Once, Twice, Three Times a Wedding Dress
Who said the perfect wedding dress has to be brand new?
As wedding costs rise, more brides are looking to cut costs and help the environment by finding pre-owned gowns online. Like eBay and Craigslist, sites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com allow sellers to post photos, descriptions and asking prices for their dresses, which potential buyers can view and then contact the seller if they’re interested.
Josie Daga, founder of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, started her site in 2004 with only a few dresses posted to the site. Susan Alexander Shapiro started BravoBride.com in 2008.
Buying a pre-owned dress makes sense, Daga says. The gowns are “barely used” and most are cleaned right after the ceremony. Recycling dresses also benefits the environment and doesn’t require a five- or six-month waiting period for the dress to arrive. Plus, they’re much cheaper.
“Some brides have their heart set on designer gowns that cost $5,000 to $6,000, and they can get it for $1,500 to $2,000,” Daga says. Twenty-five percent of the dresses on her site are under $500, and about a third cost between $500 and $1,000.
“It just makes sense to buy something that’s nearly new if you can and get a good deal on it,” Shapiro says.
Finding the Right Dress
The price may already be right, but to find a good fit, Daga suggests going to a bridal salon and trying on different sizes and styles of dresses to get a sense of what you’re looking for. “Sometimes you think you want a strapless or A-line dress, but you fall in love with something else,” Daga says.
You also can go to a local seamstress and get a professional measurement. Check out the sizing charts on the site, which usually list both street sizes and dress sizes. Shapiro suggests going for a dress that’s too big over a dress that’s too small to make alterations easier. She suggests a corset back, which is easy to adjust to find a better fit.
And be cautious, says Shapiro, before you settle on a product. Pre-owned dress sites allow sellers to post about 5 photos of the dress. Check out the photos carefully, and ask questions. “If there’s stock photos of a product online, ask to see the condition of it,” Shapiro adds. If the seller lists a stain, tear or another flaw with the dress, ask for an close-up photo.
Daga recommends researching the dresses you’re interested in and finding what the selling price was at retail. Negotiate to find a price that works for both of you.
Avoiding Phishing Scams
When you’re ready to make the transaction, use an independent protective payment site like PayPal, say Shapiro and Daga. “It protects the buyer from the item not being shipped or as described,” Daga says. “And the system verifies that money is received before the dress is shipped.”
Daga and Shapiro also have messaging systems in place to protect their users from spam. Shapiro monitors who’s sending messages back forth. If someone sends 50 messages to sellers, that’s a red flag that something’s up. Daga provides a form for buyers to fill out.
The key is just to be cautious, she says. If you have any doubts, talk to the seller on the phone to get more of a sense of her as a person. “Just pay attention. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”