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'I Don't Care How Much It Costs'


After four months of poring through thick bridal magazines, Tracy Reed finally settled on her wedding dress. Well, sort of.

She spied an ad for a V-neck gown with an elaborately beaded bodice and lace sleeves that came thisclose to being her ideal design. She clipped other pictures and considered other styles, but always came back to the ad.

"This dress is almost perfect, but it's a little too plain through here," Reed says, tracing the plain satin skirt with her finger. "I love the waistline and the fact that it has the effect of a straight dress in front, and a [fuller], more traditional wedding dress [in back]."

She pulls another picture from a notebook, this one a back view of a different dress with a sweeping beaded train. "This is how I want the train to look," she explains.

Soon after her fiance proposed in January, Reed, 29, brought her clippings to Bridal City in downtown Los Angeles, which specializes in custom wedding and special-occasion dresses. Having had her prom dress made there more than a decade ago, she felt confident about the workmanship. And she didn't blink at the $1,500 price tag, which reflects the detail in her white satin gown. (Her 10 bridesmaid dresses in teal crepe-backed satin will also be Bridal City creations pieced together from magazine photos; they're $169 each, including gloves and shoes.)

"I like to stand out. And I want it to fit perfectly," Reed says. "I don't care how much it costs, and I know I'm only going to wear it one time, but it's my day."

At her first appointment, Reed, a data entry clerk from Compton, showed her photos to shop owner Yolanda Rossi and explained that she hoped to blend the two for her November wedding. Rossi agreed that the proposed style was feasible--which isn't always the case.

"Sometimes they have a selection of pictures, but the dresses don't always work together," Rossi says of her clients. "They'll want a high neck in the front and no shoulders in the back, things like that, which are impossible. But most of the time they have the right idea."

Indeed, many brides lack basic knowledge about sewing.

"That's why they choose incredible dresses that are impossible to put together," says Rossi, a former flamenco dancer who has owned the shop since 1979 and turns out about five dresses a week. "Usually, though, they follow our advice. We suggest this and that, and they usually find it better than what they thought at first."

And when brides' budgets don't cover the lavish, ornate gowns they long for, Rossi suggests ways of scaling back.

Custom bridal dresses at Bridal City start at $300 and go up, depending on the fabric and the intricacy of the pattern and embellishments. The average bridal gown (including the veil and other extras) here is about $900.

"Some of the girls are undecided and confused when they come in here," Rossi says, "and they don't know what they really want. We have to find out what kind of a person she is, what her needs are. We give her . . . everything but the groom. That, she has to get."

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