My dress search started soon after I got engaged – I mean what girl doesn’t dream of what her wedding dress will look like someday?! I had a clear vision of what I wanted it to look like and I set out to find exactly that. Turns out trying to make a dress appear out of your dreams isn’t as easy as one would think and several wedding gown shopping trips later, I was still without a dress and I decided to turn my search to pre-owned wedding dresses.
WHERE I WAS IN THE SEARCH
A few months ago, I touched on my tips for shopping for a wedding dress. I’d been to a few bridal shops and felt fairly confident that I was going to find my dress quickly. I had even found a dress at BHLDN that I thought was the one, and then another that I loved even more than the first one. However, I realized that I kept making concessions with all these dresses just to try to feel as if I was “done.” One wasn’t full enough, but I thought with a big enough crinoline that it could be fine. Another was just a bit too simple. Nothing was quite right.
I wanted a simple, classic ballgown style, but I also wanted it to feel special. And that’s where I was coming up short. It seemed as though the more timeless the dress was, the less embellishment it had, the higher the price tag went. Before I knew it, I was just eight months out from my wedding with no dress in sight.
LOOKING AT SECONDHAND OPTIONS
Since the beginning of my search, I had occasionally perused some of the secondhand websites like Once Wed, Still White, and Nearly Newlywed. I didn’t know anyone personally that had gone the used route, but I read through pages of reviews on WeddingWire for each site and every positive review made me feel more and more confident that this is a road that many people have gone down before and very few had bad experiences (remember when you’re reading reviews and come across a scathing one – there are always going to be one or two people that wouldn’t have been happy regardless of what happened!).
I found review after review of people saying they found designer wedding dresses in near perfect condition at a fraction of the cost. Dresses for under $1,000 that retail for thousands more. Custom Vera Wang gowns for a song.
Nearly Newlywed quickly emerged as my favorite of the used sites when I realized they are the only website that isn’t final sale. You have 5 days to decide on your dress after it arrives. That means you have 5 days to try the dress on at home, show it to a few friends, and then, if you like it, take it to a tailor to see what exactly alterations will cost. That return policy gave me the safety net to look at dresses that might be a little outside of exactly what I thought I wanted because I knew it wasn’t a final decision.
HOW TO SIFT THROUGH USED DRESS WEBSITES
Most used dress websites have hundreds, if not thousands, of dresses listed. So, how are you supposed to sift through all those dresses without becoming totally overwhelmed? This isn’t like a boutique where you have an extremely curated selection and a bridal consultant to guide you through. You need to find a way to pare down the dresses on your own.
First, sort by price. I wanted to spend under $1,500, so there was no need to look at dresses above that price point considering how many options I would have within budget. I knew that I wanted a ballgown, but I also included a-line dresses in my search just in case someone’s definition of ballgown differed from mine. I also searched by designer knowing that there are a few I consistently love, like Rosa Clara.
ARE YOU GOING TO GET WHAT YOU EXPECT?
Well, I hope so, and according to all the reviews on WeddingWire that I read, yes, but this is why I loved Nearly Newlywed’s return policy. I knew that even if my dress was horribly different from what was advertised, I still had the option to return it. However, for all the reviews of these sites, I can’t recall seeing any that said the dress was absolutely not what they had ordered.
Most listings have pictures of the dress both on the seller and as it was shown through the designer, so you have a really good idea of what you’re getting and how it looks on a real person. Plus, many of the sellers list their measurements, so if you know yours, you’re golden. If there are any imperfections, the seller will include that in the description as well as a close up in the pictures. If you have more questions, just send it to the seller before you buy.
FINDING MY DREAM DRESS
I actually found my dress when I was searching through Nearly Newlywed late one night. Yup, I made an $1,100 purchase at midnight on a Tuesday. The dress had actually never been worn, which was amazing, but it had been altered – perfectly to my measurements. The only alterations I’ll have to make are possibly a hem, depending on the shoes I wear, and removing a monogrammed patch the previous owner had sewn into the dress.
The dress wasn’t exactly the one I had envisioned, but when I saw it, I knew something about the timeless style blended with a few special details seemed to fit the bill enough that it was worth at least trying. Then, the minute I put it on, it was just like they say it should be, it was clearly the dress.
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Photo of me browsing through dresses by the super talented and super fun Maya of Mojalvo.