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Dreamy Designer Dresses (and Their Budget-Friendly Counterparts)

Walking down the aisle in that gorgeous Alexander McQueen worn by Kate Middleton would be the icing on your wedding cake, but it could also topple your wedding budget. For some brides, indulging in a designer gown is a non-negotiable expense. For others, splurging on a wedding dress may be tempting enough to cut corners on other important wedding items. But, we think we've found a solution so you can have your cake and (designer-inspired) wedding dress, too. These designer gowns have more affordable lookalikes for those brides who want to feel like a princess without breaking the bank.

By: Dorothy Crouch

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  • Enzoani & Blue by Enzoani

    Enzoani & Blue by Enzoani

    Splurge: Guipure and corded lace on this mermaid design with a sweetheart neckline create a classic and romantic style. The Kelsi dress by Enzoani falls to a floor-length soft tulle skirt, completing the look with scalloped hem lace. The crystal buttons with zipper-back closure add an additional layer of classic elegance ($3,300).

    Save: Covering corded lace with beaded embroidered lace, Isabela from Blue by Enzoani uses soft tulle to create a trumpet skirt, contrasting its sweetheart neckline. Pearl buttons used on the low back add a traditional, chic texture to this design ($1,815).

  • J. Mendel & Moonlight Tango

    J. Mendel & Moonlight Tango

    Splurge: A chic halter design by J. Mendel, this style (Francoise) uses luxurious satin-faced chiffon to create a sleek bridal look. The pleated silk chiffon back and lace paneling of this floor-length column gown complement the clean lines of the timeless cut ($5,900).

    Save: Through the simple elegance of a beaded halter and intricate trim neckline, Moonlight Tango (Style T722) makes an impression without including excessive embellishments. An empire waist and floor-length skirt with a sweep train afford a polished style ($530).

  • Watters & Tadashi Shoji

    Watters & Tadashi Shoji

    Splurge: A plunging neckline provides a daring element to Watters’ Aziza gown, which is offset by chic fern lace over a stretch silk charmeuse lining. Fitted through the hips, the flare design is finished with a sweep train (around $6,000).

    Save: Combining a deep V-neckline with long sleeves creates a sexy yet tasteful look. BHLDN’s Lisette gown by Tadashi Shoji offers classic allure as the lace gown fits the body, flaring below the hips, and creating glamorous lines for a bride who wants a classic look with an edge ($800).

  • Jaime Elyse & Casablanca

    Jaime Elyse & Casablanca

    Splurge: Strapless silk taffeta creates a simple foundation for the Swarovski diamond embellishment that adorns the bust and bodice of Jaime Elyse’s Cassie. With a sweetheart neckline, the gown also features beading that falls with the floor-length skirt ($6,000).

    Save: Heavy beading and embroidery comprise the bodice of the fit-and-flare floor-length Iris gown from Casablanca. Lace appliques atop tulle and a sequined tulle lining create an embellished bodice ($1,800).

  • Naeem Khan & Wtoo by Watters

    Naeem Khan & Wtoo by Watters

    Splurge: Lace flower appliques line the bodice of this strapless sweetheart Naeem Khan gown (Style Notre Dame). The gazaar skirt provides this ballgown design with a smooth, clean finish ($7,500).

    Save: Using moonlit tulle, Wtoo by Watters presents the Calla gown, a design exclusively for BHLDN. The classic sweetheart neckline is ruched, offering a stylish twist on a beloved classic that is complete with a full ball-gown skirt ($600).

  • Badgley Mischka & Oleg Cassini at David

    Badgley Mischka & Oleg Cassini at David's Bridal

    Splurge: Elegant details — including braided cording, pearls, crystals, and tons of stain finish seed beads — define Badgley Mischka’s Lizzy with Cape gown. Combining tulle overlay with Chantilly lace appliqué hem and soft pleated tulle trim, the gown’s finishing touch is a removable, full-length tulle cape with lace appliqué ($5,940).

    Save: A limited-edition chiffon crepe-sheath gown by Oleg Cassini Collection, available exclusively at David’s Bridal (Style CWG716), offers a unique design for the bride who is in search of an old Hollywood glamour look. The illusion neckline and bodice include beaded lace, providing additional intricate detail, and the floor-length chiffon cape adds dramatic effect ($1,150).

  • Jenny Packham & Wonder by Jenny Packham

    Jenny Packham & Wonder by Jenny Packham

    Splurge: Finding inspiration in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” designs from Jenny Packham’s 2016 line, including Juliet, bring to life the reverie for which the brand is known. The gown’s silk chiffon is draped in Swarovski crystals and beading, which gather to join an embellishment below the bust of this floor-length, flutter-sleeve gown ($6,750).

    Save: Adhering to the vintage fantasy of the Jenny Packham brand, the designer’s collaboration with David’s Bridal — Wonder by Jenny Packham — includes this A-line design (Style JP341601). The gown’s pinched fabric, flutter sleeve, embellished bust, empire waist, and sweep skirt come together, creating a classic Jenny Packham style ($900).

  • Lela Rose & Mia Solano

    Lela Rose & Mia Solano

    Splurge: A playful knee-length design, The Carousel by Lela Rose uses hand-cut floral shapes, affixed with pearls and crystals to cover this bridal dress. The A-line look provides a sense of whimsy for a lighthearted bride who values high fashion ($9,995).

    Save: This taffeta A-line design features wide pleats on the bodice and skirt, providing texture for this knee-length Mia Solano dress (Style M1241L). The strapless creation is completed with beading along the waist ($1,099).

  • Ines Di Santo & Tadashi Shoji

    Ines Di Santo & Tadashi Shoji

    Splurge: Elegant Alençon lace and a classic trumpet design provide a high level of luxury for a bride who is in search of rich textures. The jewel-illusion neckline and chapel length train complete the look of this sleeveless Ines Di Santo Rise gown ($9,890).

    Save: This lace Tadashi Shoji gown for BHLDN (Style August) relies on a fitted cut through the bodice of the floor-length design. Featuring a wide, scalloped neckline and sweep train, the August gown skims the body and moves with a bride, creating a look of alluring grace ($700). 

  • J Mendel & Madison James

    J Mendel & Madison James

    Splurge: An ethereal gown, J Mendel's Mabel incorporates an illusion neckline in Chantilly lace. The floor-length sunburst pleated skirt completes the simple elegance of this gown ($8,200).

    Save: This A-line gown by Madison James (Style MJ101) includes a bodice and illusion neckline of scalloped lace overlay, complemented by English net and charmeuse that falls to a floor-length hem ($1,010).

  • Sabrina Dahan & Oleg Cassini at David

    Sabrina Dahan & Oleg Cassini at David's Bridal

    Splurge: A whimsical silk embroidered tulle gown, Elodie by Sabrina Dahan features a floor-length, A-line cut. The design includes three-dimensional silk organza floral appliqués from the sweetheart-neckline bodice to the bottom of the skirt. Full-length beaded illusion sleeves complete this look ($10,505).

    Save: This A-line, floor-length Oleg Cassini for David’s Bridal design (Style CWG704) features three-quarter illusion sleeves with lace epaulets. The lace-fitted bodice creates an alluring silhouette ($1,350).

  • Allure Couture & Maggie Sottero

    Allure Couture & Maggie Sottero

    Splurge: Charmeuse with lace and English net overlay provide a foundation for the intricate beading showcased on this Allure Couture design (Style #C304). The floor-length gown also features ornate beaded straps with a V-neckline ($3,260).

    Save: Boasting a deep V-neckline, modestly jeweled straps, and Orlando satin, Maggie Sottero’s Montana sheath features soft, clean lines. The simplicity of the gown is made otherwise by a Swarovski crystal waist and shoulder embellishments ($1,239).

  • Jenny Packham & Mia Solano

    Jenny Packham & Mia Solano

    Splurge: Shakespearean influences continue with Jenny Packham’s Venetia, which features a silk chiffon sweetheart neckline covered in delicate lace. Detailed embroidery and lengthened cap sleeves complete this elegant floor-length gown ($6,200).

    Save: With cap sleeves and V-neckline, this Mia Solano creation (Style M1639Z) uses lace throughout the floor-length design. Completing this piece, a chapel train which falls behind the sheath design ($1,499).

  • Claire Pettibone & Casablanca

    Claire Pettibone & Casablanca

    Splurge: Lace in hues of aquamarine and platinum comprise the floor-length skirt of Claire Pettibone’s Eliza gown. The scalloped plunging neckline is contrasted by long sleeves, reminiscent of the Gilded Age, while delicate platinum and iridescent jeweled beading complement the waist ($4,875).

    Save: The detailed design of Casablanca’s Tulip is comprised of a charmeuse lining with tulle overlay. Beaded lace appliques and a sweetheart neckline enhance the alluring qualities of this full-length, long-sleeved gown ($1,550). 

  • Francesca Miranda & Wonder by Jenny Packham

    Francesca Miranda & Wonder by Jenny Packham

    Splurge: This Hollywood-worthy sleeveless gown with squared shoulders is an achievement in timeless elegance by Francesca Miranda. The floor-length Fernada gown features a plunging neckline, complemented by lineal embroidered tulle with hand-embroidered flowers, pearls, and Swarovski crystals ($6,050).

    Save: From the Wonder by Jenny Packham line, this A-line gown exudes red carpet glamour. Using copper and metallic-copper beading, a dramatic plunging neckline, and sophisticated shimmer, this floor-length gown is the epitome of elegance ($1,450).

  • Ines Di Santo & Anne Barge

    Ines Di Santo & Anne Barge

    Splurge: Featuring a detachable jewel neckline, Ines Di Santo’s Inspired gown blends an embroidered illusion bodice and lace underlay. The A-line cut sleeveless design falls gently to the floor and is finished with a scallop edge at the bottom ($6,990).

    Save: From Blue Willow Bride by Anne Barge, this floor-length A-line design (Style Peony) features a beaded bodice and sleeveless Sabrina neckline. The full organza silk skirt falls sheer and light in soft, natural pleats ($2,630).

  • Sarah Janks & Casablanca

    Sarah Janks & Casablanca

    Splurge: A two-piece design by Sarah Janks, the Kelly Bodice & Skirt brings elegance to wedding separates. The corseted bodice is accentuated with soft tulle vertical pleats and a sweetheart neckline, and its silk georgette figure-hugging skirt includes a chapel train ($850 for the bodice, $1,500 for the skirt).

    Save: The halter design of Casablanca’s two-piece Heather dress showcases playful beauty by using lace and a full-length skirt. Finishing this design, the sweep train adds one final elegant detail ($1,440).

  • Lela Rose & Mia Solano

    Lela Rose & Mia Solano

    Splurge: This classic floor-length gown by Lela Rose (The Opera House) combines simplicity with grace to create an unembellished design. The glamourous off-the-shoulder neckline features tiny threaded detailed edging to finish off this smooth, rich look ($4,995).

    Save: An off-the-shoulder tulle neckline with lace embellishments and a sweetheart bodice are the focal points of Mia Solano’s mermaid-cut gown (Style M1618Z). The fitted lace bodice falls to floor-length and is completed by a scalloped edge at the bottom ($1,799).

  • Monique Lhuillier & Demetrios

    Monique Lhuillier & Demetrios

    Splurge: Creating an ethereal look with an illusion neckline and sleeves, this Monique Lhuillier design (Style Langham) gives a feeling of fantasy with its shimmering handiwork throughout the gown. The skirt, enhanced with multiple layers of tulle, offers a center-slit peek to the sheath below (gown $8,500; removable overskirt $1,600).

    Save: An exquisite look from Demetrios, this ballgown (Style #603) with sweetheart-cut satin underlay features delicate embroidery comprised of bugle beads, pearls, and crystals over an illusion high, rounded neckline, and long sleeves. The floor-length tulle skirt falls into a chapel-length train that completes this elegant style ($1,850).

  • Reem Acra & Tadashi Shoji

    Reem Acra & Tadashi Shoji

    Splurge: The lace of this Reem Acra design (Style Brigitte) complements the floor-length cut, fitted through the hips and slightly flaring into a sweep train. A sweetheart neckline, cap sleeves, and scallop details soften this classic, elegant design ($4,995).

    Save: With a fitted cut and elegant lace, this Tadashi Shoji floor-length gown for BHLDN (Style Marivana) offers an alluring silhouette. Cap sleeves and a sweetheart neckline add traditional details, and a sweep train completes the look ($650).

  • Jaime Elyse & Justin Alexander

    Jaime Elyse & Justin Alexander

    Splurge: The lace crop bodice with a bateau neckline and three-quarter sleeves on this Jaime Elyse gown (Style Emma) offers a modern update on the traditional modest A-line dress. The soft silk charmeuse of the design’s skirt is enhanced with a diamond Swarovski belt embellishment ($3,150).

    Save: Reminiscent of the bygone era of America’s Camelot, Justin Alexander’s bateau neckline with floor-length ballgown (Style #8816) is traditionally elegant. Unique details, such as a satin cummerbund at the waist and a pearl-and-bead trimmed neckline, set this piece apart ($1,300).

Dreamy Designer Dresses (and Their Budget-Friendly Counterparts)

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