WASHINGTON – As a bride prepares for her wedding day,she has one mission in mind: Find the perfect dress.
This was the goal for hundreds of brides as they stormed through the doors of Filene's Basement after hearing,”3-2-1 … go!” at the Running of the Brides here Friday.
From traditional lace to elaborate beading to poofy ball gowns to form-fitting dresses and from white satin to cream chiffon – brides chose their ideal gowns from 1,700 discounted dresses. Designer dresses normally priced from $900 to $10,000 sold for $249,$499 or $699.
After racing through the entrance trying not to fall – several people did – teams wearing matching shirts and carrying signs listing their desirable dress sizes cleared the racks in less than a minute. Dresses ranging from size 2 to 26 flew left and right as people grabbed as many as their hands could hold.
Bride-to-be Amanda Matthews,24,a doctoral student in molecular medicine at George Washington University,developed a strategy with team “Woermanda” (a combination of Amanda and future last name Woerman). The seven members included school friends,a bridesmaid and the mothers of both the bride and groom. They all wore dark purple shirts with the team name on the front and their first names on the back. Matthews wore spandex shorts and a leotard,the better to change clothes in public.
“I picked go-getters that can be aggressive and competitive. … I even have a veteran who did this last year,” Matthews said. “Even though I've been having butterflies for the past week,I think this will be fun and a great bonding experience.”
Lining up Thursday at 9 p.m. gained “Woermanda” the fourth spot in line when the doors opened at 8 a.m. The team scouted the store the night before and celebrated with Georgetown cupcakes (as featured in the TLC series) provided by her fiancé,Matt Woerman. They had two lawn chairs,other snacks and bridal magazines to last the night. Mother-of-the-bride Jan Matthews,55,traveled from Idaho Falls,Idaho,because she said she “wouldn't miss this for the world.”
“By doing this,we can get a lot more than we could have ever afforded otherwise,” Jan Matthews said. “It's a memory I know we will never forget.”
When Amanda Matthews started trying on the dresses in a corner the team staked out containing a dressing room and rack for the dresses,each team member assumed her or his role.
Her bridesmaid held the mirror. Her mom zipped dresses up and down. The veteran and her husband traded dresses with other brides. Everyone was feeling the heat as two hours passed and dress after dress came on and off.
But it wasn't all about the competition for Matthews. She made a “bride best friend,” Mide Banwo,32,of Washington,who was trying on dresses a few feet away.
“We traded dress sizes,and the next thing we new,we both found the perfect dress,” Matthews said.
After completing the initial try-on rounds,re-examining the maybes and analyzing the final round of five dresses,Matthews decided on not one,but three dresses – one at $499 for the ceremony,a reception gown at $249 that will be easier to dance in and a third for $249 to sell on eBay. She hopes to finance a celebration dinner for her team. This brought her total to $1,056.82.
“This experience is something I can't even put into words,” Matthews said. “It was overwhelming at times,but I am walking away with three dresses for a thousand dollars … you just can't beat that.”
Even though her wedding is not until May 2012,Matthews said this experience helped make it “much more tangible.”
Five Filene's Basement stores brought in more than 100 workers,including security guards,for the sale,which was to last until 9 p.m. Friday. Dana Booker,Filene's store manager,said the store would re-open for normal business Saturday.
“It's a lot of work,but you get involved in the excitement of it all,” Booker said. “When you see those brides,and they get their dresses,it's all worth it.”
The Running of the Brides originated in Boston in 1947. It traveled from Chicago last week and is going to Boston in August.