New shop finds homes for bridal dresses

June 24, 2014

As wedding season continues in full swing in southeastern Wisconsin, past and future brides should take note of a new type of store that has opened its doors in Elm Grove.

Return Engagement Bridal Consignment, located at 890 Elm Grove Road, Suite 107, was born from an inquiry by one of owner Bridget O'Brien's friends.

"A friend asked if I knew of a place where she could sell her wedding dress," O'Brien said. "I was surprised that I didn't really come across much of anything. Wedding dresses usually get worn one time and then just get put away."

Return Engagement specializes in helping past brides to sell their dresses. O'Brien noted that women getting married in this day and age are much more likely to be willing to part with their gown than their mothers or grandmothers may have been.

"Girls today don't have the same sentiment that they used to," she said. "They're living differently. I think they're also more realistic that they realize they didn't wear their mother's gown, so what would make them think that their kids would want to wear theirs."

While Return Engagement's name may indicate second-hand attire, the store also features a wide selection of dresses that never made it down the aisle.

"There are new dresses too," O'Brien said. "Some of them are from bridal stores that were tried on but never worn for a function. We also have dresses from brides who bought them but maybe the wedding never happened or the bride found a different dress that they liked better."

Newlyweds looking to work with O'Brien after their big day will maintain ownership of the dress with O'Brien acting as a sort of matchmaker.

"All the dresses are consigned," she said. They're not mine. I'm only the in-between person trying to sell them for people. When they sell, we split the proceeds 50-50."

O'Brien has more than 20 years of wedding planning experience, having originally gotten into the profession as favors for friends before translating it into part of her career. She settled on Elm Grove as the home for Return Engagement after recognizing that the community provided the appropriate type of environment for the store she envisioned.

"When you think of resale or thrift stores, a lot are junk stores, like a garage sale," she said. "For bridal wear, I think people are expecting a higher-end experience. I think Elm Grove and Studio 890 really provides that pleasant experience."

Return Engagement, while specializing in bridal gowns, also has a variety of other offerings for formal occasions, as well as attire for bridesmaids and flower girls.

"We take in better dresses," O'Brien said. "It's not really work-type clothing; it's more like what can be worn for graduation or prom or for a formal party or for attending a wedding."

O'Brien's establishment is also fully equipped to perform alterations on attire in order to ensure a perfect fit.

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