Solid Bets When You're Shopping for 'The Dress' in San Francisco

Photo by Clane Gessel for Glow Event Design

Photo by Clane Gessel for Glow Event Design

I've never had an actual panic attack, but I think I was on the verge of one the first time I went shopping for a wedding dress. I don't remember the name of the store, or why I chose it, other than it was in my neighborhood. I ultimately found my dress at a non-profit boutique in New York that sells designer samples and gives the proceeds to charity. (Textile reduction and social justice for the win!) 

Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress knows that selecting a wedding dress is an intense experience. To help you avoid a panic attack of your own, I've assembled a list of the best bridal boutiques and designers in San Francisco. From custom to designer to nontraditional, these stores will make your major fashion moment easy, so you can move onto other hair-raising matters...like seating arrangements.

MODERN BRIDES

Image via Loho Bride

Image via Loho Bride

Loho Bride

550 15th Street

For the bride who’s in a “league of her own,” it’s hard to beat Loho. This is the shop for women who don’t want a mainstream dress. The median price is around $3500-$4000, but you can find dresses at both higher and lower price points. Past customers recommend stalking their Instagram and website to get an idea of what’s available before showing up for your appointment.

Glamour Closet

114 Columbus Avenue

This wedding dress sample sale store is one of the best deals in the city. The store works with designers and salons to stock runway samples and excess inventory—including couture and well known designers—at 25-75% off retail prices. (Last season Vera Wang? Yes, please!) All gowns are off the rack. Appointments are not required, but, one-on-one consultations are available. Pro tip: go during the week when you'll have the store to yourself. On weekends, they limit the number of dresses you can try.

Alt Brides

709 Hyde Street

Alt. Brides launched in January 2016 as the very first mobile bridal boutique because founders Marisa Montalvo and Kristin Whitlock were tired of wedding boutiques offering the same stale, traditional experience at sky-high prices. One year later, the boutique expanded to a brick-and-mortar store in the Lower Nob Hill, but they still offer brides the same fresh, highly personalized experience as they did in the truck.

And Something Blue

3600 Sacramento Street

Owner Danielle Lawless-Bourhis says “We are for the tattooed bride who geeks out on fabrics, silhouettes and art”— for the free spirit who loves beautiful things but doesn’t want to spend a crazy amount of money. This Sacramento Street spot is perfect for the down-to-earth bride with a rock and roll soul. Check here for looks from Claire La Faye, Twigs & Honey, Chantel Lauren, and lots of cool indie designers.

Sarah Seven

3235 Fillmore Street

Sarah Seven designs two distinct lines for two distinct brides, Sarah Seven and Bride by Sarah Seven. Both have modern-cool dresses you would expect to see on fashion bloggers. Each line launches one new collection annually, (Sarah Seven in the Spring and Bride in the Fall). Take the online quiz to determine which label best fits you, and enjoy champagne and gorgeous dresses during your appointment at the Fillmore flagship store. 

Amy Kuschel

23 Grant Avenue, 5th Floor

Amy Kuschel specializes in minimalist, mid-century-inspired dresses using gorgeous, high-quality textiles. All pieces are made here in San Francisco. Retail prices range between $2000 and $4600, but  a selection of sample sale gowns are available to purchase in their San Francisco showroom for $600-$1000. Additionally, you can shop the Ready To Wed, off-the-rack collection, featuring original designs, one-of-a-kind gowns, and current looks from the collection ranging from $1300-3000.

Custom

Image via Jinza Couture Bridal

Image via Jinza Couture Bridal

Jinza Couture Bridal

1933 Union Street

Jinza Jin has been designing dresses for over 35 years, including 15 years at her own couture bridal salon. At her Union Street atelier, you can either customize an existing design—including fabric, cut, color, or sleeves—or have Jinza create something just for you. Jinza’s pieces are timeless, classic, and fit to perfection. I'm not a lace girl, but Jinza's imaginative ways of incorporating lace would make me reconsider my position. 

Trish Lee

323 Geary Street, Suite 808

After a brief career in business and finance, Trish Lee decided to pursue her passion and create dreamy wedding dresses. Lee favors slinky, fitted, and flowing silhouettes in rich silks with meticulous details like beading or lace, and her latest collection was inspired by her own wedding, (just last year), in Napa. Prices for her vintage-inspired designs range from $2000–$4000, with the average hovering around $2500. Considering that Lee’s pieces are produced right here in the Bay Area, that’s a really good deal. Dresses can be "made-to-measure" to your bust, waist, and hip measurements for an additional fee.

Dark Garden

321 Linden Street

Dark Garden’s Autumn Adamme has been designing custom looks for brides in SF and beyond for 20 years. (She even designed Lana Wachowski’s wedding dress.) The process begins with design consultations, followed by a budget estimate, proposed timeline, and final design renderings. Autumn’s designs are stunning and dramatic and fit like a glove. She’s one of the top corset-makers in the world, so Dark Garden should be your first stop if you’re dreaming of a corseted look for the big day.

Helen Miller

3326 Sacramento Street

Breaking the standard New York-LA-Chicago mold, this is the rare bridal boutique with locations in San Francisco, Moscow, and Dubai. It's hard to pinpoint an aesthetic at Helen Miller. There are lots of embellished princess/ball gown styles, a 20s-inspired design, several lace naked-dress options, and even a minimalist number here and there. With that in mind, you'll probably find a silhouette that you like, and the designer will work with you to customize details on your dress.

Traditional Salons

Image via Jin Wang

Image via Jin Wang

Jin Wang

300 Grant Avenue

Jin Wang offers the traditional bridal salon experience, albeit in a glam-modern setting. The spacious, light-filled boutique in Union Square feels like an art gallery where the works on display are dresses. Check it out for an outstanding selection of the designers you’re used to seeing in glossy magazines—Carolina Herrera, Naeem Khan, J. Mendel, Lela Rose, and more. The store also hosts a number of trunk shows, so check the events schedule on the website to see which label is up next.

Vera Wang

180 Geary Street

For a while in the 90s and the early Aughts, it felt like every celebrity got married in a Vera Wang princess dress. Thanks to that perception, an entire generation grew up imagining their very own Vera Wang princess dresses. If you wouldn't think of saying "I do" in anything else, head to Vera Wang in Union Square.  Prices for the Vera Wang Bridal Collection start at $2900, while the Luxe Collection starts at $6900. You'll need an appointment to try on, and you can bring up to four people with you. All dresses are special order, so you'll need to place your order at least six to eight months before the big day.

Lede photos by Clane Gessel for Glow Event Design. Hair and makeup by Skyla Arts, flowers by Jaclyn Nesbit, and dress by Kinsley James. Private residence available through K Venues.