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preowned wedding dresses

More brides today are walking down the aisle in a dress that’s already “been there and done that”. Preowned wedding dresses aren’t a new concept. Before the Internet, brides on tight budgets scoured consignment shops for the perfect dress, or wore a gown passed down from their mother or grandmother. Today, specialized boutiques and online shops make it easier than ever to purchase used wedding dresses. But why would a bride want a used dress? And how can you shop safely for a used dress?

The Advantages of Buying a Preowned Wedding Dress

Your wedding day is the biggest day of your life. Why on earth would you want to buy a preowned dress? There are many advantages to buying a used dress, including:

  • Price: Used dresses are more affordable. In fact, some cost half what a new dress would cost. If you’re looking to cut back on your wedding budget, your dress is a great place to start.

  • Big selection: You’ll find preowned dresses in all colors, styles and sizes. You may even find used designer gowns at significantly lower prices.

  • Alterations: Used gowns are just as easy to alter as a new dress.

  • Vintage and retro styles: New dresses are a reflection of modern trends. But you’ll find vintage and retro styles when shopping for used dresses.

  • Environmentally-friendly: Let’s face it – most brides only wear their wedding dress once. Why spend so much on a new gown that’s only going to hang in your closet? Buying a used dress is the ultimate in wedding recycling.

With so many benefits, why wouldn’t you buy a used dress?

The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Used Dress

Buying a used dress isn’t like buying a new wedding dress. Unless you have a local shop that sells preowned gowns, you probably won’t be visiting a local boutique and arranging for fittings. If you’re like most brides, you’ll be shopping for your dress online. And that’s where things can get a bit tricky. Don’t worry – I’ll walk you through the whole process, so you can find the dress of your dreams for your big day.

Set a Budget and Stick to It

Before you even start looking at dresses, sit down and create a budget. If you’ve already created a budget for your wedding, you might have an idea of how much you can spend. If not, it’s time to create one. It’s easy to overspend on a wedding dress. After all, you only get married once. So, creating a budget will keep you on the right track.

Buying a preowned gown will save you a lot of money, but they can still be pricey – especially if you’re looking at designer dresses. Sure, you can snag a used Vera Wang dress, but it will still cost you a couple thousand dollars. Be realistic and set a budget that you can stick to.

Consider Styles that Flatter Your Body Type

Now that you have a budget, it’s time to start thinking about dress styles. With so many styles to choose from, how could you possibly know which one is right for you? The answer is simple: choose a style that flatters your body type.

There are four main body types, and each one has a set of flattering silhouettes.

  • Hourglass: Shoulders and hips are similar in size, and waist is well-defined.

  • Pear: Curvy with fuller hips and thighs. If you carry most of your weight in your lower body, you’re pear shaped.

  • Rectangle: Shoulders, waist and hips are all similar in size.

  • Inverted Triangle: Shoulders are broader than your hips and waist.

Which silhouettes pair well with each body type? Let’s take a look.


Women with an hourglass shape have a distinct advantage over other body types: they can choose just about any silhouette they want. The hourglass is complemented by most styles, including mermaid, sheath and ball gown silhouettes.


The pear shape is curvy with full hips and thighs. A-line, empire and ball gown dresses complement this shape well.

  • Ball gowns have a natural waist that flatters your upper body and draws the attention away from the hips and thighs.

  • A-line dresses have a fitted bodice and a skirt that draws away from the lower body. Like the ball gown, this flatters your slim upper body and flatters your curvy hips and thighs.

  • Empire gowns have high waists, which draw attention to the upper body. The gown’s flowing skirt creates a beautiful line that compliments your curves.


If you’re rectangle shaped, your shoulders, hips and waist are all approximately the same size. The goal here is to choose a style that adds some curves to your figure. The three best silhouettes for the rectangle body shape are:

  • A-line: These gowns create an hourglass shape by nipping in the waist and flowing outward gracefully.

  • Empire: With a high waist, empire gowns are form-fitting in all the right places. The long flowing skirt adds height and hides your hips.

  • Sheath: Sheath gowns are hard to pull off, but women with a rectangular shape wear this silhouette well. With soft, flowing fabric, a bias cut sheath gown will add curves where you need them most.

Inverted Triangle

If your shoulders are broader than your hips and waist, you want to look for dresses that balance your broad shoulders. There are three silhouettes that can help you achieve this:

  • Short: Most brides shy away from short gowns, but if you have an inverted triangle shape, this style is a great option. It balances out your broad shoulders by drawing attention to your legs.

  • Ball gowns: The full skirt of a ball gown helps balance the shoulders, while the fitted bodice accents your slim waist.

  • Mermaid: With a slim bodice and flared skirt, mermaid dresses complement women with an inverted triangle shape.

Knowing which style will flatter your body shape will help you narrow down your choices and find the perfect dress with ease.

Classic, or Trendy Styles?

You know how much you can spend, and you know which silhouette will work with your body type. Now you have to consider another important question: do you want a trendy dress, or a gown that will withstand the test of time?

Trendy gowns are in-fashion right now, but what about two decades from now? Will you look back on your wedding pictures and cringe at your dress? On the other hand, a classic dress may not make the statement you want.

Another thing to consider is the color of your dress. Do you want a classic white dress, or do you want to make a statement in a color dress, like red, pale blue or gray?

The bottom line: decide whether you want a classic or trendy dress, and decide on a color.

Quality is Crucial

It’s your wedding day. You don’t want to settle for anything less than perfection when it comes to your wedding dress. Quality is important regardless of whether you’re buying a new or used dress, but it becomes even more crucial when buying a preowned gown. Why? Because a lot can happen between alterations and the day after the wedding, including:

  • Stains

  • Rips or tears

Improper alterations can also compromise the quality of the gown.

Unless you’re working with a local preowned bridal boutique, you’ll likely be buying your dress online. This means you’ll have to rely on the photos and descriptions given by the owner to decide if this is the right dress for you. It’s hard to know if a dress is well made if you can’t see it in person or touch it.

One thing you can do is look for dresses from designers that are well-known for producing quality gowns. You don’t have to jump straight for high-end designers, but it’s worth your time to research the brand and learn more about the quality of their workmanship.

The next step on our list can also help you find a quality dress.

Try Before You Buy

Found a style you love, but aren’t sure if you should take the plunge and buy it? If you’re shopping online, you can still try before you buy.

Write down the name of the dress and the designer, and get in touch with local boutiques to see if any have the dress in stock. If they do, you might arrange for a fitting to see how the dress looks and feels. If the dress is out of season, you might find a similar one and try it on in person to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Some brides actually start with this step. They’ll arrange for a consultation at a local bridal boutique and find the perfect dress. Afterwards, they’ll purchase a preowned version of the dress online.

Choose a Reliable Preowned Retailer

If you’re buying the dress in person, be sure to find out if the store has a return policy and if they can arrange for alterations. A reputable store will make their terms of sale clear. Most should be able to take care of alterations as well.

If you’re shopping online, make sure that you take the time to find a retailer that’s trustworthy. Many sites that sell preowned wedding dresses are simply listing services, or an eBay for wedding dresses. Some have clear return policies, while others do not. Take all the steps you can to protect yourself as a consumer by finding out about return policies and making the purchase through a service like that allows for a return period.

Best Places to Buy Preowned Wedding Dresses Online

Here are 5 reliable websites to shop from when you’re looking for a wedding dress that will be perfect for you, your wedding and your budget:

Site Launch: April 2011

Type: Online bridal boutique

Recommended Payment Methods: They accept all major credit cards as well as Paypal. All payments are processed by their company.

Shipping: Buyer pays $25 per item for US shipments and $25 per return. International shipping costs may vary.

Return Policy: Risk-free 5 day return policy for items shipped within the US. International purchases may also be returned at the shipping expense of the customer.

Buyer FAQ:

I had the opportunity to get in touch with Nearly Newlywed CEO & Founder Jacqueline Courtney. When I asked her what features does their website have that can help make a safer buying experience for shoppers. Here’s what she had to say:

Every dress that we sell is authenticated by our in-house team before it is shipped to a buyer, so we guarantee condition, authenticity and safety. We also process all payments so payments are secure, and offer a risk-free return policy, so if the dress just isn’t ‘the one’ the bride can return it for a full refund less shipping.

Site Launch: February 2004

Type: Listing service

Recommended Payment Methods: Paypal and Escrow

Shipping: Seller decides who will pay for the shipping cost

Return Policy: Seller and buyer negotiate terms

Buyer FAQ:

Josie Daga, CEO & Founder of, shared how important buyer safety is for them: recommends Paypal and for all wedding dress transactions. Both of these methods are extremely safe and will fully protect a buyer should an item not be shipped, or if it arrives and isn’t exactly as described. We also provide information on how to spot scams, and, upon request, our customer service team will review any correspondence to help a buyer determine authenticity.

She also gave a valuable tip:

The best safety tip we can offer buyers is to only use a protected payment service. This way, there will never be any doubt that she’ll be fully protected. And the only thing she’ll have to worry about is planning her Big Day.

Site Launch: March 2008

Type: Listing service

Recommended Payment Methods: Escrow

Shipping: Seller and buyer negotiate terms

Return Policy: Seller and buyer negotiate terms

Buyer FAQ:

Site Launch: October 2012

Type: Listing service

Recommended Payment Methods: Paypal and Escrow

Shipping: Seller pays shipping

Return Policy: Seller and buyer negotiate terms

Buyer FAQ: / / / / / ca

Site Launch: 2010

Type: Listing service

Recommended Payment Methods: Paypal and Escrow

Shipping: Buyer pays shipping

Return Policy: Seller and buyer negotiate terms

Buyer FAQ:


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