It’s All About the Dress

It’s one of those clichés that will never die: the little girl
daydreaming of herself on her wedding day. And while, in those
fantasies, the groom’s face may look like nothing more than a
question mark, one aspect of her mind’s‑eye wedding day is likely
in sharp relief: The Dress. Once the wedding day has been relocated
from a soft‑lens figment of her imagination to an actual date on
her calendar, she is off. On a mission. A mission to find the dress
of her dreams.

Santa Barbara, a longtime wedding haven, is building its status
as a dress‑shopping haven, too. Over the past year, three new shops
have opened their doors, and between them, they cover every variety
of bride: whether classic or elegant, stylish or whimsical,
understated or over the top, The Dress is hanging on one of their
racks, just waiting to be plucked up by the bride‑to‑be who’s
destined to wear it.

Santa Barbara Bridal, the only wedding dress boutique in
California to carry the über‑exclusive Vera Wang designs, carries
couture wedding gowns the likes of Jenny Lee, Elizabeth Fillmore,
Carolina Herrera, and Eliana Ben‑Zeev, and shoes, bags, lingerie,
ready‑to‑wear wedding and evening gowns, and an incredible
selection of stylish bridesmaids’ dresses (imagine that!). The shop
also boasts two full‑time alteration specialists, in addition to
tuxedo rentals, invitations, and a Groom’s Room where hubbies‑to‑be
can lounge around in front of a flat‑screen TV.

Mary Linn’s Bridal and Tuxedos, in the recently remodeled
location of the gone‑but‑not‑forgotten Rumors, carries gowns from
nearly 30 designers, including Amsale, Eve of Milady, Pronovias,
Jim Hjelm Couture, and Amalia Carrera, as well as shoes, jewelry,
and bridesmaids’ and evening dresses. The shop does alterations,
and offers designer tuxedo rentals and custom‑length veils, too.
Most of the staffers are Rumors alum, and they’re pros at helping
brides‑to‑be realize what’s going to work for them, “without
telling them.” Starlette O’Hara, a romantic little boutique located
next door to Mary Linn’s, takes a different approach. The shop
specializes in rare, stylish finds for evening and daytime that
owner Shelly Schafer plucks up while abroad on her twice‑yearly
European shopping trips. And while the shop doesn’t carry “wedding
dresses,” per se, it has a fantastic selection of white gowns that
are absolutely appropriate for the Big Day. All of these dresses
are off the rack, of great quality, reasonably priced, and all are


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