Ask Alysia: Shop Local for Your Wedding Outfit

Arianna Belle Photography

May 3, 2024

Submit a question for Alysia to answer in a future column by emailing and using the subject line ASK ALYSIA.

Help! I ordered what I thought was the same dress I tried on in store for cheaper online, but when it came in it’s nothing like the picture!

Oh no friend, I’m so sorry! If you’ve ever seen the “What I ordered vs. What I got” video compilations on TikTok you might be familiar with this practice from less than savoury online retailers. A little background first: this is exactly why bridal shops and stylists discourage folks from trying to find “dupes” online. Bridal boutiques have contracts with wedding dress designers that insure the validity and quality of the gowns. There’s a reason the dresses cost what they do (luxury fabrics, hand stitching, cut to order quality), so if you go online trying to find the exact same thing for significantly less money there’s going to be a reason why it’s so much cheaper. A common practice in the online-wedding-dress-knock-off space is to use actual product images from designers, which can lead folks to believe that what you’re buying is that exact dress. But what you receive will be nothing like it at all, and any attempt at a refund will probably be left unanswered.

My advice for anyone considering going boutique shopping first then trying to find that same dress online but cheaper: Don’t. Not only will you most likely be disappointed by the knock off you find online, but also it discounts the knowledge and advice stylists at a boutique can provide.

In the immediate, if it’s too late and like the question asker you’ve ended up with a mess of a dress from buying online, don’t panic! First step should be going back to the original shop where you found the dress and see if there’s still time to order it from them. If not, explain the situation to your stylist and see if they have something similar for you that can be purchased directly off the floor. It may not be as cheap as the online knock off, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

As a plus size bride, what are the green flags to look for when researching bridal boutiques?

When it comes to figuring out where to shop, there are several factors you want to keep in mind! Understanding your own budget, general style and also making sure the boutique has sample sizes that you can comfortably try on. But there are other telltale signs I look for that let me know a boutique will provide a great experience. Shopping at local boutiques can be an incredible option, especially if it is a family-run business. That often lets me know that these folks are truly experts in the field and I can trust them to make the right recommendations when it comes to fit and have experience to understand style and vision. I also love when boutiques offer educational content on their social media platforms as a way to both offer value and show us what they know! If you need to get your dress altered, working with an independent seamstress is what most folks do. The boutique you buy your gown from will likely have a list of people they recommend, but also ask your friends who have gotten married recently. Always ask to see examples of their work before you dive in, if only for your own piece of mind!

What are my options if my local shops don’t have enough of the non-traditional looks I’m interested in?

Sometimes if you’re looking for something more unique, colourful or out-of-the-box your local boutique just won’t have the inventory you’re dreaming about! You can still support small businesses when looking for non-traditional wedding wear. A few of my favourites:

♥ Carolyn O’Sullivan at Not Another White Dress: take a look at her work for colourful tulles, printed suits and even a sequin jumpsuit! Her work feels very modern and playful while still elevated, perfect for any alternative nearly wed.

Chotronette: for the nearlywed looking to lean into fantasy, Chotronette’s gowns can be styled to give you everything from full fairy reverie to eleven princesses.

Lucy Can’t Dance: these colourful boho gowns are all made by hand and while they have a vintage inspiration the pieces still manage to feel perfectly modern. Their collection includes gorgeous dip dye work, bold sequin patterns and some exciting two-piece sets! 

Isolated Heroes: they launched their first bridal collection last summer and it has to be seen to be believed! Colourful ruffled gowns, sequins and embellishments up the wazoo!

Rosie Red Couture: our go-to fave for bespoke corsetry and the most delicious, tulle skirts in all the colours of the rainbow!

The Couture Company: Based in Birmingham, Jo and her team have been hand-making beautiful, bespoke dresses for over 30 years. From totally unique separates, utterly different dinosaur dresses and even a multi-coloured 80s parrot themed dress for a jungle vow renewal. Whether you are a geek or a goth or just fancy something made to fit you perfectly, the only limit is your imagination!

What are your favourite kinds of accessories to source locally?

All of them! One of the best ways to feel like your wedding look is unique is to use local artisans in your styling. I love discovering new jewellers at craft fairs or local shops and pulling their pieces for my nearly wed clients. So often the work is high quality and incredibly different, but absolutely works in a bridal context! I’ve found everything from earrings and necklaces to vintage clutches and stunning shrugs just by shopping at small businesses in my neighborhood. Using these pieces makes the look even more special because it truly feels like you are bringing in your community on your big day.


Alysia Cole is a plus size personal bridal stylist who has helped hundreds of nearlyweds find their perfect wedding outfit. Based out of Los Angeles, you can also find Alysia on TikTok and Instagram.

This article originally appeared in issue 51 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?