HIGHLAND PARK – For Simply Luxe Bridal Boutique owner Susan Samway, it seems like only yesterday that she played dress-up with her mom’s 1971 maroon velvet turtleneck wedding gown. Shortly after, Samway cut her sewing teeth by creating fashions for her Barbie dolls, which she proudly still owns.
Samway turned her playtime dreams into a reality by opening Simply Luxe Bridal Boutique in Algonquin in 2014, and the Deerfield native expanded her business by opening a second location in Highland Park at 643 Central Avenue, on the site that previously housed Jolie Maison.
“We wanted to bring the Simply Luxe vibe to the North Shore,” said Samway. “I’m not denying there are some beautiful shops in the city, but it’s nice to have something in Highland Park.”
Samway said now more brides are coming home for the weekend to visit their moms for a shopping outing in the suburbs. “We’re slightly less expensive than some of the downtown stores,” she added.
Samway explained that some of the stores in the city go up to $14,000 or $15,000 and currently the most expensive bridal gown at Simply Luxe is about $8,000. Most of the gowns at Simply Luxe range between $2,500 and $5,500. Prices start at about $1,500.
Samway described some of the current trends in bridal gowns:
- Full-length sleeves became popular at Princess Kate and Prince William’s wedding. A fine Chantilly lace sleeve will be shown for spring and summer.
- Slits are stylish whether they’re in the center of the gown or along the side.
- Cut-outs are being shown with lace placement over it for some modesty.
- V-necks and open backs are a continued trend, as well as a return of the ball gown
Many Simply Luxe brides wear veils.
“There’s something about a veil that really completes the look, and there’s something about a little sparkle touching your hair or a statement earring, because a lot of our brides have 200 or 300 guests at their wedding and we want to make sure that she sparkles from afar,” said Samway. “Everywhere the bride turns, half of her guests are going to see her from the back, so accessorizing really does differentiate one bride from another.”
Simply Luxe carries a curated collection of international and domestic designers. Some of the designers include: Pronovias which is sold in over 100 countries, Martina Liana from Australia who also has an office in Kansas City, Rosa Clara and Rosa Clara Couture out of Barcelona and Matthew Christopher of New York.
Samway is excited that Simply Luxe has Chicago exclusivity with Allison Webb, a new designer from JLM. JLM is the home of Hayley Paige who has her own show on TLC.
But brides don’t have to settle on only one dress.
Morgan Grimshaw, director of operations, told DailyNorthShore about a former figure skater who will wear three-looks-in-one on her wedding day.
“The bride has a very elaborate first dance where she’s getting flipped, so one of our designers is having the bodice of the gown made into a custom body suit where the beaded lace goes all the way around and covers everything,” said Grimshaw. The bride will be wearing a short chiffon skirt over it, and when she gets flipped her guests will see the gown and sparkling crystals. After the dance, she can switch from the short chiffon skirt into a full-length ball gown skirt for the remainder of the reception.
For brides interested in minor modifications, Simply Luxe can change the neckline, the sleeves and make many other custom changes.
“When a bride wants her own custom gown she understands the value,” said Samway. “My background is in design so I can sketch them out before the bride has to make that huge commitment.”
Samway tells brides to order their gowns about nine months before the wedding.
“It takes four to six months for a standard bridal gown to come in, and any customization takes longer,” said Samway. “You want to have time for shipping and time to breathe between getting the dress in and starting alterations.” Alterations take between eight and 12 weeks.
Samway can also accommodate brides with shorter engagements with showroom sample gowns, or choosing a custom design for an additional fee.
The quality of service also ranges from simple to luxe based on the bride’s wishes.
Samway said although Simply Luxe serves champagne to every bride, brides interested in having a Luxe Appointment will receive a full mimosa bar, a choice between sweet treats or savory bites and a bouquet in the bride’s wedding colors from a local florist. The Luxe Appointment is offered after business hours for an additional fee.
Simply Luxe has received many requests for mother-of-the-bride and evening dresses at the Highland Park boutique, and Samway has been investigating possibilities. She added that the Algonquin location carries bridesmaids dresses, which can be brought into the North Shore location.
Samway’s fairytale continued when she met her husband during a fashion internship in Australia. “I opened the store in Algonquin, he moved to the U.S., and we got married all within one month in October of 2014,” she said. The couple’s baby boy just turned nine-months-old.
“We’re balancing expansion and growth for Simply Luxe Bridal and baby life,” said Samway.