Custom, Vintage, Used or New – How do you choose your wedding dress?

by jaime on May 28, 2012

Just a few decades back, our options for a great dress were quite limited – you either had a seamstress (or a talented family member) create one for you, or you dropped some hefty coin at a major store like Bloomingdale’s. And, while there are more options than these four, they are the biggest ones. Hopefully, this will help provide you with some insight into what’s out there, what you can spend (or rather, what you can save) and why you don’t need to settle on a maybe dress.

New: It’s simple – you go to a bridal shop (or department store), find the dress you want and whip out your credit card. Well, before you do? Keep in mind that the mark-ups on new dresses in bridal boutiques are EXTREMELY high. You have room to haggle a price – when I was shopping both here in Denver and in Ann Arbor, shop associates were more than willing to negotiate as much as 25% off the listed retail price. Just because that’s the number on the tag doesn’t mean it’s what you’ll pay when you walk out. Know your budget and be smart.

Vintage: Maybe it’s a family heirloom (like my grandmother’s dress below), something special you picked up at an antique store or snagged on eBay. Vintage dresses are a great find if they work for you, but keep in mind: we’re a bit larger than our historical counterparts these days. And, while you can find something lovely, it doesn’t mean it will suit your personal style (as was my issue with my grandmother’s gorgeous dress). If you need work done on the dress, keep in mind that there will be additional costs coming into play for alterations.

Custom: There’s a bit of a stigma with the term custom, because we automatically associate it with expensive. Custom can be a great option in many cases, but the two that stand out? Hard-to-fit figures and designer reproductions. Take a trip around Etsy for a while and look at the offerings. Make sure you’re able to see pictures (if you can’t in person!) of the ACTUAL dresses made by the seamstress. Ask what available changes can be made and how much they’d cost. And this is a big one – go to a professional to get yourself measured. The last thing you want to do is take inaccurate measurements and end up with a dress that is final sale (well, it’s made specifically for you, after all!) and doesn’t fit.

Used: I personally love this idea – the dress is only worn for one day, and if you can find a great price from another beautiful bride, both of you end up happy. The two biggest places to look for great used dresses? Consignment shops, like The Brides Project in Ann Arbor (where all dresses are donated and proceeds go to cancer survivors and their families), or at one of the many online direct resale sites. A few key things to keep in mind are cost, alteration needs (and what’s already been done!) and selection – you may not find the original dress you were looking for, but the selection constantly changes!


How is your dress search going – and, if you’ve already found your perfect gown, where did you get it?



Sonya May 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I am having a really small wedding, so the only thing I have focused on so far is my dress. I had not seen anything that I *LOVED*, as I had been checking the used dress websites and was feeling like just picking any old sheath/column non-frilly dress until I saw a colored one on a blog. The one I loved was over $10k, nowhere near my budget and especially not for a small family wedding, however, I am having a dressmaker make something custom for me in slight different colors, colors that I like and with different sleeves, neckline, etc, so that it is “me”. I have only showed my dress inspiration to my two closest friends and they agree that is suits me perfectly and is lovely. So, I am happy with my custom dress-in-the-making and even more excited that it will be my first-ever piece of custom clothing.

jaime June 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

I cannot wait to see what your dress looks like, Sonya! Sounds like the custom route was right for you – thanks for sharing!

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