Photo by Deborah Jaffe

Try a Sample

Pamela Vito knows brides LOVE designer wedding gowns. As the former owner of Hannelore’s, a high-end bridal salon in Old Town Alexandria, she also knows they don’t love paying designer prices. Not long after selling the building that housed her boutique for 32 years, Vito realized she wasn’t ready to retire. But she was interested in reaching a different kind of customer. Fifteen months later, in May 2017, she opened Say Yes for Less, a bridal boutique in Cabin John Mall in Potomac that stocks big-name dresses discounted by 20 percent to 75 percent and priced between $900 and $4,000.

Vito sells for less because she sells differently. The gowns in bridal salons typically are “samples” or prototypes of a dress design. These dresses haven’t been worn—just tried on a few dozen times. At a traditional salon, brides place orders for particular designs, and several months later the dresses crafted specifically for the brides arrive at the store. At Say Yes for Less, it’s the samples that are for sale. 

Other salons, which often unload samples from dress lines they no longer carry, are the source for Vito’s 450-gown-deep collection, including labels such as Lazaro, Hayley Paige and Monique Lhuillier. 

Here’s what Vito recommends for brides who are shopping for designer sample wedding gowns. 

“Get yourself fixed up to go to the appointment,” Vito says. “If you’re having a bad hair day and forgot to put eyelashes on, you’re not going to feel good about yourself.” You’re also going to spend time with a consultant while getting dressed, so Vito recommends donning full flesh-colored underwear and a strapless bra. 

“It’s the worst idea,” Vito says. “You’ve driven through traffic and haven’t had dinner. It won’t be as enjoyable.” 


If you regularly wear a size 4, Vito says expect to be an 8 or a 10 in bridal wear (the industry mostly keeps to traditional couture sizing). 

If a gown is one size too big, has a skirt that’s too long, armholes that are too tight, or is slightly snug on your hips, it can be altered. If it’s one size or more too small, it’s a no-go. Budget-wise, Vito recommends reserving at least $550 for alterations.  

“If you fall in love with a sample dress, be prepared to buy it,” Vito says, “because there’s only one.” 


Baby It’s Cold Outside

Bundle up with these winter fitness finds

Slush on the sidewalks, biting winds, daylight ending early—your favorite neighborhood running route can become a lot less inviting in the winter months. But with the right combination of proper gear, it’s possible to train no matter how frigid the temps. Ferrall Dietrich, the owner of upscale athletic wear boutique Core72, which has locations in Cathedral Heights and Chevy Chase in D.C., says layering is the key. Focus on keeping your core cozy by starting with a zippered or half-zip base layer. Next, add an insulating shell, and then make sure your outer layer is wind- and weather-resistant. Garments that fit snugly help keep cold air from getting in; fabric-wise, merino wool and synthetic performance fabrics wick away sweat—which cools your body naturally—without being too uncomfortably bulky to move around in. Avoid cotton at all costs—“it wets out and doesn’t dry as quickly, so you’ll be freezing cold,” Dietrich says—and wear thinner, more streamlined pieces on your hands and other extremities. 

This outfit, created with pieces at area stores, puts all of Dietrich’s practical advice to stylish use.


1. REI Co-op “Power Wool” gloves, with merino wool interior and water-repellent exterior, $44.50 at REI (910 Rose Ave., North Bethesda; 301-770-1751,



2. Kari Traa “Tove” jacket, with thermal lining, thumb holes and reflective detailing for nighttime visibility, $180 at Core72 (5502 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-686-4258,



3. REI Co-op midweight half-zip base layer top, in merino wool with flat seams to prevent chafing, $89.50 at REI (910 Rose Ave., North Bethesda; 301-770-1751, 



4. “Darn Tough” cushion socks, in merino wool with extra cushioning and performance fit, $20.95 at L.L. Bean (925 Rose Ave., North Bethesda; 888-660-1570, 



5. “Ascent Active” beanie, in lightweight, quick-dry polyester, $30 at The North Face (4848 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-3223, 



6. “No Hands” arm warmers, in moisture-wicking polyester and elastane jersey with UPF 50 protection, $30 at The North Face (4848 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-3223, 



7. Kari Traa “Marianne” tights, with high waist to insulate core, $78 at Core72 (5502 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-686-4258,

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