buying a used wedding dress

lace gown

Today's women often put off marriage until after graduating from college and beginning a career.

Brides are no longer starry-eyed 18-year-olds, but women with life experience and a certain degree of maturity. They more often than not are paying for their own weddings. This demographic shift has led to another interesting trend, the rising popularity of pre-owned, or used, wedding gowns.

Owners of resale shops are reporting that the secondhand or pre-owned wedding dress market is up 50 to 70% in the last several years. Brides are no longer willing to part with $4,000 and up for a new dress, and more and more newly married women are electing to resell their dresses to recoup part of the cost. Business may be booming, but what should you look for in a used wedding dress?

measure

Take your measurements and keep them handy. A professional will measure your bust, waist, hips and sleeve length. Accurate measurements will help you choose the correct size. Visit several bridal stores and try on some dresses to get an idea of what size you wear in the different designers before you shop online or in consignment shops.

examine

Examine any stains, marks, tears and odors carefully. If the gown is not clean, beware! Many brides don't take the time to clean and check their gowns before donating or consigning them. If you have any doubts about whether a stain will come out, pass it up!

costs

Factor in other costs. Remember to add the cost of cleaning, alterations and shipping (if applicable) to your purchase. What may seem like a great deal may end up being almost as much as retail. Ask vendors in your area about the cost of dry cleaning and altering a wedding gown in advance, you may be surprised at the charges.

document

Ask for documentation. Many of the better consignment shops require receipts and documentation before accepting pre-owned, designer dresses for resale. Most ask for them to be cleaned, pressed and repaired before accepted for sale. Ask what your shop's requirements are. If your shop has tough requirements for gown sellers, you can feel more comfortable buying there.

return policy

Ask the reseller about their refund or return policy. Many online merchants sell "as is" and don't offer refunds. Resale shops may offer return policies but only for store credit. Some don't take returns at all. This could become a factor in your decision to buy on impulse. Find out what your options are if you have a change of heart.

The wedding dress of your dreams can be purchased much more affordably if you are willing to wear a gown that another happy bride has enjoyed. What a great way to maximize your wedding budget and share the love!

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today's tip

Most pre-owned wedding dresses have been altered to fit the previous owners. If possible, find out what was altered and tell your seamstress to determine if any alterations you need can be made.