updated 29 Apr 2012, 13:59
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Sun, Apr 29, 2012
China Daily/Asia News Network
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Dresses that don't break the bridal bank

Welcome to Beijing's bridal paradise.

It's not in a high-end shopping mall. It's above a camera market in Haidian district. And the price is cheap.

Six hundred yuan for a wedding dress? Yes, and there are hundreds in almost any style a bride-to-be could dream of.

The exact location of the wedding gown heaven is the second and third floors of the Wukesong camera market on Wukesong street in western Beijing.

Dozens of stores are stocked with traditional Chinese and Western wedding wear for both brides and grooms. The clothing is made in factories located in Guangdong province as well as Suzhou, a city near Shanghai famous for its bridal industry.

Many of the factories have their own designers who come up with unique styles or imitate high-end brands.

The no-name wedding market is frequented by retailers who resell the attire at higher prices in Beijing. It is also a popular destination for Chinese women looking for a beautiful wedding gown that does not break the bank.

"There are more choices here, and the prices are reasonable," said Kity Tang, who had just purchased a dress for 700 yuan ($102) for her wedding in February. "You can also bargain the prices with the store owners."

As with almost everything in China, the price of a wedding dress is negotiable, too. Vendors on the third floor of the market are more willing to lower prices than those on the second who stock dresses made with more expensive fabrics and have handmade details.

"There is a difference in quality between the dresses," said Cai Yuxia, owner of the Jinge liren boutique on the third floor. "You really have to look at a lot of dresses and study which ones are better."

While designs do vary slightly from store to store, many sell the exact same styles at dissimilar prices. One shop, for example, offered a full-skirt ballerina-style dress for 600 yuan while another had the exact same design for 1,280 yuan.

The difference is in the details, Cai said.

"There may be a dress with seven layers of net in one store, and the same dress will only have two or three layers in another," she said.

Cheaper dresses also have cheaper fabric and are not necessarily well-made, Cai said.

Even so, it takes a discerning eye to identify design discrepancies.

Boutiques have in-house tailors who can make minor size adjustments in just a couple of hours for those who need a gown on the fly. Major alterations can take up to a couple of weeks.

Customers can also bring in photos of wedding dresses they want copied. However a custom made gown takes a couple of months to complete, so brides longing for a tailor-made dress need to plan in advance.

Dresses on the second floor are two to three times the price of those on the third and are of a noticeably higher quality.

Gowns in a boutique called Delan Collection start from around 1,600 yuan and go all the way up to more than 3,500 yuan. They feature hand-sewn beading and are made of more expensive lace, silk and satin.

The market also has stores selling bridal jewelry, veils, makeup and other accessories, like bouquets, picture frames and photo albums.

While most store owners say they don't see too many foreign brides, they do see a fair share of foreign grooms shopping with their Chinese brides.

"It is impressive how many different designs are available," said Tarek Zagha, a German who was shopping with his Chinese fiance for a tuxedo and dress for their upcoming wedding. "We just want to find something that fits us."

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