Wedding season is officially in full gear, and for the bride who prefers wearing sports jerseys to donning dresses one store is offering the best of both worlds.
Complete Bridal Salon of East Dundee, Ill., has been the maker of Chicago sports-themed wedding dresses for more than two decades. The store, owned by David Gaffke, has expanded over the years and now even includes a Green Bay Packers-themed dress.
“These gowns make every girl’s figure look amazing,” Gaffke told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “The gowns, if they’re done in white or ivory, are fashion forward. They all have built-in girdles and they all have built-in bustiers.”
Gaffke has been in the bridal business for 31 years and said the first Bears gown he created came way back in 1987.
“Before it was even finished, we had notified the press saying, ‘Crazy Bears fan makes blue and orange wedding gown,'” Gaffke said. “We were on the front page of all the major newspapers before the gown was physically completed. That gown, since then, has been the most traveled wedding gown, beating Princess Diana’s gown for travels on display.”
Recognizing an opportunity, Gaffke continued to add sports-themed dresses. He has created Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks dresses and most recently added the Packers dress in January 2011 before Chicago and Green Bay met in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers would go on to beat the Bears 21-14, and win the Super Bowl.
Gaffke said he could make any sports team gown provided the customer supplies him with a team patch — he has created Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers dresses in the past as well. However, he cannot use the team logos because it would violate professional sports licensing agreements. And for the dresses he has already made, he allows brides to wear them as long as they cover the cost of a dry cleaning bill.
“We don’t sell them because it would be a conflict with the NBA, NFL,” Gaffke said. “There is a way to get around that, but most of my girls just borrow it for the day, and then they’re re-introduced into the wedding reception later on in the evening and then the fight song typically comes on.”
The Packers dress is made of diva satin and is green, white and yellow. The Bears dress, also made of diva satin, contains crystals and is outlined in rhinestones.
Gaffke said new dresses cost anywhere from $900-$1,200. The price includes fabric and the seamstress’s time. The salon charges $44 an hour to make the gown and the fabric costs between $12.99 per yard and $50 per yard.
The gowns are used mostly at meet-and-greet events for promotional purposes and also are on display at the stadium when their respective teams are in the playoffs. Recently, Gaffke took three women wearing Blackhawks and Bulls dresses and put them in the back of glass-encased truck downtown, where they modeled for passersby to take photos.
“It’s not about me,” Gaffke said. “It’s not about sales. I’m not out for anyone having to dig in their pocket and buy a second dress. Renting it for $55 includes dry cleaning and makes it more accessible.
“My accountant once told me when I started pricing my gowns, 100 percent of zero is zero. You either price your gowns to move your gowns or else your gowns will never be moved. The more weddings these gowns are at, the more pictures there are on Facebook and YouTube.”
Gaffke estimates he sells about only four sports-themed wedding gowns per year but notes he does more prom dresses and that the publicity generated for his store made the entire operation worth it. He said one of his Bulls dresses was featured last year during a red-carpet premiere for the NBC television show “Jumping the Broom.”
Gaffke said he would probably scale down on the number of events that featured his dresses in the future. He said his bridal salon will be featured in episodes of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” in 2014, which means his time will need to be focused more on his store.
Still, Gaffke is certain demand for his sports-themes dresses will endure in some capacity.