Wedding Dress Style: Something Old, Something New
Many wedding dresses walk down the aisle more than once.
One of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding is choosing your dream dress. It’s something you may have fantasized about since you were a little girl.
Fairy tales do come true. You may have found your prince, but you didn’t count on the sticker shock of the wedding dress. The truth is, the perfect gown doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. More brides are purchasing or renting previously owned wedding gowns at a fraction of the original cost.
Frugality is in, says Karen Kwak, manager of Classic Consignment in Casselberry. The bridal boutique has 25 to 50 previously owned wedding dresses for sale at any time. It carries designers including Vera Wang, Michelangelo and Maggie Sottero, plus gently used veils, tiaras, shoes and other accessories.
Adobe © alena0509
“Brides are more cost conscious today,” says Kwak. “They know the money they save on a dress can go for the honeymoon or a down payment on a house. Why pay so much for something new that you’ll wear only once, for just a few hours?” Besides, she notes, many of the wedding dresses she stocks were never worn and still have their original tags. Others are cleaned and look new. “If you don’t want to tell, no one will know.”
The average cost of a wedding gown is $1,517, according to the 2016 American Wedding Study by BRIDES magazine. In the designer stratosphere, the price tag can be $10,000 and up. But many brides can find a plethora of affordable gowns at local consignment stores, on eBay and dozens of online wedding marketplaces including OnceWed.com, StillWhite.com and NearlyNewlyWed.com.
The second-hand wedding dress market is booming, says Josie Daga, who founded PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com in 2004 when she wanted to sell her own designer gown. Since then, the site has helped sell more than 40,000 gowns and related clothing and accessories.
Once upon a time, brides may have hidden the fact that they were buying a used dress, but these days they have bragging rights, she says. “It is so smart. Why wouldn’t you save 50 percent on a dress that is essentially brand new?”
And then there are the brides who buy new, but plan to resell after the wedding to offset the high cost. Some post their wedding gowns for sale even before they’re married. “For a bride really stretching her budget, this means she can walk down the aisle knowing she’s already recouped some of her investment,” says Daga.
Alinka Santiago Kim dreamed of wearing a Hayley Paige dress for her June 2018 wedding in Destin. “But the prices were a bit over my budget,” she says. One day while perusing PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, the perfect dress caught her eye at 50 percent off the original price. “I took the risk and it paid off.”
It was even better in person, she says of the custom white lace dress with a grayish tulle bottom. “I cried when I tried it on. The seller even included a sweet note saying I could reach out to her for any wedding advice. It was like I had gained a friend.”
She brushes off any skeptics. “New or used, a wedding dress is meant to do the same thing for all brides—make you feel beautiful and confident,” she says. Plus, there’s a bonus. “The money my fiancé and I saved will go toward our destination wedding.”
Some brides want to know their gown’s history. Diana Felix of Queens, NY, fell in love with a beautiful strapless gown at a rental store. It cost $250 to rent and needed slight alterations. When she asked who had worn it before, the salesperson was hesitant to tell her that the dress was custom-made for a bride whose marriage never happened. When pressed, the store owner told her the dress had also been rented by a previous bride who also never said “I do.”
Adobe © Polina Strelkova
“I thought the dress might have a jinx,” says Felix. But since the wedding date was fast approaching, she decided to turn the garment’s luck around.
Happily married four years later, she hopes the dress has brought joy to many other brides. Her only regret is that she had to return it after the wedding. “I’m kind of sorry that I don’t have it. Sometimes I’d love to take it out of the closet to look at it.”
McKinzie Pack of Houston is a proud, savvy shopper. “I was absolutely determined not to spend a lot of money on my dress,” says Pack, who was married on a mountainside in Ouray, CO, last October.
She went to a consignment bridal store to browse and the first dress she tried on fit her perfectly. “I was in and out of the shop in 20 minutes with my dream dress for less than $450.” She embraces the idea that her dress was previously loved. “I like to think someone else also felt beautiful in it.”
Ever the practical bride, she plans to consign it herself. “When it sells, I will receive half the price and it will be even more of a bargain.”
Bride Mckenzie Pack: Jayna Rosentreter Photography
Tips for buying a pre-owned wedding dress
- Try on several different styles at a local salon so you know what looks good on you.
- If possible, find a local seller at a consignment shop or online so you can try it on before purchase.
- Ask for the owner’s measurements—including height and weight—and whether the dress was altered. Take that into consideration in addition to the label size.
- Ask questions: How long ago was the wedding? How was the dress stored? Was it cleaned by a professional wedding dress dry cleaner? Is there any damage including stains? Was it altered? Do you have the original receipt or proof of purchase (especially with high-end designers to ensure legitimacy)?
- If you can’t find the dress you want in your size, buy at least one size up so there is room for tailoring. It’s easier to take in a dress than to find matching fabric to add.
- Make sure the site you buy from has a return policy in case the dress has been misrepresented and isn’t as promised.
- Ask to see photos of the label to guarantee it’s genuine and of the dress after the wedding.