The Knot is the grand dame of wedding websites. There's no escaping it. I find the 457 things on my "to do" list wee bit annoying, though. The Knot reminds me that the wedding industry is a big business. As one magazine editor put it, the wedding planning process is the one time that many people are willing to completely ignore their income bracket and over spend. That's not to say I don't use The Knot. I do and I love their regional magazines. I've found it very helpful at times. I just have to remind myself that a lot of what they deem necessary is not required.
The Knot has a wedding gown search engine, but I have two problems with it. First of all, it isn't up to date. For example, the newest Amsale dresses on The Knot's website are from Spring 2010. There are no images from the company's Fall 2010 show. While it's nice to use The Knot's search function to limit dresses by silhouette, neckline, or price, at this stage, I'm just looking to get a feel for different designers. I don't have a particular dress in mind.
The second problem with The Knot is with the size of the images returned. The main search page gives tiny thumbnail images of dresses. Getting a large image of a dress on The Knot takes a few extra clicks and when you're just browsing, it gets a little tedious after a while.
This is NOT a dress I'm considering
This is where an unexpected resource comes into play...
New York magazine posts pictures of every outfit that comes down the runway during fashion week (ready to wear and bridal). They organize everything by designer and season. It's much easier to browse there than on wedding websites because you can flip through large images quickly. No need to go back to a page of thumbnails to see another dress.
It's nice to have dates tied to the images, too. I've found that the Monique Lhuillier dress I love is quite old and has been updated for the current season. I don't really like the updated version.
Now, pictures of models in wedding gowns are great, but pictures of real women in those same gowns are even better, in my opinion. That's where the pre-owned wedding gown sites come into the picture. On the pre-owned wedding dress sites, brides selling their dresses usually upload a good number of pictures. They also include height and size information, so it's easy to see how dresses look on people who might be around my size.
Screen shot of a search from preownedweddingdresses.com
Another nice detail is that most listings include information about the original price paid for the dress along with the asking price. On The Knot, you get a ballpark figure because dresses are rated on a scale ($-$$$$$).
The pre-owned sites I've found are PreownedWeddingDresses.com, Once Wed, Bravo Bride, and Recycled Bride.
I would love to know how you all found your wedding gowns and if you did online research before buying. I've been enjoying my searching so far!