By LAURI GROSS
Just when you thought you had a plan for finding your perfect wedding gown, along comes Annie McGinty to change everything. Rather than a usual bridal shop, Annie’s vision includes a van. Rather than rows and rows of gowns made in China, Annie is thinking about maybe 10 dresses curated just for you, and handcrafted in the United States by independent designers. Rather than driving to bridal shop after bridal shop, Annie is thinking of the bridal shop coming to you. In your home. Crazy, right? Maybe not.
The founder and stylist for Ivory and Ash Bridal Styling Studio, Annie has created a wedding-dress shopping experience like no other. Brides browse Annie’s website (IvoryAndAsh.com), which is brimming with photos of designer gowns from women and family-owned businesses. Once the bride selects eight to 10 dresses she would like to try, she contacts Annie to schedule a private styling session.
In this way, Annie says, the bride “Curates her own package and custom selects what she likes.” Then, Annie calls the designers and requests those dresses for the styling session. “They pack up the dresses and send them to me,” she says as she adds that she often orders a “surprise” dress or two that she thinks the bride might also like, based on the bride’s selections. “We need to book about eight to 10 days ahead to make sure the dresses are here in time,” she adds, as she explains that nearly all her designers are in the U.S. but one is in Australia. Annie is transparent with pricing and says most of her brides have a budget of approximately $3,000.
Once Annie receives the dresses from the designers, she packs up the Ivory and Ash van with the requested dresses, plus other items like jewelry, hair accessories, capes and veils, and full-length mirrors. And, depending on the styling package that the bride purchased Annie says, “I can bring cookies or little bites or champagne.” Brides pay for the styling session but they get that money back if they buy a dress. Annie offers her styling sessions in brides’ homes all across Northeast Ohio.
Laura DeYoung was married in Glenmont in September. She and her husband are both from Northeast Ohio. Her styling session was at her mother-in-law’s home in Hudson. “I felt like Annie was another cheerleader on my side helping to find the most perfect dress,” Laura says. “Annie was great at having us prescreen options her boutique offered and to make a favorites page so she could grab the dress I wanted to try and to mix in some she thought would fit my ideal style. To top it all off, she brought fun jewelry and accessories to make the whole outfit complete.”
During her styling session, Laura liked the sleeves from one dress but found that a different dress had the best fit. “Annie’s vendor was able to give me a combination of both dresses to make it my own! Together we were able to create the most elegant, simple and classy dress I have always dreamed of,” she adds.
Annie’s early career combined interior design and architecture. “Fashion and architecture go hand and hand,” she says as she explains that “Fashion and architecture have always been passions of mine.” As a young bride-to-be, her own experience shopping for a wedding gown did not go well. “I had a not-so-great experience,” she recalls. “I walked out of there saying to my mom ‘I never want anyone else to feel like that.’ And that stuck with me.”
Annie recalls that she always dreamed of owning a boutique and when she was pregnant with her third daughter (the girls are now 4, 6 and 8), she and her husband moved to Hudson and Annie left her sales job. “I didn’t want to stop working altogether,” she says, “So my husband and I kicked ideas around.”
The popularity of food trucks and pop-ups helped inspire Annie’s idea. “My husband said, ‘what if we get a van…’” she says, as she recalls how the idea for in-home wedding-dress styling took shape. First, Annie did pop-ups and trunk shows and began partnering with other local businesses who offered things brides need, like hair and makeup services, photography etc.
“I loved collaborating with other local businesses,” she says. “My friends call me a connector,” she laughs as she explains how she frequently hooks brides up with other vendors of wedding-related necessities. “That’s my favorite part, and letting my girls find their dream dress.”
Annie also offers styling sessions in her own home, which come with the added benefit of Annie’s youngest daughter telling every bride that she is a princess. “My husband usually takes the girls out to do their things on weekends, when brides are here,” she explains, but sometimes the littlest sticks around. “The brides all love her,” she adds.
Akron native Maddie Gaither got married in November in New York, where she and her husband now live. She had her styling session in Annie’s Hudson home. “I had zero intention of choosing a ballgown,” she says, as she explains that she imagined something more form fitting. “But once I tried the ballgown on I knew it was the one,” she adds. Initially, Maddie was a bit worried about the fuller gown looking too traditional. “Annie showed me different options for the skirt and that’s how we ended up going with a custom design, blending the top of one design and the skirt (with a leg slit!) of another. After about five minutes with Annie, I knew I had made the right decision going to Ivory & Ash. She has a special way of making her brides feel like you’ve known her for years.”
To find the right designers, Annie first searched online and then attended trade shows. “I have a good sense of proportion and visual things, from my interior design and architecture background,” she says. “So, I know what fits well and looks good on certain body types, and, the designers have educated me. I work directly with designers. I don’t go through middlemen. None of what I carry goes through mass production. During styling sessions, I FaceTime the designer while the bride has the dress on so they can make minor or major changes. It’s a nice beautiful relationship from start to finish.”
Find your dream dress with help from a private stylist
By LAURI GROSS