Wedding recessional: For brides of 2009 the word recessional is more likely to bring to mind budget cutbacks than Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Love may run as deep as ever, but pockets are shallow. That means a store that sells wedding dresses on consignment, like Sassy Fox, is busier than usual this year.
Fox hunting: Sassy Fox is easy to find — it's a close neighbor to that Richmond Road landmark Hooters. "We started out next door to them. We both opened around the same time," says owner Brenda Moreland.
After a few years they outgrew that space and carted their velour jackets and wedding veils uptown, but just a few doors.
When the weather's nice, they're easy to spot by their sidewalk sale. And if the door's open, you're likely to hear laughter pealing out like church bells. Moreland and her crew seem to be enjoying themselves an awful lot. Don't they know these are desperate times?
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Those were the days: Moreland is a businesswoman with a lot of receipts under her belt.
Long before Sassy Fox, she had an imported-clothing store called Patchwork. It opened in the late '70s in a downtown paradise of alternative shops near Limestone and High Street that was later paved for a parking lot.
"There was what used to be called a head shop ... a tattoo parlor ... a leather shop," Moreland recalls.
She later moved the store to Chevy Chase, but sold it in the mid-1980s after her second child was born.
By 1991, she was ready to go again. A consignment store felt right: "I'd always shopped consignment for children's clothes," she says.
Sassy like a fox: You might think the store's name has something to do with Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady and their ilk, but Moreland says that's not the case.
"At the time, my teen-age daughter got a magazine called Sassy. I thought it was a cute name. I just added 'fox' because they're clever little animals."
The store has one full-time employee and five part-timers; a Louisville location opened three years ago, run by the daughter who once subscribed to Sassy.
The companies she keeps: Sassy Fox's bridal section is only about a sixth of its total inventory. It sells women's clothes, shoes, bags, belts and jewelry, "brand-name in mint condition," in fashion, and appropriate for the season, says Moreland.
Talbots, J. Crew, Banana Republic and Trina Turk hang there all the time. Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik step in occasionally.
Among the 200 or so wedding dresses on hand are names like Michelangelo, Bianchi, Demetrios and Vera Wang.
There are also veils, slips, dresses for the mothers of the bride and groom, and even a few wedding band sets for the total one-stop wedding-shopping experience.
Worn only once, by a young lady in church: Not all the wedding gowns have been down the aisle and back. Some are brand new. The consignor "got rid of the man or the dress" before the nuptials, says Moreland.
Some women buy multiple dresses in order to have last-minute options. There was "the lady who bought five wedding dresses. The wedding was canceled so she brought back three and kept two for the next time around," says Moreland.
She and her wedding specialist, Barb Pryor, make sure all dresses are in current styles — no pouffy sleeves or giant bows on the back. So when a man charges into the store carrying a gown and saying he wants "something for the dress, since I paid for it," as has happened, Moreland and Pryor might offer their sympathy, but that dress has to pass muster before it will be taken on consignment.
'Tis the season to get married: June brides are traditional, but Moreland says people shop for bridal wear all year round.
After the new year is a busy time, because "a lot of people get engaged over the holidays," says Moreland. Valentine's Day weddings are also big.
And "these days," says Pryor, "it seems everybody wants a beach wedding. 'We're going to be barefoot,' they say. 'I want something beachy.' That's not always so easy when you're talking wedding gowns."
Turn, turn, turn: Sassy Fox has seen a definite upturn during this economic downturn. There are more bridal customers coming of all ages and descriptions, from first-time brides barely 20 to ladies in their 70s celebrating their second, third or fourth marriages.
Some of the older brides are looking to make up for a shoestring first wedding by having a Cinderella gown this time around.
One wanted a dress like Scarlett O'Hara's, with a hoop skirt and layers of ruffles. "They'll ask me, 'Do you think it's OK for me to wear something like this?'" says Pryor. "I tell them, 'Honey, on your wedding day you should wear anything you want.'" After all, a girl gets only one in her life — or at any rate, fewer than eight.
And it is consignment — they can feel good about recycling and glad for the money they'll save.
"Some women," says Moreland, "come in after they've bought their dress new somewhere else. They see one here just like it, and they just get sick."