by Diana Bae
The one-day event offered about 2,000 designer dresses, some marked down to $249, from original prices of up to $9,000.
"They have good prices," Erika Luppert, of Parkville, said. "That way we can spend the money elsewhere for the wedding."
Luppert was the first bride inside when Filene's Basement opened its doors at 8 a.m. She had arrived at the store at 6:30 the night before with family members who had flown in from Connecticut to help her out. The group, decked out in matching sky-blue shirts, spent the night talking and socializing directly outside the store in Towson Place.
"We made it a party," Luppert said.
Getting to the store so early also allowed the women to devise a shopping plan of attack. Each person was assigned a different part of the racks to hit.
"Second is for losers," Luppert said with a smile.
The line grew behind her as brides and their helpers came to the store from all over the country.
Ali O'Donnell said she came up from Washington to "get a good deal." She was accompanied by her mother and sister, all dressed in yellow Boston University T-shirts. They had flown in from Boston and Chicago, respectively, for the sale.
Elkridge resident Nicole Voyce arrived with her entourage at 4:40 a.m. Her plan was to establish a meeting place inside the store where she and her friends would rendezvous after grabbing as many gowns as possible.
Robin Rowe, of Cockeysville, was the bride in charge of "Team R." She was armed with a whistle, which she said she would blow to alert her group once she'd found a good place in the store to try on the gowns.
"I'm going to strip down, and they'll bring me the dresses," she said.
As 8 a.m. drew near, chatter grew louder as patience dwindled. By 7:59, the women started chanting, "Let us in!"
Minutes later, as store employees braced the racks, the women were let in. In a couple of minutes, racks were stripped bare as the gowns were dragged in heaps all over the store. To eliminate any unfair advantage, the gowns were arranged randomly, with different sizes and prices mixed together.
"That was cool. We did great," one woman said.
The entire store became one large dressing room as the brides stripped to bathing suits and underwear wherever they could find space.
Soon the trading began, as gowns in hand were "advertised" with yells and pleas by brides-to-be seeking a different size or style.
"We have 10's!" one woman cried.
"Anyone have a 2?" another asked.
"This is the strangest thing I've ever seen," Luppert said.
A few men witnessed the scene. Some timidly made their way among the racks with the brides, but most watched the commotion from the sidelines.
Chris Gaither, of Catonsville, was at the store with his fiancee.
"I'm staying out of their way," he said. "I'm just here to pay."
Eventually, many of the brides-to-be found what they were looking for.
"I think this may be the one," Aldyth Osborne said. Originally from the Virgin Islands and now going to school in Washington, Osborne tried on three dresses before settling on a white gown with a long train.
"It just took my breath away," she said.
The gown, she said, costs $249 and had been marked down from around $1,700.
Half an hour later, some sense of calm was restored as abandoned dresses were put back on the racks by employees and customers.
According to Patricia Boudrot, a spokeswoman for Burlington, Mass.-based Filene's Basement, this year's Running of the Brides in Towson drew a record 350 women at the start. A total of 1,000 people were expected to have participated in the sale by the store's closing at 9:30 p.m.
Filene's Basement normally does not sell wedding gowns, Boudrot said. The sale, which first started in Boston in 1947, features gowns that are made available from manufacturers and bridal salons for reasons such as canceled orders or overstocks.
To make space for the event, the Towson store had to clear the men's section.
"Merchandise goes off the floor, so I'm not sure if it's a moneymaker," Boudrot said.
E-mail Diana Bae at firstname.lastname@example.org