Costco is a good place to go when you need a lawnmower or a gallon-size jar of pickles, but a wedding dress? For the last few weeks across California, shoppers have been stepping into local Costco stores to attend trunk shows and fittings in pop-up bridal boutiques. The dresses are designed by Kirstie Kelly (previously known for her work with Disney Bridal) and cost between $650 and $1,400 (U.S.). Costcouture, as the collection is called, is among a growing number of mass-market bridal lines. Forever 21, the fast-fashion emporium, just announced a new line of wedding accessories, while Anthropologie is putting out a bridal collection as well. J. Crew, the American prep purveyor, has been successfully growing its wedding line since launching it in 2004.
So why not Costco, which is all about efficiency and value, exactly what a bride is looking for at a time of stress and expense? The Costcouture dresses are reportedly made with satin and silk, which the designer says are bought - as per Costco's business model - in bulk, resulting in price savings for brides-to-be but not a reduction in quality.
Lidia Tacconelli, a Toronto event and wedding planner, isn't sold. "There's a lot of romance to buying a dress," Tacconelli says. "I don't know if Costco is the right environment for that, with, you know, the free samples down the next aisle." Most brides, Tacconelli adds, put a bigger premium on and allocate a bigger share of their budgets to their gowns than almost every other wedding purchase. "It's their one time to have a dress that is really special," she says.
So while efficient bulk-buying is Costco's m.o., personalization is a big priority when planning a wedding - and that's where Costco's bridal-gown foray may hit a snag. The dresses offered at the big-box store don't look any different than the gowns from a bridal boutique with plush seating and tea for mom. In fact, the gowns in those chic boutiques often come from mass-produced lines sold in stores all over the world. But the experience in the smaller outfits feels personal, customized. And it comes, therefore, with a heftier price tag.
Of course, Costco already sells diamonds, flower arrangements, honeymoon vacations, wedding-photo packages and invitations. But when a friend of mine got her elegant letter-pressed invites made there, she made me swear not to tell anyone - and therein lies the company's largest hurdle. If a bride doesn't want to admit to getting invitations made at Costco, would she admit to getting her dress there?