Wedding Guide: the best stores for wedding dresses in Toronto

Wedding Guide: the best stores for wedding dresses in Toronto

Where to Find It: Dresses
(Image: Ines di Santo)

Becker’s Bridal
387 Danforth Ave. (at Chester Ave.), 416-463-6601
A family business since 1944, this Danforth boutique is reliable, safe and considerate—the same qualities as a good marriage. Friends and family of the bride can settle into oversized club chairs and watch as the lucky lady tries on jewel-trimmed, beaded and lace styles from international labels like Pronovias from Barcelona, Sottero and Midgley from Australia and Cymbeline from France ($800–$5,000, plus alterations). Look for dresses by Barbra Allin Couture, the in-house line known for customizable gowns in contemporary silhouettes (tea length, empire waist). Some Swarovski crystal–encrusted combs and clips ($70–$250) can be turned into brooches after the big day.

The Bride’s Project
431 Broadview Ave. (at Victor Ave.), 416-469-6777
Helen Sweet came up with the Brides’ Project one Friday night as she was contemplating the wastefulness of her upcoming blowout bash. It’s now run in her Broadview home, primarily by volunteers, and it sells new and gently used gowns to raise money for cancer charities. The selection is huge (around 500 dresses), and prices typically range from $300 to $1,250. A Vera Wang creation in silk organza is gush-worthy ($1,250), while an ivory gown spun from ribbon and tulle is a steal at $600. Beach brides can slip on a sexy nude dress with a cream lace overlay ($300). Those opposed to fuss may don a simple off-white dress with a taupe hem ($400). Traditional Eastern pieces—such as silk cheong­sams and intricately beaded lehengas—are also available. Gowns are grouped in different rooms by size, letting brides-to-be try on dozens at a time.

Catherine Langlois
Anyone looking for the bridal equivalent of a bespoke suit will find a good fit with Catherine Langlois, who creates timelessly elegant dresses from the third floor of her private studio. Her process is entirely one on one, and her involvement from start to finish is an uncommon luxury. Although Langlois recommends three to five fittings, she can turn around a dress in as little as six weeks. Four-ply silk charmeuse, silk, satin organza and guipure French lace are among the premium materials she uses, while keeping prices between $1,500 and $3,000 (short dresses go for as little as $1,000). Couture lace starts at $3,200. By appointment.

Dina Alonzi Bridal
3020 Bloor St. W. (at Royal York Rd.), 416-236-0270
The extreme makeover of her Kingsway boutique in 2007 means that veteran bridal retailer Dina Alonzi has a space that reflects the quality of her inventory. With 23 years of experience, she parses trends (fuller skirts, “tattered vintage”) and edits her selection down to bestselling brands, including Monique Lhuillier, Amsale, Rivini and Project Runway alum Austin Scarlett. Then she, or one of her consultants, oversees every last stitch of the alteration process, thanks to an in-store studio. An average gown starts at around $4,000. Closed Sunday.

Felichia Bridal
601 College St. (at Clinton St.), 647-350-5559
Downtown brides looking for modern, easy-to-wear gowns adore this Bathurst and College boutique. Such big-name designers as Pronovias Couture and Watters (of which Felichia has the largest selection in Toronto) share space with new lines, like Alyne by Rivini (which offers Rivini luxury at more affordable, down-to-earth prices, starting at $2,000), and up-and-coming names, including Martina Liana, which is known for its use of French lace and delicate beadwork (as in a fun, floor-length frock with a beaded bodice and an oversized bow). With designs by Paloma Blanca and Wtoo (Watters’s lower-priced line) ranging from $1,800 to $1,500, your dream dress doesn’t have to break the budget. Closed Monday. By appointment.

Ferré Sposa
924A Bloor St. W. (at Concord Ave.), 416-535-8999
Ferré Sposa’s Bloordale boutique offers personalized service and popular brands (Allure Bridals, Barcelona’s La Sposa and Pronovias and Aussie line Sottero and Midgley) at relatively decent prices—most brides fork over as little as $800 to $1,500 for a gown. The shop leans toward slimmer silhouettes (lace sheaths and fitted mermaid styles), but also carries full-skirted ball gowns. A delicate cap-sleeved lace frock has a keyhole back ($1,150), while an edgier fit-and-flare number is adorned with feathered accents and razor-cut organza ($1,900). The front of the store is devoted to bridesmaid dresses; a navy floor-length chiffon option ($205) is basic but stunning.

Ines Di Santo
168 Davenport Rd. (at Avenue Rd.), 416-925-0002
This Yorkville space feels more like a salon than a showroom, and the dresses offer big-time drama from designer Ines Di Santo. She’s not afraid to play up the female form, accentuating the bust and waistline while balancing a tight fit on top with her signature full skirts. She often deviates from classic off-white, creating gowns in blush pink, antique ivory and champagne. Hand beading, Swarovski crystals, French lace, delicate fabric flowers and feathers can cause prices to creep upwards of $5,000, but these truly are Costume Institute–calibre designs, made from scratch. There is no better seal of approval than that of socialite Suzanne Rogers, who chose one of Di Santo’s designs when she married her media scion husband, Edward, in 2006. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Jealous Bridesmaids
2479 Bloor St. W. (at South Kingsway), 416-915-1654
Owner Charmaine Mendyk always tells clients to keep an open mind while trying on wedding dresses. She carries a huge variety of styles, so start here if you want something more exciting than the ubiquitous strapless dress. A romantic Casablanca gown has a sweetheart-necked sheath topped by a sheer lace overlay with a scalloped hemline; other lines include Maggie Sottero and Blue by Enzoani. Along with trendy illusion necklines and tea-length hems, there are plenty of traditional mermaid- and ball gown–style dresses. The average price is $1,500, and turnaround is about five months. Mendyk also stocks a selection of veils, tiaras and custom jewellery, and there’s a separate bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride shop in the basement. Closed Monday.

Jolie Bridal
1158 St. Clair Ave. W. (at Dufferin St.), 416-651-6777
For 30 years, Jolie Bridal has matched brides and their dream gowns in a charming, no-pressure atmosphere. The dresses range from ethereal embroidered sheers to flowing chiffon numbers, and are purchased from a variety of international suppliers. Many styles and prices ($99–$3,000) make it easy to find the perfect piece. A gown with a delicate beaded bodice and ruffled hemline is on trend for 2013.

Lea-Ann Belter Bridal
238 Broadview Ave. (at Dundas St. E.), 416-778-6868
Owner Lea-Ann Belter has been dressing brides for 22 years and knows how to give them exactly what they want while still remaining true to her classic aesthetic. All gowns are silk—whether sexy satin crepe or stiffer, more formal dupioni—and all are elegantly feminine without being frou-frou. Shorter, casual frocks are in this season; we spotted one with a ruffly crinoline peeking out the back. Draped bodices, asymmetry and feathers are also on trend, as are intricate lace gowns. Feathery fascinators and other accessories can be made to match. Six to eight months of lead time is required. Appointments are preferred. From $2,500. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Lowon Pope
117 Jefferson Ave. (at King St. W.), 416-504-8150
Lana Lowon and her husband, Jim Pope, take an old-fashioned approach to bridal fashion. Often made with antique lace or brocade, the dresses channel old Hollywood glamour. For this reason, Lowon attracts the type of bride who wants bias-cut Jean Harlow gowns or structured, full-skirted Grace Kelly styles. Dresses in antique ivories and lace are available for purchase off the rack ($1,000–$2,500), but Lowon is also able to build a look from the ground up—if you want a custom corset, she’s more than happy to make it happen. Made-to-measure gowns fall between $2,300 and $4,500; that’s before adding a circle veil ($200), an ingenious swath of sheer chiffon that can be worn in dozens of styles. Closed Sunday and Monday, except by appointment.

Mrs. Bridal Boutique
164 Davenport Rd. (at Avenue Rd.), 416-925-1674
An urn filled with fresh flowers greets visitors as they enter this three-storey space, and tasteful sofas are dotted throughout so friends and families can relax while the bride picks her dress. Owners Kelly Power and Michelle Teslia tend to shy away from ball gown styles, instead opting for simple but stunning silhouettes: a silk number with an understated ruffle that winds its way around the torso ($3,890), or a stunner in French lace with three-quarter-length sleeves and dainty lace epaulettes ($4,589). A Nicole Miller column dress offers a modern take on Grecian draping, with beaded straps crossing over in the back and a ruffle falling from one shoulder ($1,125).

Pearl Bridal House
76 Lakeshore Rd. E., Mississauga, 905-278-5407
Pearl Bridal House lures Toronto brides to Port Credit with luxe gowns by hard-to-find designers. If you’re seeking Christos’s feminine white dresses, Pearl has the Toronto-area exclusive. The shop’s focus is on high-end couture gowns, so this isn’t the place for a bride on a budget; most gowns run from $4,000 to $6,000. But if you want a showstopper, such as a dramatic satin ball gown, or whimsical details, like a tea-length skirt covered in thousands of hand-sewn bows, it’s worth a visit. Appointments are encouraged. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Market Lane, 140 Woodbridge Ave., Woodbridge, 905-605-1750
It’s a long drive north of the city, but this intimate atelier in Woodbridge has been a godsend for style-savvy brides in search of a non-traditional, statement-making gown since it opened in 2010. The look is modern sophistication, as found in couture-worthy gowns by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad and red carpet–inspired numbers by Reem Acra, not to mention the country’s most extensive selection of Jenny Packham dresses. Renowned for her intricate beading and crystal work, Packham’s designs combine ’20s elegance with Hollywood glamour—actress Elizabeth Hurley was married in one of her gowns—for the bride who cares more about cutting-edge style than indulging her inner princess.

Sarah Houston
24 Hazelton Ave. (at Yorkville Ave.), 416-921-8882
At her Yorkville boutique, Sarah Houston designs sophisticated gowns whose simplicity belies their meticulous craftsmanship. One creation has a hand-tufted peplum cascading over a silk ball gown silhouette; another style pairs a cloud-like tulle skirt with a beaded lavender bodice. A bias-cut Chantilly lace trumpet dress with a silk cape looks like something out of a 1940s noir film. Gowns from $3,700.

Sash and Bustle
233 Carlaw Ave. (at Queen St. E.), Unit 2, 416-414-3617
A ground-floor space in a Leslieville loft is the ideal location for this three-year-old bridal shop: it’s resolutely urban and confidently stylish without being too showy. Owner Cynthia Martyn got into gowns as an answer to some of the complaints she heard from brides-to-be—too many customers in the store at once, or rude staff. “If you’re looking for a voluminous ball gown, we’re probably not going to have something for you,” says Martyn. Instead, consider a casual dress by Saja or a silk eyelet gown by Toronto’s Catherine Langlois. Most ring in under $2,000. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

1104 Eglinton Ave. W. (at Glenarden Rd.), 416-781-6885
When uptown Toronto brides want custom couture, they head to Kim Ironmonger’s 28-year-old Eglinton West shop. Among the confections are three gowns in a regal icy blue, the first hint that Ironmonger isn’t afraid to colour outside the lines. She expertly merges various inspirations into the bespoke dress of your dreams. Incorporating fabric from a mother’s vintage gown is a common request. Floor models lean toward full-skirted fairy-tale fantasies of peau de soie or dupioni in the ever-popular trumpet shape. Swarovski crystal beading and embroidery are done by hand, which is why lead time is six months and dresses start at $2,500.

Vintage Bride
588 Markham St. (at Bloor St. W.), 416-818-1104
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of tea-length frocks, antique lace and draped Grecian gowns,” says owner Cher Thornton. If the wedding demands a ’50s frock puffed out with a crinoline, start here; the same goes for a mod miniskirt or a ’20s dress with a low silk plissé back. Prices vary based on era and quality. Most items are second-hand—people bring Grandma’s dress here hoping a starry-eyed almost-Mrs. will find it—but Thornton finds never-worn dead stock, too. By appointment.

White Toronto
19 Hazelton Ave. (at Yorkville Ave.), 416-849-9196
This Yorkville atelier is the ne plus ultra when it comes to statement-making dresses. Owner Andrea Anastasiou has created an experience worthy of a Parisian boutique, complete with spacious and stylish dressing rooms and a champagne toast when a customer has selected a dress. She leans toward wedding magazine mainstays: Monique Lhuillier, Carolina Herrera, Rivini, Oscar de la Renta and Reem Acra. Not all items will induce sticker shock, though some run as high as $15,000. You can score a Nicole Miller for $750, but most dresses range from $5,500 to $6,000. Closed Sunday and Monday.