‘Yes’ to the dress; ‘no’ to the stressOn its 60th anniversary, Brides World works to make women feel beautiful

Brides World has had a lot of time to fine-tune their role in giving a woman her storybook wedding. 

The business, on the Perkins Township side of Perkins Avenue, this month celebrates 60 years in business. 

After some time in the military and some subsequent retail experience in Oberlin, Sheffield Village and Lakeside, Walter Dunlap started the business in spring 1964, buying a two-story space in downtown Sandusky. He sold the downstairs space to another business and started his above it. The success that followed led to more locations – in Ashland, Marion, Elyria, Tiffin, Norwalk and Fremont.

“We had quite a few different shops over the years,” says DeAnn McKillips, the late Dunlap’s daughter, who spent time in the stores growing up and now owns the business with her mother, Nancy Rossi. “And, you know, as small business goes, having one and being solid – that is a good thing.”

As is often the case with a small business, word-of-mouth goes a long way for Brides World, as well as sister (er, brother?) operation Tux World

“We try our best to have a personal experience with our brides, for them to have an exciting time (selecting) the most exciting dress of their life when they’re getting married,” McKillips says during a recent phone interview.

McKillips shows off some of the wares at Tux World.Ultimately, Brides World aims to take on the biggest role possible for a woman during what may be one of the most stressful periods of her existence.

“We have a full-service shop, so we do alterations. We take care of their bridesmaids, moms, dresses for flower girls – and, of course, the suits and tuxedos for the guys. 

“We try to make it a one-stop shop and to keep it easy – because there’s so much to do when a wedding comes up. You never know (what will happen to a bride). … The caterer could quit, and they come in and they’re hysterical, but when they put their dress on, they’re nice and calm and it’s exciting for them.

“Weddings are a lot of drama,” she adds with a laugh. 

The Brides World experience begins with an appointment so one of the store's bridal consultants is available to get some information about the wedding and, especially, how a woman wants to look on that special day.

“When we (work with them to) find the perfect dress,” she says. “We take their measurements, (select) a headpiece – we try to get all the pieces together so they look complete as a bride – and then we order the dress.”

Brides-to-be may want to get to the point where they say “yes” to the dress not long after he has, as Beyonce says, “put a ring on it.”

“Some companies, like Maggie Sottero – which is our No. 1 line – could take eight months to get in, but (the company) is going to make the dress the right length and fit it to them as best they can.” 

Options abound.

“Some (dress) styles complement people’s (personal) styles or their sizes,” McKillips says. “Sometimes, they’d like a mermaid dress that exaggerates their figure. Sometimes an A-line is the way to go. I think it’s all about their shapes and finding the right dress for their shape. 

“Style is huge, (and) it depends on what’s in right now,” she continues. “In our area, the (more) bling-y, the better – you know, sparkles everywhere.”

McKillips prefers a more timeless, classic look herself, but she has a theory about why glitz is in.

“Moms like me, we build this dream for our little girls in their Cinderella rooms with pink walls,” she says. “We make these special places all along for girls, so we expect them to be little princesses, and when they get married, they do, too.”

All the same, McKillips says tastes do shift, and she tries to keep up with the trends. 

“They do change,” she says. “They go from strapless to dresses with sleeves. I hope the old ’60 styles don’t come back, with big leg-of-mutton sleeves, but you just never know.

“Every season, they try to bring out new styles,” she adds. “Right now we’re selling a lot of bling-y dresses, but there are a lot of plainer styles coming out when I’m buying dresses for next season, so it looks like next season is going to have a little plainer look.”

The Brides World website has an extensive FAQ that aims to provide answers for the future bride, but, McKillips says, it’s really all about getting in the store and working with a bridal consultant and, of course, finding THE dress.

“Sometimes they’ll cry – and their moms will cry. It’s a special moment that we try to create for each customer.

Again, they’ve had the practice.

“The fact that we’ve been in business for 60 years is pretty darn good considering I don’t think our world really is loving small businesses anymore,” she says. “We have a bunch of people that love brides here and love helping people plan weddings.”