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The NEW way brides are buying wedding dresses

If we said ‘pre-loved dress’, what pops into your head? For us, it’s hand-me-downs from older sisters and cousins. But for some brides, a pre-loved frock is also what they’ll wear on their big day. 
And it’s a trend that’s catching on. Picking up a second-hand dress isn’t just for fancy dress costumes or for those with a weakness for a serious bargain; it’s a practical, budget-friendly option to snag a wedding dress that comes with a designer label, not the designer price tag. Whether it’s from an op-shop, high-end consignment store or even repurposing your mum’s old frock, a pre-loved wedding dress can be just as special as a dress that’s made to measure – you just need to banish any misapprehensions you have about wearing something second-hand or ‘used’. To squash those myths once and for all, we’re dishing on how you can find a pre-loved dress on your wedding day – including tips from a bonafide expert on all things pre-loved, Mandy from Savvy Brides in Sydney, and three brides who all wore second-hand frocks on their big day. 

The second-hand stigma

Let’s be honest, there are certain misconceptions about buying a second-hand wedding gown: the dress is cheaply made, has a poor fit and comes in a style considered a fashion faux-pas. But that simply isn’t true. “I think there was a stigma about buying second-hand because people thought it wouldn’t be as special as buying your own, new dress,” says Mandy. “This is changing as it’s becoming more mainstream and people are realising they can find the most amazing dress, from their dream designer that they never otherwise would have been able to afford.” Once upon a time, buying a second-hand dress would have been done online or by visiting a private seller’s home. Now, with more and more boutiques popping up, these pre-loved stores can give brides the same experience as a store that offers off-the-rack and made-to-measure dresses, from the one-on-one appointment with the consultant to sipping on a glass of bubbly to celebrate finding ‘the one’.
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The buying benefits

You’ve probably already guessed, but purchasing a pre-loved wedding dress can be your ticket to saving some serious dollars. Just ask Laura Timberlake, a bride who found her dress in a Melbourne op shop. “I bought my dress for $200 from Vinnies in Malvern,” she says. “I chose to shop for a second-hand wedding dress because I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a dress that would be worn for one day. I thought the money would be better used put towards something else on our wedding day.” Laura’s now-husband, Beau, went for a second-hand suit too, snagging a vintage Louis Vuitton set from the same store. 

And let’s not forget that buying pre-loved means you have the chance to get your mitts on a dress from both home-grown and international designers – think gowns from Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier, Steven Khalil, Gwendolynne and even Vera Wang. “We are constantly getting in amazing new gowns. Every week our stock changes as we sell some of our gowns and get new ones in," says Mandy from Savvy Brides. Put simply, your wedding style cred will go up a level. If that wasn’t enough to convert you, buying pre-loved means you’ll know exactly how the dress looks on you. “So many brides find it really hard to visualise how a dress will look in their size,” Mandy explains. “When buying a pre-loved gown, the dress you fall in love with is the one you take home, so there are no surprises.” 

Pre-loved done differently

For a different take on a second-hand ensemble, consider upcycling an old dress – that’s what Cherie Pasion did. “I wore my mother’s 40-year-old Jackie O-style dress,” Cherie explains about her 2010 dress. “By choosing my mother’s dress, I was able to link our two generations together and she was delighted that her dress was able to be worn again.” Cherie worked with a designer to keep the bones of the original dress, but add her own touch. “The designer unpicked lace and pearls on the original dress and sewed them into the design, ensuring all elements of the original dress stayed true.” Another cute option is to collect old dresses, and pull bits and pieces from each to make your final gown; sleeves from one, the buttons from another and the embellishments from anything you like.
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Ready, set, shop...

Just like shopping for a new wedding dress comes with some guidelines, so too does looking for a pre-loved dress – and the rules aren’t that different. Mandy spills her top five tips for finding your perfect dress…

  • Have an idea in mind about the type of dress you're looking for, but be sure to keep an open mind for your appointment. You might be surprised by what you love.
  • If you love a dress, make sure you check it over thoroughly for any marks, pulls or imperfections. Not all marks can be removed by dry-cleaning, so it's always a good idea to try and find a dress that's already been dry-cleaned.
  • Check the length of the dress, because this is the one thing that absolutely cannot be altered. Make sure the dress is long enough to suit the heels you want to wear on your big day.
  • Do your research so you know you're getting a great deal. Know exactly how much the gown would be if you bought it new to ensure you're getting a decent saving.
  • Do not compromise! Just because it's pre-loved and a great price doesn't mean you shouldn't love it. It's your big day and it's special, so the gown you choose should be 'the one', not just the one that fits your budget. 
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