Staying within your budget doesn’t have to mean forgoing your dreams of that gorgeous designer gown.  Specialty consignment stores offer the same personalized bridal salon experience but with wedding dresses discounted as much as 70% off their original couture price tag!  Yes, you read that right, and you can often find brand new, never worn dresses amongst the selection, too.  We called on Linda of Fabulous Frocks of Alexandria for a few tips for purchasing a consigned gown, and getting the most out of your bridal shopping experience. Take it away, Linda!


Photo Credit: Ica Images

As any bride-to-be knows, weddings can get very expensive very quickly. Between plated dinners, open bars, flowers, and everything else in between, costs add up and it can be difficult to decide where cuts can be made to the wedding budget. Increasingly – especially given the economic climate – savvy brides are cutting their bridal gown budget dramatically by purchasing a consigned bridal gown at anywhere from 30-70% off the original retail price. Many times, you can even find brand new, never worn gowns at a significant discount. Given the high cost of couture gowns, you could save thousands of dollars by going this route, while still getting the same personalized shopping experience as you would at a traditional bridal salon. Here are some tips for shopping for and purchasing a consigned gown!

Treat consignment bridal gown shopping the same way you would treat a Sample Sale

Just as you would at a sample sale at a typical bridal salon, you will be purchasing a gown off-the-rack, and holds aren’t an option. As such, you should go into consignment shopping with a well-formed idea of what you are looking for in a bridal gown, so that if you do find something you love, you will be ready to buy it on the spot (Same goes for purchasing a once-wed gown online – Personally, I say never purchase a gown online unless it is one you have already specifically tried on in person)

Be prepared mentally and financially to buy a gown on the spot

Again, just as you would at a sample sale, you need to know that you might have to make an on-the-spot decision on a gown – you don’t want to run the risk of another bride scooping up your dream gown at such a great price! Additionally, make sure to have funds ready to pay for the gown in full, since you will be taking it home with you – paying up front might hard to swallow at first, but just remember how much money you will be saving in the big picture!

Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to ask your consultant questions

Even if you aren’t custom ordering a brand new gown, a great seamstress can work wonders. So, if you fall in love with a gown, but aren’t crazy about the neckline (it’s straight across but you want a sweetheart…), or don’t love the applique (that giant flower on the side has GOT to go…), always ask your consultant what can be done. Chances are it can become your dream gown.

Be mindful of sizing

Traditionally – and don’t bother asking us why, we’re just as puzzled by it as you are – bridal gown sizing is one to two sizes smaller than street clothing. So, a standard sample size 10 bridal gown fits more like a street size 6 or 8, depending on the designer. When buying a gown off the rack, it’s important to be mindful of sizing. Generally, a gown can be safely taken in by as many as two dress sizes, but can only be taken out less than one size, if at all – again, always defer to your consultant.

If you’re tight on time, buy a consigned gown

Ordering a new bridal gown can take anywhere from 4 to 8 months, depending on the designer, specific style, and time of year.  Factor in alterations, and you are looking at another month or two on top of that. If you have six months or less till your wedding, buying a consignment gown may be your best bet to avoid the stress of wondering if your gown will get here in time, and any rush fees that may apply in order to do so. While sample sales are also great for brides in a time crunch, you will find a much wider range of sizes at a consignment shop. For instance, buying a gown at a sample sale isn’t usually an option for size 2 or size 12 brides-to-be…

All other bridal gown shopping rules still apply!

Don’t throw all those other bridal gown shopping rules out the window!

  • Don’t bring an entourage with you – too many opinions just confuse you – it’s YOUR day, not theirs.
  • Have a date, venue, and overall “feel” of your wedding picked out before shopping – that alone will help you and your consultant rule out a lot of gowns.
  • Bring photos with you – they only help your consultant help you.
  • Be sure to make an appointment – ALL bridal salons require or at least prefer appointments.


Thank you so much, Linda!  If purchasing a consigned wedding gown sounds like the perfect option for you, be sure to visit Fabulous Frocks of Alexandria’s website for more information on how to get started on your shopping experience.

If you are thinking about consigning your wedding dress, be sure to read Linda’s second post on how to consign your wedding dress.

Looking for more?  Visit our fashion inspiration gallery, or look for more bridal boutiques in DC, MD and VA.


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