At Goodwill's annual Bridal Showcase on Saturday, more than 150 brides lined up at the St. Paul headquarters for a chance to score a dress for a fraction of the original price, many of them never-worn donations from bridal shops. Unlike Filene's Basement's famous "Running of the Brides," the annual event was well-organized -- with nearly as many volunteers as brides -- and far more civilized. (See related slideshow for a few of the brides-to-be who found their dream dresses.)

Finding the perfect fit

Whether you've paid $100 or $10,000, most wedding gowns need some sort of tailoring.

Karen Boehne of Wedding Gown Care Specialists in New Hope has volunteered at the Goodwill Bridal Showcase for five years. She has been altering clothes for 30 years, concentrating on wedding gowns for 10, and advises brides-to-be as they try on gowns.

"Every dress is very unique, just as every bride is very unique, and deserves to be treated that way," she said.

Here are her tips for gown shoppers:

Understand important alterations. Most gowns -- new or used -- need hems and sides taken in or let out.

Add a bustle. Dresses are not sold with bustles. Having a proper bustle keeps your gown from getting stepped on, torn and being used as a mop to clean up the dance floor.

Fit the bust. Gowns must fit in the bust properly. A seamstress can let out a gown on the sides and put in a corset-type back, but they usually can't put more fabric in the front.

Buy big. It's much easier to take a dress in than let one out.

Tailor to the rib cage. It's not the bust that holds up a strapless gown, but the proper fit around the rib cage. Many designers sew in an elastic band -- like having the back part of a bra in your gown.

Plan for fittings. Have your shoes and a sampling of undergarments for the first fitting. Plan on at least three fittings -- one at the beginning, one where the gown might not be sewn together entirely and the final fitting. Vintage gown restorations or elaborate alterations might call for one or two more. Start alterations six to eight weeks before the wedding.


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Banana Republic's "Mad Men" collection

Thanks to Banana Republic, "Mad Men" fans can really dress the part when the TV show returns March 25. The 1960s signature is clear in the second collaboration between costume designer Janie Bryant and the specialty retailer. Priced at $35 to $355, the collection (available in stores and at www.banana on Thursday) includes dresses, cardigans and capris for Joan- and Betty-style women and vests and blazers for aspiring Dons.