The Dress Doyenne

Time and budget constraints are no match for Amanda Baudanza, who helps brides make a fabulous entrance on their big day.

fabulous frocks amanda baudanza

Photograph by Trevor Reid | Hair by Heather Cohen/TEAM

Every girl wants to look like a million bucks on her wedding day, but not everyone can afford to spend that much on a gown. That’s the thinking, at least, behind Fabulous Frocks, a plush boutique opened by husband-and-wife team TJ and Amanda Baudanza last November in Copley Square. Here luxe-loving brides can peruse sample and gently worn dresses from designers like Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera at up to 70 percent off the sticker price. A franchise of a small South Carolina-based bridal chain, the venture is a dream come true for Amanda, a former dental hygienist who supported TJ through his battle with advanced colon cancer in 2011. “For years I’d been too scared, but everything that happened with my husband made me realize you only have one life,” Baudanza says. “I knew I had to go for it. I love being around brides and making them feel beautiful.”

What makes Fabulous Frocks unique?

We sell our gowns off the rack—most stores in town don’t do that. If you come in and see a dress, you can leave with it that day. And all of our gowns have been significantly reduced in price, so you’re not paying that full price tag for a high-end designer gown. We also do consignment, but we only take high-end, luxury designer gowns.

How soon before the wedding should a bride begin shopping?

My store is a little different, because we don’t do any ordering. You can come in a month before your wedding, get a dress, and still have time to get it altered. But if you’re going to shop around, it’s best to go a year in advance. Ordering a dress can take anywhere from four to eight months, depending on the designer. You want to leave a couple of months for alterations.

Does bringing your whole posse along help or hurt your chances of finding “the one”?

It’s definitely easier when brides shop with a small group of friends and family. Here, we recommend that you bring no more than four guests: Otherwise, the focus tends not to be on the bride.

What happens when you meet with a bride for the first time?

I always tell customers to bring photos of dresses and silhouettes they think they’re interested in. When they come in, I have them try on different things just to get a feel for other styles that they might like. You never know what’s going to look good until you try it on. Brides come in here all of the time saying, “I want something lace. I want something that’s mermaid or fit-and-flare.” Then they put it on and maybe it’s not flattering, or not what they envisioned.

What about someone who has no idea what she’s looking for?

A lot of first-time shoppers don’t really know what they want. Sample stores are a great place to start, because you kind of get a feel for every silhouette and style that’s out there. I always ask where the wedding is and if it’s going to be inside or outside. I ask them about things that they like, such as lace or beading, and if they’d prefer a gown that’s tight or loose. From there I can make recommendations.

What should a bride wear to an appointment?

She should bring any shapewear or undergarments that she’s planning on wearing the day of the wedding to make sure they’re supportive enough and that they can’t be seen through the dress. One thing I’m always a fan of is having bras built into the gown. It may be a little pricier, but it’s definitely a lot more comfortable.

Are there any dresses that just don’t work for certain venues or seasons?

If a couple is getting married on the beach, I wouldn’t recommend wearing a ball gown, but I’m open to what brides tell me they’re interested in. For a beach wedding, I would suggest trying on something that’s a little lighter just so they can get a feel for the difference in weight. When gowns are bigger, they’re heavier. I try not to discourage brides from choosing what they have their heart set on, though.

What’s hot in bridal fashion right now?

Brides are looking for dresses with sleeves, straps, or high illusion necklines. Gowns that are lightweight and kind of bohemian are also pretty popular. These days most people don’t want white gowns; they usually want some type of ivory or oatmeal, champagne, or blush color. And gold jewelry is definitely starting to come back.

Is it common for brides to purchase two dresses?
Yes. Women who choose fuller dresses that are harder to dance and move around in during the reception often want to get something short to change into. A convertible dress is also an option. It’s a two-piece, so you can take the bottom skirt off and have a short dress for the reception.

How do you help someone who’s having trouble saying yes to the dress?

I always tell brides to go with their gut. If there’s a gown that you try on and love, as long as it makes you feel beautiful, then that’s the gown for you.

10 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-536-0951,


Amanda Baudanza breaks down six popular gown silhouettes.

Ball Gown: With a fitted bodice and cinched waist, this full-skirted style is ideal for ornate churches and ballrooms, but may be too voluminous for petite brides.

Mermaid: Get the classic hourglass look with a form-fitting mermaid gown, which flares out below the knee for a slimming, tapered look.

Trumpet: Less constricting than a mermaid gown, this style flares out above the knee and hugs the body in all the right places.

A-Line: The fitted top and flared bottom complement all body types.

Empire: High-waisted with a flowing skirt, an empire-waist dress is perfect for a bride who wants to elongate her figure.

Sheath: This lightweight, fitted style is a home run for warm-weather weddings.


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