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If you want to spend multiple weekends on end traipsing around the city with your mom and your besties on the hunt for your wedding gown, far be it from us to call you bridezilla. But if you prefer something more efficient - and more intimate than a department store shopping experience - then let us offer you the Beverly Hills neighborhood surrounding the convergence of Wilshire and Robertson Boulevards. Some strips attract car retailers or cheap nail salons, but the blocks just north, south and east of this intersection have inexplicably attracted bridal shops (plus the punny men's formalwear shop, Friar Tux), and we've got the Cliff's notes to make your walking tour that much more expeditious. But a quick word to the wise before we get started: dresses from these retailers are generally going to cost you a minimum of $2K, and appointments are strongly encouraged (if not required), so make sure your budget and your advance scheduling skills are in check before going forward.
Brides by Liza may look small, but they have a huge variety of gowns in various styles, cuts, and fabrication - and, of the all the shops in this area, they provide the biggest range in prices (starting as low as $800). The lovely and capable Liza is like a wedding fairy godmother, sent to put you in the dress you've imagined since you were a little girl. They carry a lot of ready-to-wear gowns from designers like Maggie Sottero, Casablanca, Jasmine Couture and Demetreos, but they are willing to customize anything off the rack and will also make custom dresses from scratch. Liza tries to keep her appointments quiet and intimate so the focus is on the bride (although they do have a back room that can host a gaggle of girlfriends if you so require), having prospective shoppers fill out a questionnaire about what they're looking for after which she picks three dresses - and, often, a version of one of those three turns out to be "the one." When asked about her favorite trends, Liza counters that her favorite dress is the one that will make the bride feel her best - and her thinnest!
Across the street from (and sort of the antithesis of) Brides by Liza is Renée Strauss for the Bride, a two-floor showroom that serves Renée Strauss-branded champagne, invites you to graze at a candy bar, and hosts a wedding cake tasting every Saturday after 11AM. A Beverly Hills fixture for almost 30 years, their specialty appears to be statement gowns with lots of embellishment, from designers like St. Pucchi, Complice, and Linea Raffaelli. All of the dresses are imported from overseas, so only a small selection is available off the rack. But they do carry amazing colorful pieces for the bridal party, and stock a competent collection of Grazia bridal shoes. Their celeb client list boasts Paula Abdul, Jennie Garth, Laura Linney, Kelly Preston, and Mrs. "Slash" (of Guns N Roses fame). Renée has also styled classic wedding flicks like Father of the Bride and My Best Friend's Wedding.
Although they carry some ready to wear dresses from designers like Simone Carvalli and Hanae Mori, the standouts at Shahla Dorriz Haute Couture are the gowns designed by Shahla herself and her son Alexandre. This mother-son team has produced some truly unique pieces that showcase very different styles. Mama Shahla has a whimsical quality, integrating the poetry of Rumi and Hafez into her dresses (inspiring love poems aren't just for ceremony readings anymore!) and developing a hand-painting technique that not only adds a surprising splash of color to a dress, but also makes it truly one of a kind. (She is willing to add this hand-painted touch to any of the dresses they carry: they have one dress with a tiered petal skirt, and you can just imagine her painting individual petals with a blush of pink here and there - romantic and divine.) On the other end of the spectrum, Alexandre creates more modern, tailored styles with avant garde skirting that has an origami quality to it. Although the dresses start in the low to mid five figures, they are willing to be flexible about price.
Just up the street at Simin Haute Couture, the way to go is a custom dress, and the ball gown style is their forte. They are truly a couturier - we got to spy their workshop in the back where several women were bent over fabric, painstakingly applying beautifully ornate beading and lacework. The process takes approximately six months, during which Simin gets to know her client, has her select fabrics, designs sketches, and then begins the fitting process as the dress is made and perfectly tailored. In addition to the more traditional elements, some of their dresses feature a racerback cut with a panel of stunning crystal beadwork, and one gown had a laser-cut leather bodice. Although they will work within your budget, the couture gowns typically cost $3K and up, but they do have some ready to wear pieces of Simin's, as well as lines like Lazaro and Angel Sanchez, that they sell off the rack for less. South
Our final stop on the tour, Claire Pettibone is the one shop that features a "household name" bridal line (and it has to be said that the interior of their salon is styled to look like a sweet, country wedding, which is very endearing). Claire's signature romantic look might appear vintage at first glance, if not for the distinctly modern, 3-D quality of the embellishments that adorn every one of her dresses. They have their continuing collection, as well as what was shown at last October and April's runway shows, on hand; however, they have some as-is samples on sale at incredible markdowns (try $4,000 down from $10,000). You can feel good about the fact that all of their gowns are made in the US (even though they use overseas fabrication), and each piece is hand-cut, one at a time (so you do need to be mindful of lead time). In addition to the dresses, they also sell Deborah Moreland hair ornaments, TS Tiaras, a spattering of pretty jewelry, and pieces from Claire's luxury lingerie line (perfect for your wedding night!).
· Brides by Liza [Official Website]
· Renée Strauss for the Bride [Official Website]
· Shahla Dorriz Haute Couture [Official Website]
· Simin Haute Couture [Official Website]
· Claire Pettibone [Official Website]
· All Wedding Week coverage [Racked LA]