Retailers are making bank on the wedding industrial complex.
Research company Edited recently released a report that pointed out that retailers will charge about 3.9 times more for a white bridal dress than a white dress that’s similar (just not a “wedding” dress, per se).
But is it just a white dress? Or is it something else?
“It’s not just a white dress,” wedding dress designer Anne Barge said to NPR. “It’s the fabric, and it’s the workmanship, and it’s the lining, and it’s the fit.” (Arguably, a higher price tag may or may not indicate a better quality dress, and there’s also the argument that if you wear it on your wedding day…it’s a wedding dress.)
“It’s the dress of your life, and if there is ever one picture your [descendants] have of you it’s the one in your wedding dress,” Barge explained.
But what if it’s a bridesmaid dress, and the construction is flimsier than a bridal gown?
The industrial complex extends to there, too. Edited found that the word ‘bridesmaid’ had a similar effect; bridesmaids dresses cost 1.8 times more than dresses that were the same.
Is social media to blame? After all, the Pinterest-perfect and Instagram-worthy weddings aren’t just myths; women are trying to attain that.
“More and more, today’s couples are influenced by what they see passing for the norm on social media. They see Solange Knowles at a wedding in a white jumpsuit and realize, ‘hold on, I can bring the trends and culture I like to the altar too’. And the mass market is perfectly positioned to cater to this new customer,'” Katie Smith, Senior Retail Analyst at Edited said in an emailed press release.
However, Edited points out that just like how twenty-somethings prepping for a wedding can be influenced by what they see online, they also can look online to help skimp on costs. Edited pointed out that currently 7% of bridal wear is e-commerce, making online wedding dress shopping a $574-a-million-a-year business.
But even though the wedding market as a whole can burden consumers’ wallets, this wedding obsession can also be a boon to retailers. Edited points out that J. Crew’s wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses sell out 1.4 times faster than its regular dresses (though to be fair, that’s not probably particularly fast for most of its apparel – the company has been struggling for several quarters).
It raises a point though: could wedding dresses – especially heavily marked-up white dresses with the word “wedding” next to it – be a way to salvage some ailing traditional retailers? After all, even though consumers have been largely conditioned to shop on sale and even though yes, J. Crew does discount some of its wedding dresses, there’s arguably one item women will be pay a premium for…or at least, one they might not have a choice but to pay a premium for.