Wedding Wednesday: Designer gown treasure trove

I'm still in shock over what I found last Saturday. If you know anyone who is getting married anywhere near Virginia, you need to share this information with them. This is huge.

EDIT: It doesn't matter where you are located. If you let the manager of the store know what dresses interest you, she will check her inventory and ship you the dress! She even posted in the comments below! Her email address is mduncanywca " at" yahoo "dot" com.

About an hour from Charlottesville, in the tiny town of Lynchburg, VA, there is a charity bridal store called Church Street Bridal. All of their profits go to support the local Y's operations, most notably their domestic violence shelter. They sell samples that have been given to them by bridal salons. They told me that Kleinfield is the most generous of all the salons they get dresses from.

Do I need to explain what Kleinfeld is? Located in Manhattan (formally in Brooklyn), Kleinfelds is the wedding gown destination for brides all over the country. TLC's Say Yes to the Dress TV show is filmed at Kleinfelds.

Okay, back to Church Street Bridal. On a whim, I stopped in on Saturday to see what they had. It was amazing. The prices are $350-$500. The gowns had top designer labels like Lazaro, Amsale, Pnina Tornai, Carolina Herrara, Monique Lhuiller, Alita Graham, Jim Hjelm, Priscilla of Boston, Anne Barge, Melissa Sweet, Peter Langner, Henry Roth, Alvina Velenta, Rivini...the list goes on. One of the girls working there said they had an Oscar de la Renta a short time ago (some of his dresses retail for well over $10,000). Why wouldn't you want to check this place out?

These are iPhone pictures, but I hope they convey how amazing this place is...

Pnina Tornai lace dress, $400

Alita Graham (like Pnina dresses, these are only available at Kleinfeld), $400

Alvina Valenta, $350

Monique Lhuillier, $400

As I was gasping and snapping pictures, I realized how absurd it was that the shop was empty. I was there for over an hour and only ONE girl came in with her mother. The girls who were working there said that people often get hung up on loose threads or a missing button. Customers don't seem to recognize the labels or believe the prices on the tags.

I'd have to bite my tongue if someone turned down a $400 Carolina Herrara dress because of a missing button.

Rivini, $400

Jim Hjelm, $400

These aren't used gowns. They are samples, cancelled orders, or overstocks. Some of the samples are in pristine condition (probably weren't tried on very often). Others need to be cleaned. For these prices, you can spring for the best cleaner in the region and still spend less than girls going to chain bridal stores are spending on dresses.

Reem Acra ballgown, $450

There was one gown that didn't have a price. It was a Pnina ballgown with red details and Swarovki crystal detailing. In discussing it by email with a bride up in DC who is a Pnina fan, we decided that it is a one-of-a-kind, custom gown that was designed with a dress from Pnina's 2006 collection in mind. The non-custom dress retailed for $24,000. Church Street has it locked away in a back room because it's so huge/expensive. My Pnina fan friend is on her way down there to get it.

The dress we think was used as the starting point for the custom one above:

Okay, so it's not every bride's style. However, there are hundreds of stunning gowns with jaw dropping price tags at this store.

If a gown is too dirty or damaged, they salvage all the trim off it and sell that. They had trim from a Kenneth Pool dress ($58!) and a Monique Lhuiller gown for sale, too. They were awesome. I'm so mad I didn't get better pictures of them.

The sizes ranged from 0 (just one, a Pnina, don't know if she has vanity sizing) on up to 22. There were a good amount of 6s, loads of 8s and 10s, plenty of 12s and 14s. Remember that bridal sizes haven't changed the way regular store sizes have. Your bridal size is often two steps above your street size (I'm a 2 at J. Crew, but a bridal 6, for example).

They had every silhouette you could think of, from the traditional Priscilla of Boston "princess" style dress to the super slinky Monique Lhuiller lace dress. You do need to know your style if you go. The first time wedding gown shopper probably can't look at a dress in plastic and know what shape and style it is. For example...

I knew this dress by Monique Lhuillier...

Was this one:

I think it was used in Lhuiller's 2009 ad campaign.

This Pnina gown ($500):

Is this one at Kleinfeld:

When I shared this info and my pictures with a popular wedding message board, people were freaking out. Trips were being planned. A girl in Ohio said she wanted to road trip here to buy her dress at Church Street Bridal. That's what should be happening! That place should have been packed on a Saturday morning!

Now, if you go to Church Street Bridal, just be prepared to be underwhelmed when you get there. They are on the 2nd floor of the Y's building. The bridal salon is air conditioned (but the rest of the Y isn't...don't be scared!). You park on Church Street, then enter around to left side of the building. The signage isn't great. Use your GPS.

Pictures from the bridemaids, prom, mother-of-the-bride, and clearance areas are coming up in a few hours. Stay tuned!

Part 2 in this series shows the bridesmaid, mother-of-the-bride, and clearance areas of Church Street Bridal.

Part 3 shows pictures of gowns at Church Street Bridal next to pictures of those dresses from the designer's portfolios.


  1. Awesome post!  I had vaguely heard about this place before my wedding but I gave up trying to find it after an internet search came up empty.  I finally found a lovely Monique Lhuillier sample dress elsewhere....but nowhere near the awesome prices at this place.  Alas, if you only could have posted this about 2 years ago...:)  Thank you for spreading the word

  2. WOW!  this place makes me want to get married again!!!!!!  I will definitely bookmark this post for any friends that may be planning weddings in the future.  Thanks Jeannine!!!!

  3. Oh my gosh, you're killing me with this. I wish I'd known just two weeks ago :)  I've been shopping with my engaged friend, and just a week ago she settled on a dress from a name above, but for a heftier price tag. At least it was a sample and was 35% off.
    Hopefully they will still be in business when (if?) Ryan pops the question :)

  4. Totally. But I have to admit if I were coming from out of state...I
    wouldn't go. I have done so much shopping with my friend lately that I am
    appalled at the cost of wedding gowns. I'm turning quite miserly because I
    have only a few goals right now - continue to furnish my house and save
    enough to be able to quit my horrendous job - so even spending $500 on a
    wedding dress horrifies me right now.

    I know, I'm insane. :)

  5. Now we're talking! Do they take donations from ex-brides who never wore
    their dresses? I have a gorgeous dress from my last engagement.

  6. Now we're talking! Do they take donations from ex-brides who never wore
    their dresses? I have a gorgeous dress from my last engagement.

  7. Now we're talking! Do they take donations from ex-brides who never wore
    their dresses? I have a gorgeous dress from my last engagement.

  8. Now we're talking! Do they take donations from ex-brides who never wore
    their dresses? I have a gorgeous dress from my last engagement.

  9. Wow!  What an amazing resource to share.  I hope people find awesome dream dresses there.

  10. Aimee@ the Functional SpaceAugust 5, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I REALLY wish I knew about this place when I got married 2 1/2 yrs ago!!  What a great resource. 

  11. This is unreal!!! Thanks for sharing this. I'll definitely pass it along to my engaged friends. 

    What a fabulous find!!

  12. Man... if I ever get married, I might just have to head up to Lynchburg just to check this place out!

  13. Holy cow. Seems like it's definitely worth a plane ticket and a hotel stay!

  14. Jeannine,

    Thanks for the post!

    I manage the shops and we do our best to provide amazing quality gowns for affordable prices which helps us raise money our programs.  You are so right when you say that you could never get to the original price by doing what these gowns need before wearing.  Most simply need cleaned.  We have had brides email me from all over the nation (well, world), New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maryland and even England to show me their photo of their dream wedding gown.  If I can find it in our inventory, I will ship it for $25-$40 shipping and handling.  We are so grateful to our supporters and for reference, we are normally slammed from 12-4 on Saturdays so if you want quiet time, 10-12 is great.  We are also open 3-6 from Tuesday-Friday.  Check out for more information.
    By the way...the lady from Ohio snagged a GORGEOUS Monique Lhullier for $400, originally $6200!  Unbelievable!!!

    Please contact me if you are in the market for a gown:

    Thanks again,

  15. OH MY WORD!  This place is incredible - and I will be checking it out.  It's worth the special trip to VA.  :)  

  16. my reaction as i read this blog... 'oh my gosh!'.....'OH my gosh!'...'OH MY GOSH!!!!!'
    Why did I not know about this place!?!?!?! What an amazing place :D

  17. I literally lost sleep last night trying to figure out how to get from Houston to Lynchburg. I absolutely cannot believe this is real! I emailed someone from the shop today, so hopefully I get a response. Fingers crossed!

  18. You are so lucky you are only an hour away from this (and the J.Crew warehouse)! Your blog has a great amount of information about Church Street Bridal, so thank you for that. If you ever feel the need to go and take some more side by side shots, I know at least one person who would love it! :) I live in San Antonio, Texas, and emailed Michelle and the shop today, hopefully something works out!


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