Tying the Knot: Designer gowns at off the rack prices

When it’s time to pick out your wedding gown, should you get the designer dress of your dreams or adhere to a respectable budget? Callee Kelly at Waco’s Tie The Knot believes a bride shouldn’t have to make that choice.

Tie The Knot is a bridal boutique that sells off the rack, designer gowns that were previously store samples, discontinued styles, never worn or once-wed. The price point is what makes the shop unique, according to Kelly, who said the dresses are usually about 50 percent off their original price and typically run from $550 to $1,000, with the occasional few reaching $1,200.

Kelly said some brides come in to the shop with pictures and an idea of the perfect dress; others are familiar with designers and come in seeking a particular brand. Tie The Knot carries Maggie Sottero, Allure, Allure Couture, Casablanca, Blue by Enzoani, David Tutera, Wtoo and others.

Kelly said she enjoys working with brides to find a gown that matches both their style and budget preferences. A bride might come in and say she likes a ball gown or silhouette and wants to find something under $600. Kelly then dives into her inventory for the requested dresses, but will also pull a few gown styles the bride didn’t mention and insist they trust her and just give it a try.

“That’s almost always the style they end up taking,” Kelly said. “For example, a girl that wears a size 12 and up might come in thinking she can’t do the mermaid style because it’s form fitting, but you actually have to have curves for that.”

If a bride walks in with a budget of $500 and falls in love with a dress that costs $1,000, Kelly offers a layaway plan. A down payment of $100 is required and a minimum of $100 must be paid each month, with the balance paid off within six months.

All the dresses are off the rack, meaning what you see is what’s available and can be brought home that day, as opposed to placing an order that takes several months to fulfill. Kelly said she carries sizes 4 to 32 and has gowns to suit every figure and sense of style. She carries dresses in pink, champagne and ivory, as well as white.

“You don’t have to be a classic bride to find something here,” she said. “I have short dresses, too. There’s something for everybody, from the girl that wants super simple to the girl that is edgy and wants something cool — I can do all sides of that.” Ever the easy going soul herself, Kelly, a mother of two, chose to wear a rose gold bridesmaid dress for her own wedding.

Of all the brides who come in to try dresses on, about 85 percent of them buy from Tie The Knot, Kelly said. It’s best to make an appointment, and required on Saturdays, as Kelly likes to ensure she can give full attention to her customers. “My store is more for the girl with a down-to-earth kind of vibe,” Kelly said of why she enjoys her particular clientele. “They are more laid back. I can get down with that.”

A family bridal affair

Kelly described the wedding dress business as in her blood. Her mother, Belva Harvey, has owned Georgio’s Bridal Salon located next door to Tie The Knot for 15 years. Georgio’s carries brand new, off-the-runway designer bridal collections. Harvey ownsGeorgio’s and G2 by Georgio’s, which sells designer prom and formal gowns and is run by Kelly’s sister.

Kelly was always into beauty and fashion so it was natural for her to attend beauty school when she graduated high school in 2008. After working in salons for a few years, she decided she wanted to go back to her roots and join her mom in the bridal business, so Harvey purchased Tie The Knot in 2012.

Harvey said there are several advantages to choosing a designer gown. She said the structures are better, the fabric is high quality and the gowns are hand-made in an ethical environment. She noted that some stores mass produce their gowns compared to a designer dress, which is created after a bride orders it. And if Georgio’s carries a designer, then so does Tie The Knot.

“I go to market with my mom and sister and travel around the country to see the gowns on the runway,” Kelly said. “I go with them because I know I’ll get those gowns in six to eight months. It all really ignites my fire, I love it.”

“I love working with my girls,” Harvey said. “I get to see them every day. And one day after I retire they can carry on the business.”

A new business feature Kelly is excited about is her exclusivity with Lotus Threads; she is one of the only stores in Texas to sell this designer brand. Though the dresses are sold new, their price line still matches the affordable-quality theme at Tie The Knot. Kelly describes the gowns as being 1920s, Great Gatsby-like and completely unique.

Because Kelly’s inventory is constantly changing, she suggests brides with a bit more time before their wedding keep checking back in if they don’t find something on their first visit, and keep up with the boutique on social media.

“I’ll have local brides-to-be pop in on their lunch break every week to look at my new dresses,” Kelly said. “I’m also really good about updating the store’s Facebook page because my inventory is always changing.” She always posts the designer’s photo of the gown, the original price and what her price is.

“I like having a small business,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t want to be the manager of 10 girls in a huge bridal shop. I’m good when it comes to something smaller that I know really well. I like the boutique size that focuses only on wedding dresses.”

Owner Callee Kelly

Tie The Knot

921 Lake Air Dr. Suite C, Waco

(254) 662-0549

SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE is a full-time freelance writer in Central Texas. A few of her favorite things include traveling, hiking, camping, reading, cats, classic rock music and cheese. As a kid, Sally Grace could never figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up — astronaut, Celtic dancer, entomologist, Egyptologist — everything was interesting and she couldn’t decide on just one world to immerse herself in and study, so she became a journalist. She learns new things every day.