Designer wedding gowns for less

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - November 12, 2008

Wedding planner Carolyn Verdi calls her shop above the restaurant "The Sample Rack."

She stocks gowns that retail for $1000, $2500, up to $5000 and sells them all for $800 or less.

Restaurateur Jim Whittaker lets her use the space, since many of the brides who find the gowns end up booking rehearsal dinners or bridal showers in the dining room below.

The Sample Rack keeps about 200 gowns in stock. They range in size from four up to 18 or 20. But most are size 10s. That's the bridal industry standard for samples and equals a regular size 6 or 8.

Because they are samples, some of the dresses have been tried on in bridal salons, or worn by models in runway shows. But none has been pre-owned.

The Sample Rack is cramped, and not very elegant. But the dresses are beautiful, featuring elaborate beading, magnificent trains, unusual details or clean, simple lines.

Verdi's advice is free and she encourages brides to try as many as they want.

She says often, brides come in thinking they want one style of dress, only to find another style is perfect for them, once they try it on.

She will also recommend seamstresses to make any needed alterations.

The Sample Rack is open by appointment only.

For more information, call Carolyn Verdi at 215-925-2997 or click on this link to check out her website.

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