CLINTON, Connecticut — The pandemic was more than a challenge for the bridal industry, including brick and mortar dress shops.
At the height of the pandemic, manufacturing times were delayed, resources were unavailable, and tensions were high. Beth Chapman, owner of The White Dress by the Shore in Clinton sat down with Lauren Zenzie to discuss the highs and lows of the past year.
“Being in business and being an entrepreneur for 17 years, I thought I had seen it all and that I could handle most things. This, I did not see coming. I did not know how to handle it, I didn’t know what to do, so we just did our best,” said Chapman.
The March 2020 shutdown completely rocked the bridal world.
Creating a wedding gown is truly a global product, which made turn-around times grow even longer than before.
“Even if the gown is made in the USA, the elements come from all different places. The fabric may come from Europe, the zipper may come from China, the crinoline may come from another part of the world. Those elements have to come from all different parts of the world, so as a result, even though we started to get better here in the United States, deliveries were still delayed,” said Chapman.
Typically, store owners from across the country visit top cities twice a year for Bridal Market to get a full tactile experience with the designer’s gowns, which forced the industry to shift and evolve into a virtual zone.
Beth says as a bridal store owner, it was extremely difficult to purchase gowns for the shop without ever getting to have a tactile experience with them, so it really was a learning curve.
When businesses started opening after the full shutdown, places were opening under strict COVID guidelines and experiences far from normal.
Beth knew as a business owner that she had to still live up to brides’ pre-COVID expectations.
“I just want brides to feel special, especially right now during covid, this is one of the normal things they feel like they can do. But I really want it to be a memorable experience. And what I love about shopping in a brick and mortar bridal store is that it has a nostalgia to it, you know it’s one of the things that your grandmother did when they bought their wedding dress, and your mother did when they bought their wedding dress. There are so few traditions that are left,” said Chapman.
Beth says that although this was extremely difficult for her business, it also created a lot of great new practices in-house. She says bringing 3 guests is the perfect number. A pro tip from the professionals is to bring people whose opinions matter the most. “You have to understand that when you ask for an opinion, you’re going to get an opinion, so you have to be ready for those,” said Chapman.
Picking out a dress is not only exciting for the bride, it’s also exciting for the bridesmaids. For the bridesmaids, Beth and her team created the “Outdoor Bridesmaids Soiree” where bridesmaids got to have a socially distanced gathering in the garden, and two by two go into the bridesmaids shop to pick out their dress for the wedding!
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