What exactly is a trunk show, anyway? Is it like a runway show? A sample sale? A Tupperware party? Not exactly. Shamefully, I’ve never been to a single trunk show in my entire life, so for the full 411, I turned to Elizabeth“Liz” St. John, the eco-friendly bridal designer behind Elizabeth St. John Atelier Collections and Hayden Harlow (a nifty new “borrow or buy” retailer for bridal veils and hair accessories), and Marcie Muehlke, CEO and founder of the Fair Trade, handmade, and also insanely eco-friendly bridal fashion label Celia Grace. We chatted about the significance of trunk shows in the wedding industry, and the myriad perks involved for brides on the hunt for their perfect gown. Here’s what I learned…
1. If you’re obsessed with a certain designer, attending their trunk show is a must!
If a designer’s work truly speaks to you and your bridal aesthetic, it would be extremely unwise to miss one of their trunk shows.
“A trunk show is a special event at a bridal shop where a designer or brand brings their whole collection to one bridal shop for one or a few days.” says Marcie. “While shops usually carry a range of brands, and several dresses for each brand, a trunk show allows you to see all the dresses from a favorite designer.”
2. Want something right off the runway? Trunk shows are your best bet.
Can’t get enough of X designer’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection? A trunk show will be one of the very first opportunities to place an order on that strapless trumpet gown that gave you heart palpitations when it hit the runway.
“A trunk show is special because it will include all of the current pieces in a designers collection.” says Liz. “Boutiques only carry a handful of styles from any one designer’s collection, so a bridal trunk show gives brides the opportunity to try on any of the gowns in a designer’s collection, often including the very gowns featured in magazine editorials or on the runway, which may not always be available in stores.”
3. Trunk shows are fun for newbie brides and serious dress shoppers alike!
“Trunk shows are great for any bride.” says Marcie. “For a bride who is just starting to shop, a trunk show means you will have more selection and can learn how a trunk show works firsthand. That said, brides who are ready to buy are more likely to seek out a trunk show. These brides may love a certain designer and have probably tried on a few dresses from that brand. A trunk show gives these brides the chance to try on more dresses they think they’ll love.”
4. Trunk shows are your big opportunity to schmooze with the designer themselves.
Either the designer or a brand representative will be on hand for any trunk show, so if you want to be styled and pampered by the pros, this is your chance. Liz says “For my trunk shows, I often offer suggestions or modifications to gowns that will fit a bride’s personal style and body type that wouldn’t otherwise be available. I also like to give insight on the differences between the fabrics, silhouettes and construction of my gowns – all very important – and often, I may be able to throw in a few extras to customize a gown for a bride, such as covered buttons, length or details at no additional charge.”
5. You should definitely make an appointment.
Trunk shows are especially busy days for bridal salons! Both Marcie and Liz emphasized the importance of calling ahead to schedule an appointment, as bridal salons will usually be attending to regular business as well as trunk show business.
6. Do your research beforehand, and come prepared with questions.
“The best way to prepare for a trunk show is to find out about the shop that is hosting the show and the trunk show brand.” says Marcie. “Read up on the brand to find out what styles you like, find price points, and more.”
As Liz mentioned earlier, bridal designers or their reps will be on-hand to help with your fitting and make that sales magic happen, so if you think your dream dress might need a few minor modifications to make it even dreamier, a trunk show is the prime time to ask!
7. Don’t bring a large entourage.
Marcie and Liz also suggested bringing only 1-2 friends or family members, such as your mother or maid of honor, because trunk shows can sometimes get a little crazy and crowded, depending on the popularity of designer/amount of event promotion involved.
8. Wear appropriate undergarments, and bring your accessories and shoes.
“You may want to wear nude colored undergarments and a strapless bra or bustier, depending on what kind of dresses you like and plan to try on.” says Marcie. “Shops will often have a range of shoes you can wear, or you can bring your own.”
Liz adds: “If you do decide to order, these items will be important when being measured for your new gown.”
9. You can get a discount if you order your gown at the event.
It’s important not to confuse a trunk show with something like a sample sale, where dress prices on sample size gowns are slashed drastically to make room for new stock. There generally is some special discount or promotion on offer, however. (P.S. According to our sources, the trunk show discount generally hovers around 10%.) Ask the salesperson or boutique owner about a trunk show discount if you’re serious about buying.
10. Stick to the styles that flatter you to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
This was a piece advice shared by both Marcie and Liz – while a designer’s entire collection might be on display, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying everything on. Stick to the styles you know flatter your figure – and feel free to ask the designer or their rep for style suggestions if you’re unsure.
“You may want to have an idea of which silhouettes you are interested in.” says Liz. “Many designers offer dozens of dress styles, so you want to limit your choices to 3 -4 before the show. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed and confused, it can be exhausting trying on wedding gowns!”
Celia Grace has a few trunk shows popping up in Boston (April 26-28), Kona, HI (May 3-5), and Washington D.C. (June 14-16), FYI. (For additional details, click here.)
Got even more questions about the wedding dress shopping process? Check out our ultimate guide to wedding dress shopping, and find out which 8 people you should never take to the bridal salon.