Maybe it’s about sustainability in an environmental and ethical sense – you hate the thought of getting dressed for your wedding day and feeling responsible for more yards of white fabric, tiny beads and likely underpaid overseas labor. Or maybe, equally likely, you’re trying to sustain your own bank account by not overspending on The Dress.

If so, you should meet Alison Lindkvist, owner of Portland’s What the Frock, a consignment store on Munjoy Hill that buys and sells old wedding dresses (among other kinds of party frocks). We called Lindkvist to talk about dresses with bad energy, how to repurpose princessy frocks and the dirty secrets of bridal sizing.

IN STOCK: What the Frock caters to the Mainer shopping for a special event who prefers a high-end dress to a chain store model, and doesn’t mind if her party frock has already taken a few spins on a dance floor. Lindkvist used to have a small alterations studio in the State Theatre but saw a market for this very specific niche, the bargain-hunting fashionista. She opened What the Frock in June 2014 and seamstress Jacquelyn Pepice came with her (they do a lot of alterations).

What kind of wedding dresses do they stock? “We never really know what is going to walk in the door to be honest with you,” Lindkvist said. Anything Lady Diana would have liked? “Mostly for our clientele we don’t do the big poofy princess dresses,” Lindkvist said. “We’re mostly doing second wedding or destination wedding dresses, not traditional church-and-veil kinds of things. We do a lot of sheath dresses. And vintage.

MAKE IT WORK: Alterations are a big part of the business at What the Frock. If you try something on and it doesn’t fit, “we can pretty much do whatever to it.” Like what?

There was the woman who asked them to hack up the most traditional beaded princess dress imaginable, a Maggie Sottero that Lindkvist thought retailed new for $1,600 to $2,400. “She was this tiny little girl with tons of dreads and face piercings,” Lindkvist said. She told Lindkvist she wanted the skirt short in the front and long in the back. “And I said, ‘You want like a big bustle butt?’ ” She did. It ended up “awesome,” Lindkvist said, very steampunk. “Most people aren’t that bold.”


THE FIT IS KEY: While there are plenty of online options to shop for used wedding dresses (sites like,, and all sell recycled dresses) at What the Frock, you can try things on. A good idea since it turns out wedding dress sizing is very old-fashioned. “It runs insanely small,” Lindkvist said. “If you wear a size 6 in a Gap dress you are at least a 10 in bridal dresses.” (On her website,, Lindkvist gives sizing based on measurements, not what the tag says.) Which explains the customer who came into What the Frock with a brand new Nicole Miller wedding dress, desperate to sell it. “She ordered it online and it was too small.” The price tag, still dangling, said $2,400.

But What the Frock, which typically sells items at half the retail price, wasn’t about to charge enough to get that bride out of her bind.

PRICE POINT: I will cap things at like $500,” Lindkvist said. “I don’t take things that are way out there. They don’t come to me to spend $1,200 on a dress.”

EX-WIVES CLUB: Do people unload their dresses on you after a divorce? “We do get some divorce dresses,” Lindkvist said.

“We also get some of the wedding-never-happened dresses.” She doesn’t buy them all. “Sometimes I’m a little hesitant. I don’t want a dress that has bad juju on it.” One of her reasons is pure practicality: “The ones that have a bad vibe on them don’t actually sell.”

THE NAME GAME: We couldn’t help noticing it’s fun to say the name of your store. What the Frock. “A friend was taking a taxi over to see me and the driver asked where she was going,” Lindkvist said. “And she said, ‘What the Frock’ and he said, ‘Why are you swearing at me?’ ” That’s a great story; what’s the story behind how you came up with the name? Lindkvist laughed. “It’s probably not appropriate to tell.”

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