Wedding Flashback: How to Buy a Wedding Dress

This post was originally published on February 4, 2009:

As a follow-up to the previous post about finding, buying, and selling a dress, I thought it would be helpful to explain the best way to get that dream dress at a fraction of the retail price.

Just some background: once I sold my first dress, I decided it was time to start looking again (I actually had started looking before the dress was sold, but I wasn’t going to be serious until I had the money in my pocket). I went to every single dress store in my area, trying on what must have been 20+ dresses. They were all very pretty, but none of them were The One.

Casablanca 1795 was an early front runner.

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As was Casablanca 1842 (but I didn’t like the tafeta material)casablanca-1842

This Paloma Blanca dress (#3608) was my favorite, but I didn’t like the price.img_4595

After looking for a while, I decided to visit my Maid of Honor and future sister-in-law and go dress shopping. And then we found it. It was sitting on a manequin, and we both oogled at it, but thought it would just be way out of our price range. I tried it on immediately, and I didn’t want to take it off. I had found my dress. But the price?

The tag said $998, and it made me cringe a little, because I only wanted to spend $700 on a dress. I went home and called a few other shops to do some price shopping. The lowest I found was $850. Not so great.

So I decided to be a little risky and call some online sellers. I was in luck. There were some places that sold it for $800, but others that sold it for $500! I was suspicious, so I went to the Better Business Bureau website, and did some investigating on them. They were legit businesses. Then I went to the Casablanca website and made sure they were legitamate sellers of the dress. They were. I was sold. I could have my $1000 dress for $500. I’ll take 50% off any day!

So here are my tips to saving big on dresses:

  • Go to every dress shop in your area (and some outside your local area as well) and just try dresses on! You’ll never know how a dress looks and feels on you until it’s actually ON you.
  • When the salespeople ask what your budget is, either tell them the price doesn’t matter or set the budget for way higher than your actual budget. I do have to warn, though…
  • Know your budget, even if you don’t tell the salespeople.
  • Take pictures of the dresses you try on. It’s important to be able to look back after a few days and see yourself in the dress. Does it look as good in pictures as it does in person? Remember your perspective of looking at yourself in the dress is different than if you take a picture and see the full effect.
  • Mark down all designer and model numbers.
  • Make sure when you’re in the shop, you mark down the color options of the fabric, lace, embroidery, etc. This is often the hardest part of dress shopping, and it really can make or break a dress. A diamond white dress often looks horrible on pale skin. What complements your skin tone?
  • Each designer calls their colors different things. An ivory to one designer might be an eggshell to another. What exactly does your designer call your color? Oh, and don’t be swayed by the name of the color. My dress color is champagne, but it is much lighter and closer to ivory than you would think.
  • Once you find The One, make sure to mark the designer and style number down.
  • Do a web search for the dress. See if anyone is selling it on Craigslist, Ebay, etc. What price is that?
  • Start calling bridal stores in the area for the best price.
  • Call online retailers to compare prices, such as Pearl’s Place, R. K. Bridal, Jay’s Bridal, Chrissy O, Scarlett’s Closet, Jay’s Bridal, Lee Philip Bridal, Netbride, Bride Power, Best Bridal Prices, etc.
  • It helps to make a chart as to who you talked to, the day, and the price quoted.
  • Once you decide where you’ll buy the dress, go to any seamstress and get measured. Usually, you only need to have your bust, waist, hip, and hollow-to-hem measurement. Hollow-to-hem is best described as your collar bone to the floor. Make sure you wear the shoes you will be wearing (or about the same- you need this for height).
  • Call the retailer you will order the dress from, get a size chart and figure out what size you’ll be.
  • Pay by credit card. You are more protected this way.
  • Wait until the dress arrives. Try it on to make sure it fits!
  • Love that dress, get fitted, get it pressed (you’ll probably save money by NOT going to a seamstress at a wedding dress shop), and wear it on your big day!
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Comments

  1. Oh yeah! Blog mention 🙂 I’m a celebrity. The thing is, taking pictures in a dress is sometimes not easy!! We almost got kicked out of that little shop for continuing to take pics against the sales lady’s wishes. Although… With flash less iPhones it would be much easier to sneak a covert pic or two.

    • Oh my gosh, I had completely forgotten about almost getting kicked out of that store! I have never understood that policy of “no pictures.” I’m sorry, but after only wearing a dress for 6+ hours on your wedding day, all that you will have left are pictures. A bride NEEDS to see what she looks like in the dress. And thank you, Kathleen, for being my best Maid of Honor and Covert Picture Taker!

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