Between sparkly mini skirts and plaid lumberjack shirts, shoppers at H&M may come across an item not meant for a night out or day at the office: a wedding dress.
On Monday, H&M announced it would be producing a $99 wedding dress. The gown is Grecian-inspired, with a high neckline, gathered waist, and floral beaded embellishments. It isn’t the Sweden-based retailer's first go at wedding dresses, but it is its cheapest. And the move has brides taking a second look at their wedding day purchase.
This is a far cheaper alternative to most wedding gowns. The Association of Bridal Consultants found that wedding dresses cost $1,053 on average. The popularity of shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Something Borrowed, Something New” show women frequently paying over $1,000 for dresses at high end boutiques. A dress in a similar style to the $99 H&M design at Kleinfield's (the bridal shop popularized by “Say Yes to the Dress”) is listed as ranging between $2,000 to $3,000.
H&M has gone down this path before. In 2006, it released a $349 gown as part of a Viktor & Rolf collaboration. Furthermore, it isn't the first retailer to give discount wedding gowns a go. Zac Posen designs a line for David’s Bridal with dresses that start as low as $195. Last May, Target released a wedding line called “Tevolio” with bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses, and wedding gowns. The two gowns Target currently offer retail for $99.99 (though one is on clearance on Target''s website for $90.99).
Overall, the Association of Bridal Consultants also estimates the average cost of a wedding is estimated at $28,000. For brides on a budget H&M just made it a little easier to bring that cost down about $1,000.
But a question still remains: are H&M and Target actually selling ridiculously cheap wedding dresses? Or are those who shell out thousands at bridal boutiques paying way too much?
NPR Planet Money’s Caitlin Kenney set out to answer this question in 2011. She paid $2,700 for her wedding dress, but as she chatted with wholesale fabric sellers, tailors, and economists who guessed her cost at $1,500, she started to second-guess her purchase.
However, she found that ultimately it comes down to two economic principles. Asymmetric information, which basically means the customer (brides-to-be) has far less information about the garment than the manufacturers and don’t have practice buying dresses, therefore they are less informed consumers. Second, is signaling. This is the idea that a wedding dress is far more than a dress—it symbolizes the overall message a bride sends with her garment. From a bride’s perspective, the dress can signal the importance she places on her wedding.
With H&M, Target, and others' offer of a white dress for less green, brides now have the option of signaling they are a budget conscious bride.
H&M's take on the wedding gown will be available in stores and online later this month.