How to Score a Custom Wedding Dress for Less Than $1000

 Photo: Anomalie

Photo: Anomalie

Wedding dresses are expensive—really expensive—but Anomalie, a San Francisco-based bridal startup, says that most people are overpaying. The brand makes custom wedding dresses in as little as two months—instead of the traditional eight—and prices start at only $800.

Let's discuss how they make it work.

Founder Leslie Voorhees is a mechanical engineer with a Harvard MBA whose résumé includes product development and manufacturing gigs at Nike, M.Gemi, and Apple. While shopping for her own wedding dress, Voorhees grew frustrated with the boutique experience. With a little sleuthing, she discovered that bridal shops take a substantial markup on dresses, and nearly every designer brand outsources production to third-party manufacturers.

Voorhees and her fiancé became obsessed with finding a more cost-effective solution for brides, and personally vetted dozens of suppliers. Within several months, they formed direct relationships with the best ones and left their jobs to launch Anomalie.

 Photo: Anomalie

Photo: Anomalie

Anomalie's direct-to-consumer approach keeps prices low. The company encourages you to pick a dream dress by searching Pinterest and visiting brick-and-mortar bridal stores. After selecting a style, you schedule a consultation with them. They'll work with their designers to create a custom sketch for your design, give you a quote, (generally between $800 and $1,500), and send you to a local tailor for measurements. (They can also provide instructions for how to measure yourself at home, in case you hate tailors or are too busy to visit one.) Then you'll receive a proposed fabric swatch (to weigh in on the look, feel, and color), pictures of any beading, and lace samples. 

The Anomalie team consults you throughout the process. You'll see the muslin on a mannequin to review what the physical gown will look like, and the team will send pictures and videos along the way. Your final dress will arrive within three months after you approve the sketch. Should your dress require additional alterations, the company's network of tailors is on call to help. If you don't like it, you get your money back. 

Granted, there are bridal designers in San Francisco who will custom-design a dress for you, albeit at a higher price point. (You'll find several of them here in the best bridal shops roundup.) The difference in price is that most of those designers are producing their dresses right here in the city, while Anomalie is manufacturing at sustainable factories in China. A rep for the company tells me they vetted 40 factories before selecting three.

For some women, making a purchase at a brick and mortar boutique is part of the bridal experience. They want that moment of twirling in a wedding dress on a pedestal in front of family and friends, and then handing over a credit card. I get it; there's a rush that accompanies the ritual. But if that experience isn't critical to you, and you want to save money on what is already likely to be the most expensive party you'll ever throw, Anomalie is a smart way to get your dream dress for less.