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Frugality may not be synonymous with a brand new designer gown but it is synonymous with vintage appeal and one-of-a-kind styles. It’s possible to save money with a used wedding dress while still curating a stunning, memorable bridal look for the day you say, “I do.” Here’s how:

Pay Attention to Fabric

Before you start shopping, it’s important to know a bit more about popular wedding dress fabrics. Some are more expensive than others – think silk vs. tulle – and others are more durable over time or easier to work with when it comes to alterations.

Chiffon

Bohemian, lightweight, and ethereal, chiffon gowns have so much romance wrapped up in the flowy fabric. One layer will be far too sheer, so you’ll find chiffon dresses or skirts made up of lots of layers. The downside is that its delicate nature makes it tough to work with as pulls and tears may frequent.

Lace

There are so many different kinds of lace from Venetian to Chantilly. These patterned bits are some of the most beautiful but it’s important to check every part of a lace dress that’s been worn before to look for tears or other imperfections. Fortunately, it’s easier to hide imperfection here with the hustle and bustle of the unique texture it provides.

Tulle

We all know what tulle looks like as it’s the quintessential bridal fabric. The sheer netting that rounds out the ball gowns, some made of natural or manmade material. The quality here can vary depending on the designer. Softer tulles are what you want to look for.

Charmeuse

Think chic, sexy lingerie. You’ll see a lot of the simplest sheath gowns made out of this lighter-than-silk fabric. It’s also one of the most delicate as it shows off every curve and is a bit trickier to work with or hide imperfection. If you’re falling in love with a pre-owned dress made of this fabric, it’s imperative that you check every corner for pulls or defects.

Satin

Satin isn’t exactly a fabric, instead, it’s a finish. The actual fiber underneath the shine could be anything from polyester to pure silk. It’s also one of the most durable and versatile fabrics of the bridal bunch as well as one of the most popular.  

Taffeta

One of the most underrated fabrics, but also one of the most durable, it’s made of fine silk. It has a heavier presence and some of the most glorious ball gowns have been made out of it – as in Princess Diana’s wedding gown.

Mikado

A personal favorite, this is one of the heaviest fabrics and perfect for winter weddings – and so durable although without too much wiggle room after it’s been fitted to a body.

It’s All in The Details

Exercising caution when shopping these designs is key. Some gowns will have intricate beadwork or lace appliques that need to be taken special care of. While shopping and considering pre-owned designs, a lot of beadwork may need a lot of extra work done by alterations. A lot of lace appliques may make the price of getting it professionally cleaned a bit higher.

Zippers, sashes, belts, and more, the accessories need to be given extra attention too as well. All of these pieces complete the entire ensemble and you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Ask for extra photos. And call professional cleaners and alterations to get estimates. These pros consider fabrics and detailing when they fix up and clean up gowns.

Dealing with Imperfections and Defects

Realizing that defects are a part of the used wedding dress shopping experience is something that needs to be swallowed before it even begins. It’s rare to find a dress, at least one with details, that’s in absolute mint condition.

So, knowing that something may be slightly imperfect beforehand will be better for your journey in the long run. With that being said, just like picking a partner – finding someone who’s imperfections you can live with forever – the same goes with the dress.

A lot of defects can be fixed or taken out in alterations, remember that when shopping so as not to overlook great potential finds. Here are some tips to get you through:

  • Look at photos of the actual dress and not one from the designer’s spread. Ask for multiple angles and photos of the seams.
  • Ask for a cleaning history of the dress and any issues past brides have had.
  • If you can look at it in person, take the opportunity to do so. To feel it, to try it on, and to check the stitching is crucial. And if there is beadwork, you’ll get the view you need to see if any accents are in wearable or fixable condition.

The Future of the Design

Another consideration to take time on is asking yourself what you’ll do with the design after you’ve worn it.

  • Do you plan on keeping it as an heirloom like you would a family piece or new designer buy?
  • Or could you get maximized value out of the find by being able to turn it into a brand new look for an important event in the future?

Basically, what can you do with this in the long term? Is it worth it?

Quick Tips

We’ve gushed about how smart and on trend it is to buy a used wedding dress before, and these are a few quick tips for wedding dress shopping for a gown with history:

  • Go with a larger size. This is normal when buying a new wedding dress and still a good idea when going with a pre-owned design. You’ll need it custom-fitted to your body so when there’s more fabric to work with… the better your results will be and the more options you’ll have.
  • Find a reputable cleaner. Do your research and find a business that will take care of your new gown. These services, when right, can make a dress look brand new again and do minor repairs.
  • Look at reviews. Sites without a good reputation, or brick and mortar locations, won’t be where you’ll find the right kind of deal.
  • Ask for a photo. If there isn’t a photo of someone wearing the dress you’re buying (and not the model from the designer’s spread), ask for one. It’s so much better to see the piece in action, trust us.
  • Use a payment service you can trust, like Escrow.com
  • Check storage and air conditions. Know if the wedding gown has been kept in a smoke-free environment and whether it’s been worn indoors or outdoors previously.

If you’re keen on smartly shopping for your wedding day ensemble, then saving money in the dress department may be a nook that you want to nip at some of the bottom-line.

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that was perfect

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