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The Short Version: The Gilded Gown in Knoxville, Tennessee, is committed to giving every bride-to-be a customized experience. Whether she is seeking a classic lace-covered gown or a simple beachy dress, the bridal boutique can help her celebrate her relationship in style. The Gilded Gown team shifted to appointment-only operation in 2020 and developed a preference for that method because of the personalized attention the sessions offer brides.
Many soon-to-be brides dream about the biggest relationship celebration of their lives: their wedding day. And the perfect dress is a significant part of that occasion.
Brides need to keep plenty of considerations in mind when choosing a wedding gown. Brides magazine suggests they should choose a dress that matches their wedding style. If a couple plans to celebrate their union outdoors, the bride may also opt for a more informal gown than she would for a church ceremony.
Certain gown styles are more appropriate for different bodies, as well.
“A fit-and-flare is both contemporary and traditional and works on many body types, whereas a simple sheath is best on tall, willowy brides. A voluminous ball gown adds drama, but can overwhelm a petite frame. Mermaid styles show off curves like your favorite pencil skirt,” explains the magazine.
Before they head to the bridal shop, the magazine also suggests that brides write down three adjectives defining their dream dresses.
Brides in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area often find those dresses at The Gilded Gown. The shop also stocks prom dresses and accessories. Women with varied tastes, body types, and wedding plans can find what they’re looking for at this unique bridal boutique.
“Our favorite moments are when we have a bride who comes to see us afraid that she won’t find a dress. Perhaps because of her size or the fact that she’s a ‘tomboy’ or ‘doesn’t wear dresses’ or ‘isn’t a girlie girl.’” said The Gilded Gown Owner Jacqui Wadsworth. When we can guide her to the perfect dress, and she cries in joy in the mirror at her reflection and feels truly beautiful, we know we have done our job right.”
The Gilded Gown aims to help brides start their life-long relationships with dresses that reflect their unique style and personality. And helping them find what they like is half the fun for the tight-knit team.
Jacqui entered the formalwear business more than 30 years ago as a textile broker for manufacturers. In 2005, she started selling bridal gowns wholesale out of a warehouse before opening The Gilded Gown in 2008 with her sister, Elizabeth Ethridge, and her daughter, Grace Alexander.
Jacqui’s practice of targeting specific clients using Facebook ads distinguishes The Gilded Gown from similar bridal shops. The goal is to bring more women with relationship celebrations on the horizon into the shop, so she created specialized marketing for a local clientele.
In combination with her keen eye for dress buying, that outreach has solidified The Gilded Gown’s year-by-year growth — even as other brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled.
Of course, The Gilded Gown did have its challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, though the team found ways to innovate.
“One impact we still face is rising shipping costs and shipping delays. Luckily, we sell gowns off the rack and have a huge selection of more than 1,000 gowns, so we’ve been able to handle those effects,” said Jacqui.
This individualized attention brides were accustomed to receiving also continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. The store kept that interaction going by allowing brides to book appointments. Though Jacqui and her team did not want to become an appointment-only business, they came to appreciate that shift.
“Turns out, amazingly, that it’s better for our brides and our stylists. Our store is less crowded, more peaceful, and our stylists can concentrate on just one bride at a time. Also, we have implemented stringent cleaning policies, which result in an always sparkling clean store,” Jacqui said.
The changes have been so successful, The Gilded Gown team plans to continue the approach even after the pandemic subsides.
Most brides who seek dresses from The Gilded Gown are between the age of 18 and 35, though the shop does cater to older brides, as well. The boutique stocks gowns ranging in size from 00 to 32 and that fit a variety of budgets.
The shop also sells gowns that work with many different styles of weddings, from casual to formal.
“Over the last few years many brides have had to change or postpone their weddings. In our experience, that has also been a good thing since we have dresses to fit any style of wedding,” Jacqui said.
Many brides-to-be share a common trait: They want to celebrate their relationships with gowns that fit their style.
One customer named Olivia shared her experience at The Gilded Gown:
“I had to do my wedding dress shopping alone because of the pandemic, but thank God I found Gilded Gown!,” she wrote in an online testimonial. “Their dresses were all so different and they had such a large variety of beautiful plus-size dresses! Plus, they treated me like family when I needed family the most! My stylist helped me find the perfect dress! Thank you!”
Another satisfied customer named Karley agreed, writing: “I remember calling my mom right after I left my dress appointment at The Gilded Gown. She was excited for me, but she was also confused as to how I had ALREADY found, tried on, and bought my wedding dress! I was shocked myself, but I truly give all the props to Gilded Gown because the experience was so easy, so exciting, and somehow stress-free.”
When brides visit The Gilded Gown for an appointment, they can expect an hour-and-a-half appointment with a stylist. VIP appointments, which last for an hour and a half in the VIP suite, and one-hour prom dress appointments are also available.
The Gilded Gown assigns each customer a dedicated stylist to whom she can communicate her desires. She can also bring guests who offer her feedback on each style.
Something that sets The Gilded Gown apart from other bridal boutiques is the collaborative, kind atmosphere. Jacqui attributes this mood to the community of stylists.
“We don’t work on individual commission, so there is not a tense, competitive vibe in-store. There is a spirit of joyfulness for our brides. Our team members enjoy a catered lunch every Saturday and fun perks like monthly bonuses when we reach our sales goals,” Jacqui told us.
Other bridal store owners even seek out Jacqui’s expertise in connecting with brides. Not only does she help others in the bridal industry use Facebook ads, but she also offers branding advice. Jacqui writes ads for bridal stores and formalwear companies and speaks at wedding and advertising conventions worldwide.
But at the heart of this work is Jacqui’s commitment to helping brides find ideal dresses for the biggest relationship celebration of their lives. As the pandemic winds down, Jacqui and her team plan to offer a more extensive selection of gowns. They also plan to seek out dresses from around the world.
After more than three decades of helping women and couples find the perfect dresses to celebrate relationship milestones, Jacqui said she is still excited to see customers find that perfect fit.
“We are honored to be in a business focused on love, special occasions, and lifetime celebrations. Literally, every day we are touched by a bride’s love story or a family member who calls in to pay off a dress for someone,” she said.