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From the invitations to the decor, the movement toward environmentally conscious nuptials is gaining momentum nationwide. Pinterest’s investigation into sustainable wedding trends during 2022 showed a two-fold increase in searches for eco-friendly wedding ideas while thrifted wedding searches tripled. For sustainably-minded brides-to-be, one of the easiest ways to green your wedding is to wear a second-hand wedding dress.
We’ve assembled this guide to help you find the gently worn dress of your dreams, all while reducing waste and saving money. Use these tips to shop mindfully, and perhaps find a new home for your gown after your wedding celebration.
Tips for Buying a Used Wedding Dress
Shopping second-hand is a treasure hunt, and you are searching for the perfect dress among a sea of used gowns. The more you know about what you want, the easier it is to find your dream dress among the thousands of options.
Do Your Research
Without a bridal consultant to guide you through the process, you will need to devise a plan to find your perfect used wedding dress. Start by familiarizing yourself with the bridal gowns out there. Look online or thumb through magazines, taking note of styles, materials, and themes that speak to you. This research will give you a vocabulary to use as search terms in your second-hand hunt.
While looking at what you’re aesthetically interested in, you can also get a sense of the market for dresses. With this knowledge, you can avoid price gouging and make sure you get a fair deal.
Narrow Your Search to a Few Designers
There are dozens of wedding dress designers to choose from, each with a distinct style. Once you’ve found a few that tickle your fancy, you can restrict your searches to those designers only. Another benefit of knowing particular designers is that you can visit an in-person store to try on each designer to get a clear idea of the size you’ll be looking for.
Budget for an Alteration
Even if you buy a new wedding dress, almost all bridal gowns are altered from their off-the-rack appearance, so you’ll need to include that service in your total costs. Second-hand dresses should have been appropriately laundered, but if you want to clean your dress before your big day, plan on adding that to your budget, too.
Buy a Size Up Rather Than a Size Down
You can always take out material, but you can’t generally add it back in. Opting for a dress bigger than your measurements allows you room to make alterations guaranteed to make you look and feel fabulous.
Verify the Authentication and Return Policies
Before you buy, make sure you understand the rules of the site or shop about returning your dress as well as guarantees of authenticity. If a seller requests payment in a form other than the listed method, be cautious.
Video Chat With the Current Owner
What’s better than photos? A video call to see the dress you’re interested in buying online. Many sites allow you to be in direct communication with the seller, giving you an opportunity to ask questions, look at particular details, and feel secure in your purchase.
Where to Buy a Second-Hand Wedding Dress
As more consumers embrace the circular economy, more wedding dresses find their way into second-hand circulation. No matter your budget, size, or style, there’s a lovingly worn-once dress waiting for a second life at your wedding.
Preowned Wedding Dresses
With nearly 170,000 dresses from around the world, Preowned Wedding Dresses hosts an array of styles, prices, and designers. Negotiate price directly with sellers and feel securing using the company’s online payment method, which offers purchase protection.
Still White offers new, sample, used, and preowned wedding dresses from a wide variety of international designers at accessible prices. Payments are securely processed through PayPal. Still White also donates 1% its revenue to carbon removal.
Over three million users every year visit Once Wed to scroll through their diverse offering of second-hand wedding dresses, bridal party dresses, and wedding accessories. The site connects buyers and sellers and uses PayPal for payment processing.
With new and pre-owned dresses, Bravo Bride makes shopping for all things wedding easy. Find your shoes, accessories, and other wedding accoutrement in one online marketplace. At Bravo Bride, buyers and sellers confirm all details and payment.
Featuring dresses from size 00 to 20 and as low as $100, Borrowing Magnolia offers new, sample, and lightly used wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and accessories. The site provides secure payment options to protect both buyers and sellers.
Offering risk-free, five-day returns, Nearly Newlywed sells sample, pre-owned, and new dresses. Search by style, designer, size, and more. For an extra fee, you can receive photos and videos of your specific gown.
Local Second-Hand and Consignment Shops
For those who need to see and feel a gown before committing to it, shopping at nearby resale shops might be the best and most enjoyable approach to wedding dress shopping. Dresses can range from inexpensive (under $100) to designer (over $4,000)
Facebook Marketplace, Tradesy, Poshmark, eBay, and others let customers connect in a more informal manner. If you’re for looking for “a” dress instead of “the” dress, these low-key, economical social share sites may be the choice for you.
A Primer on Bridal Fabrics
You don’t have to be a trend queen or a textile expert to find the perfect wedding dress fabric for you. The style and silhouette of your dress will greatly influence the types of fabrics available to you. Thankfully, brides have a plethora of choices in fabrics made from a variety of materials.
Other considerations in fabric choice might surround weather or rules of etiquette. Whatever fabric you’re looking for, you can find it in a second-hand dress by familiarizing yourself with some wedding fabric basics.
One of the most traditional wedding fabrics, silk is durable, soft, non-vegan material made from made the cocoons of domestic silkmoths. With its light sheen and light feel, silk is the fabric of choice for both draping and light structure.
Crepe, also spelled crape and crêpe, sports a singular, crinkled look. This middle-weight fabric provides excellent drape and flow and is made from non-vegan wool, silk, and synthetic sources. The crispness of the crepe provides light structure and texture to a dress.
Charmeuse has two distinct sides – one glossy, one dull – and is a favorite fabric for narrow-fit dresses because of its superb draping ability. Although traditionally made from silk, charmeuse now comes in synthetics. This heavier-weight fabric is ideal for cooler weather.
Lightweight and comfortable, chiffon drapes beautifully, especially in A-line dresses. This sheer, gauzy fabric is typically made from synthetic materials, cotton, or non-vegan silk and is popular in bridal skirts.
A delicate, open-design fabric dating back to the 15th century, lace is a popular material for bridal bodices, skirts, trains, and veils. Lace today comes in a variety of fabrics, including cotton, synthetics, linen, and silk.
A low-density shiny, sheer fabric that can be made from silk or synthetic materials, organza can add structure and flow to a dress, thanks to its strong yet diaphanous build. In layers, organza can provides fullness, and it can be shaped into waves or sewn into barely-there sleeves.
The weave of satin creates a smooth, lustrous side and a more textured, matte side. This classic wedding dress material comes in various weights, structures, and textures and works in all seasons. Satin can be made from silk or synthetic materials.
Another colder weather fabric, velvet is soft, thick, and luxurious. Because of its thickness, velvet is a favorite in vintage and royal styles of wedding gowns. Originally made from silk, velvet is now also made from non-vegan wool, linen, synthetic materials, and cotton.
Available in a host of colors and styles, taffeta is a supple yet structured all-weather fabric made from silk or synthetic materials. A high-quality, stiff taffeta is perfect for a ballgown or A-line dress.
The fabric of ballet tutus, tulle is a stiff, open-weave, sheer fabric that can add structure and volume to a dress. Tulle often appears in the lining of dresses or as veils. This inexpensive material is most commonly made from polyester but can be woven with silk and nylon.
Tips for Selling Your Wedding Dress
After your wedding day, you might want to re-home your gown. Here are the tricks you need to have a seamless selling experience.
As with any fashion item, trends in wedding dresses change, and the newer the dress, the more market demand usually exists. Wedding dresses can resell for around half of their retail value, and the older the dress, the lower the return.
Have Your Dress Cleaned
Brides-to-be expect second-hand dresses to have been professionally cleaned before they go to their new owner. Save yourself any hassle by putting your dress into tip top condition before listing it.
Find the Right Reseller for You
As with purchasing second-hand, you can get the most bang for your buck by doing a bit of research. Each resale site offers different listing fees ranging from around $10 to $25, sometimes in addition to a selling commission, and some sites might work better for you and, most importantly, your dress. Knowing where your dress fits into the ecosystem of a particular online seller is key to maximizing your profit.
Take Good Photos for Your Online Listing
Brightly lit, visually appealing photos makes your dress more attractive to potential buyers. Like anything online, it’s all in the presentation. The more detail you can provide, the easier it is for future brides to find your dress.
Find a Consignment Store Near You
If the idea of having to style your own photo shoot sounds like additional wedding planning, you could instead resell your dress on consignment. Local resale shops are often looking for white dresses that can be used for weddings and other occasions requiring that pristine color. Like online wedding dress resale, you won’t see your money until the dress has been rehomed.
Donate Instead of Selling
A trip to the closest thrift store might be the easiest option to find your gown’s second life, and many organizations could benefit from a dress donation. Support early detection education by donating your dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer, give a girl a prom dress with Cinderella’s Closet and Operation Prom, or support women-centered causes by giving to Boutique Bridal by New Name and Brides for a Cause. Alternatively, your dress could provide solace to a grieving family as a burial gown for infants through Baby Gowns for Eternity or Angel Gowns.