Target Adds Bridal Gowns to Its Cheap Chic

The discount retailer Target is offering wedding dresses on its Web site for less than $200. According to the Conde Nast annual wedding survey, a wedding dress typically costs $1,000.

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June is the traditional start of the wedding season, and one of the most traditional items, a bridal gown, could end up being one of the least expensive parts of the ceremony. The discount retailer Target is offering wedding dresses on its Web site for less than 200 bucks.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: It's one of the most significant days in a person's life. Cue the music, please.

(Soundbite of song, "Wedding March")

CORLEY: The wedding day. And, of course, there's the dramatic moment when the bride walks down the aisle, all eyes on her and her wedding dress. These days, the typical wedding dress costs about a thousand dollars, according to the Conde Nast annual wedding survey. But there's a new bridal salon in town -well, actually on the Web - where a bride can save a bundle if she likes what she sees.

Ms. AMY VON WALTER (Spokeswoman, Target): Really, every bride deserves to find the gown of her dreams, regardless of budget.

CORLEY: Target spokeswoman Amy von Walter says a collection of bridal gowns, bridesmaid's dresses and accessories for both women and men is the work of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

Ms. VON WALTER: The collection includes eight gowns in total, and they're available in ivory, white and/or black. And each of these gowns are under $160.

(Soundbite of song, "Wedding Recessional")

CORLEY: Target says its wedding dresses - which include a belle gown and a classic princess dress - offer brides affordable elegance and can be used for other dressy events. The big box retailer isn't the only outlet selling bridal gowns online, but the only one to offer them at that price. Analyst Wendy Liebmann, the head of WSL Strategic Retail, calls Target's move bold and says the store is paying attention to a couple of big themes present in today's market.

Ms. WENDY LIEBMANN (WSL Strategic Retail): One that target has been very good at, which is getting into what we call a sort of fast fashion, cheap chic area where they're bringing in, you know, sort of of the moment fashions at really good prices.

CORLEY: And second, says Liebmann, instead of buying an expensive dress, brides are beginning to think about splurging on other parts of the wedding. Even so, Liebmann says Target still has some convincing to do.

Ms. LIEBMANN: We sort of go, ooh. A $100 wedding frock from Target? That's the bit that sort of makes it a little risky. It's one thing buying a blender for somebody.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

CORLEY: Down here in the basement of the Cook County Building in Chicago, there's a marriage court and the office where people apply for their marriage license.

Mr. JIM FOWLER(ph) (Resident, Chicago): I'm Jim Fowler.

Ms. YANNA HAYWOOD(ph) (Resident, Chicago): I'm Yanna Haywood.

CORLEY: Yanna, a medical student, and Jim, a grad student in math, are getting married in a little more than a week. Yanna had heard about Target's Mizrahi collection.

Ms. HAYWOOD: No, I definitely looked at that dresses when I was searching for my wedding dress, yeah.

CORLEY: You did?

Ms. HEYWOOD: Yes.

CORLEY: And why do you decide to do that?

Ms. HEYWOOD: Price.

CORLEY: But Yanna ended up buying a little fancier dress elsewhere. That's not so surprising to the editor in chief of Brides magazine, Millie Martini Bratten. She says while it's not such a stretch for Target to offer wedding dresses, Target's Club Wedd is one of the most popular bridal registries around. She believes most of today's young brides will still head to a traditional bridal salon, even if they're comfortable shopping online.

Ms. MILLIE MARTINI BRATTEN (Editor in Chief, Brides magazine): The wedding dress is still considered something very, very special. It's not an impulse buy, and so is the process of looking to find that perfect dress.

CORLEY: So as brides begin that search for their dream gown, Target says if it's not perfect, it can always be returned to Target.com for a full refund within 90 days.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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