In the name of love

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

From the name - "Running of the Brides" - you can expect a crush of frenzied females.

From the numbers - 1,400 dresses, hundreds of shoppers - you can expect chaos.

And that's what it's been like for years. But recently, the designer wedding gown sales at Filene's Basement have seen more people, more dresses and more crazy.

"Starting last year, especially with last summer's events, the crowds have been bigger and sales have been bigger," said Pat Boudrot, who's seen dozens of sales as Filene's Basement's public relations director. "Do I attribute that to just the word spreading about this event? Or was it the economy? It's hard for me to say."

The retail chain, which sells discounted designer fashions year-round at its warehouse-style stores in the Northeast, Midwest and South, has experienced a windfall of dresses as manufacturers and bridal salons sell off extra inventory during this period of decreased consumer spending.

"We get lots of calls saying, 'I'm going out of business and I have stuff to sell real quick,'" said Boudrot, noting that bridal salons are particularly unstable in times like this.

Dresses at the sale aren't returnable, so professionals are on hand to consult on things like stray stains and alteration options.

Columbus' sale typically draws brides-to-be from all over Ohio, as well as Missouri, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

But it's not just brides. Even though hundreds of people turn out hours before the doors open, a vast majority of those are family and friends who act as teams of helpers for the frantically shopping brides.

Many teams wear obnoxious hats or learn bird calls to distinguish themselves from other teams, and each is assigned a role, from helping the bride try on as many dresses as possible to watching for "prowlers" who might try to snatch up dresses, Boudrot said.

It's the closest shopping gets to being a competitive sport.

But that's not to say shoppers are getting more bloodthirsty or rude because of the economic pressure, Boudrot said.

"Almost all of these people, they're in the spirit of it," she said. "It's fun. And we encourage it."

What: Running of the Brides

When: 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 30

Where: Filene's Basement, Northwest Side