18 April 2024

Considering buying a pre-loved wedding dress? Here’s what you need to know

18 April 2024

As the saying goes: brides need something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Of course, it’s 2024 – you can wear whatever you like! But, who’s to say that ‘something old‘ can’t be your wedding dress?

As well as being a sustainable option, a pre-loved or second-hand bridal outfit could potentially save you some serious cash. It might be a style-led decision, too, especially if you’d love to wear something vintage.

“Pre-loved options are much cheaper and come at a wide variety of price points. Furthermore, brides-to-be can choose from designs/styles and materials spanning decades that are sustainable and timeless,” says Anita Lo, owner of Clara’s Box (clarasbox.com, website coming soon), which sells vintage clothing and accessories. Lo also has an Etsy store.

“For example, silk dresses with long skirt tails and veils were fashionable in the early 20th century. They are one-of-a-kind and unique. There is also a symbolic aspect to this – the happy couple will survive the test of time, just like the pre-loved wedding dress.”

Where should you look?

There are lots of places you could try. First off, have a look and see if any local shops in your area stock pre-loved wedding dresses.

If you’re particularly looking for a bargain, sites like eBay may be worth a look, as well as charity shops like Oxfam, which has six well-stocked bridal boutiques across the country, as well as some dresses online.

There are also various websites where brides can sell on their worn outfits, such as Stillwhite.com, Sellmyweddingdress.co.uk and Bride2bride.co.uk.

If it’s something designer you’re after, The Loop has a curated selection of gorgeous pre-loved gowns, while Etsy can be great for vintage treasures.

Size up your options

However, there are some important things to consider before buying a pre-loved wedding dress – including factoring in potential added costs for cleaning and alterations. Return policies can be different when you’re buying second-hand too, so you’ll want to think carefully before parting with your money.

Of course, buying from a shop means you can try things on. This may get trickier if you’re buying online.

If buying direct from a seller who previously wore the dress, you’ll usually be able to see photos of them wearing it and ask questions about the fit and sizing. And you never know – you might come across something that’s already a perfect fit.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that bridal dress sizing often tends to come up smaller than for regular clothes – and even more so if shopping vintage. Not only are there costs to consider here, there’s also the question of whether the alterations you’d want would be doable.

“Make sure you have accurate measurements for bust, waist, hip, and height. Vintage dresses come smaller in sizes in comparison to modern clothing,” says Lo. “Wedding dresses might also have been altered to complement the previous owner. If the bride is unsure about the desired style of dress, it could be easier to sieve down the options by material or era.

“The required alterations would depend on the original structure and material of the dress, the buyer’s measurements, and personal taste,” she adds. “If the dress’ length or sleeves need to be shortened, this can be done relatively easily by hand or using the sewing machine, although it takes time. I’d recommend hiring a professional seamstress for repairs and more challenging alterations.”

Will the dress need cleaning?

Depending on where you are buying from, a pre-loved dress might need to be cleaned or given a refresh. Some sellers might have already taken care of this. But make sure you have a good idea of what condition the dress is in, so you can factor in any additional costs – and not get any nasty surprises when it arrives.

Different fabrics and designs – as well as the nature of the clean required – will determine the method required.

Lamprini Fameli, product expert at Philips, says: “Preloved shopping is one of the most beloved trends ruling the fashion industry right now, so it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see second-hand wedding dresses rise in popularity.

“An easy, affordable and effective way to spruce up your second-hand wedding dress is a handheld steamer [Philips has a 3000 Series Handheld Steamer for £37.99]. They can swiftly remove stubborn creases, providing a much-needed refresh ahead of the big day.

“It’s hygienic too, killing 99.9% of the potential bacteria lurking on your second-hand purchase,” Fameli adds. “But you have to remember not all materials are suited to this type of touch-up.

“If you’re going to treat a dress to a steam, stick to fabrics like silk, tulle, organza and chiffon. These lightweight fabrics will be able to withstand the heat, and a quick steam will give them all a refreshed, airy quality.

“If your dress is made up with lace, velvet, satin or any type of beading, you’re best to avoid using a handheld steamer, as these fabrics can be liable to warp in shape, texture and colour if exposed to direct steam,” advises Fameli.

Lo agrees it’s important to get this step absolutely right. Consult with the experts if you’re unsure.

“More delicate materials and older wedding dresses need to be hand-washed or dry-cleaned, this can be time consuming and costly,” says Lo. “Modern dresses are easy to wash, either dry-clean or use the washing machine [always check the care instructions].”

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