So you’re thinking about buying a consignment wedding dress. Smart lady, you are. After all, many brides spend around 10 percent of their wedding budget on their big-day ensemble (yikes!), and going the pre-owned route is a fabulous way to save some dough. Here are some tips to help you get a steal without compromising the dress of your dreams.
The first thing to know about consignment wedding dresses is that they aren’t all pre-worn. Sometimes a bride just changes her mind about a dress, and sometimes a bridal boutique needs to offload excess rack samples to make room for new inventory.
As you start shopping, it’s important to manage your expectations. Like any good bargain, finding a consignment gown might take some hunting. “Come in with an open mind,” says Martha Gardin, one of the partners at Something New Borrowed & Blue. Consignment inventory is always rotating, and a store’s supply could look different week to week. “If you see it and you love it, you’ve got to be ready to move on it,” Gardin says.
Know the Pros and Cons
Here’s the good news: Consignment doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the designer label. In fact, some bridal consignment stores only take high-end labels, like LUXEredux Bridal, whose strict designer list includes Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Monique Lhuillier.
Consignment discounts range from 30 to 80 percent off, often with steeper discounts on lesser-known designers. Another perk is that consignment dresses are available for immediate purchase, whereas new dress orders can take four to six months to arrive.
Morgan Paul, manager of LUXEredux Bridal, says the most common sizes found at consignment stores are 8, 10, and 12. But if the dress was pre-worn, the previous owner likely had alterations to fit her body, which means a size 10 might fit more like a size 6.
Where and How to Shop
The least risky avenue is to shop in person at a boutique that specializes in consignment gowns. Shop owners can tell you the history of the dress (such as whether it’s pre-worn or a floor sample), and you can examine the dress for flaws.
As for haggling? Don’t expect a used car–style negotiation. “Consignors are the ones who price their dresses, so it’s not necessarily up to us,” Paul says. “A lot of brides don’t know that, and it’s a conversation we definitely have to have in most of our appointments.”
That said, some online consignment networks, like preownedweddingdresses.com, connect buyers with sellers directly to handle all negotiations and purchasing agreements. Other sites offer other perks, like nearlynewlywed.com, which vets the sellers to ensure dresses aren’t counterfeits.
Other words of the wise: Always ask for the dress measurements instead of going by the listed size, as alterations have likely changed the fit. Ask where the dress has been (Was it worn for a beach wedding? Has it been stored in a house with smoke or pets?) and make sure it was cleaned by a professional wedding dress cleaner, not just thecorner dry cleaner.
Also, if your retailer hasn’t already verified the authenticity of the designer label, ask the seller to provide a proof of purchase. And be sure to understand all return policies, as most consignment sellers consider all sales final.
Local Consignment Boutiques
LUXEredux Bridal, 203 W. Benson St., Reading, (513) 550-3531, luxereduxbridal.com
Something New Borrowed & Blue, 137 W. Benson St., Reading, (513) 821-1777, somethingnewborrowedblue.com
Chaz Bridal & Consignment, 7333 Montgomery Rd., Silverton, (513) 791-4868, chazbridal.com