Miss Mink Starts the Wedding-Gown Search (and a Discussion of Buying “Preowned”)

Did you ever buy wedding magazines before you were engaged?  Once in a while, I bought them on business trips, devoured them, and then got rid of them before coming home.  I don’t know why I felt like I wasn’t allowed to look at them if I didn’t have a ring on my left hand.  The one time I brought a particularly wonderful issue of Martha Stewart Weddings home from a trip, I stashed it in a hiding place.  I forgot about said hiding place until Mr. Mink was helping me flip my mattress.  Oops.  He had a good laugh about my illicit magazine.

Aside from looking at magazines, my favorite source for wedding gown inspiration when I started my dress search was an unconventional one: New York Magazine.


Screen shot of Amsale’s Spring 2010 runway show / Image from nymag.com

You see, while plenty of wedding websites have gown search engines, few group gowns by collection while also having large images of dresses from multiple angles.

Sure, the wedding websites have thousands of pictures, but after using one of the “grande dame” of wedding websites, I wasn’t impressed with the results. Their catalog of images was at least one season out of date for most major designers, the images were tiny, and the information provided was limited.

New York Magazine seems to catalog every garment that is sent down the runway at New York Fashion Week and Bridal Market. I spent days browsing their galleries. After a while, I realized that there was an entire portion of the wedding gown market that I wasn’t seeing (the non-designer gowns), but there was so much variety in the designer collections, that I was okay with that. I decided that if I couldn’t afford to buy a designer gown, I would buy a sample or a second hand dress.


Rivini Spring 2012 show / From Completely Unveiled

I didn’t tell anyone about this decision. Though I know plenty of people who shop in vintage and secondhand stores for their regular clothing, there seems to be a stigma attached to doing so for a wedding gown (unless it’s a family gown). Buying a preowned or sample gown seemed to make so much sense. I might be able to find a designer gown for the same price as a non-designer one. What’s more, I wouldn’t be the catalyst for the production of an entirely new garment and the part of me that is concerned about consumption and being green thought that was a good thing.

How do you feel about “preowned” dresses? Would you wear a secondhand dress? Do you think buying “preowned” is something to hide?


Mrs. Mink

Charlottesville, Virginia
Wedding Date:
June 2012
When Life Gives You Lemons...
Love is Where We Are: Bust a Move
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  1. Member
    misschickpea 3841 posts, Honey bee @ 6:13 am

    Heck yeah I would buy a pre-owned dress in a heartbeat! You can get a great deal on a designer gown that either was an unworn sample or worn by a bride for only a few hours! I think its great!

  2. aardvark Member
    aardvark 1129 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:29 am

    I love the idea! I was totally going to do it before I found my dress pattern/seamstress.

  3. Member
    vermontia 497 posts, Helper bee @ 6:32 am

    I would have loved to have bought a used gown, but I’m so tall, I can only buy samples and then only from certain designers. And I want to try a gown on before I buy it. The ones I found online that I liked, I couldn’t find in a store. :( There are so many amazing dresses on preownedweddingdresses.com though. Sigh. There’s no stigma to me in buying a used dress!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Jessica, Guest @ 6:37 am

    I do think we’ve attached a hefty amount of stigma to wedding attire in terms of the ‘one special dress.’ If you put it in any other context, people would freak out.

    Going for a used gown totally makes sense – you get a dress you want for a fraction of the price, and the dress gets a second use. I know I’ll probably give my dress away soon (after I wear it a few more times), just to make sure it’s not lost in my closet.

  5. Member
    teacherandageek 271 posts, Helper bee @ 6:38 am

    I bought mine in a consignment shop for only $240. It’s Allure 8373, and she’s everything I wanted in a gown.

    I have gotten some odd looks and “really?!”when I tell people where I bought her, but at it’s normal price of $900+, I am so glad I got it at a great price!

    It has never been worn either- just tried on and bought by a bride who changed her mind.

  6. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:39 am

    @misschickpea: Whew! I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be here. Sometimes on the boards, I feel like it is more acceptable to order a replica than to get a pre-owned gown. If you have a modest budget, people automatically push the idea of a replica instead of the pre-owned or sample sites.

    @Miss Aardvark: Good to know I’m not the only one!

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    Kristen, Guest @ 6:40 am

    I bought a sample dress and got the BEST deal on it! It was a year old gown that they had put in the back, when I told them that I love the idea of a long train they brought it out for me! Best part it was 80% off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That helped my budget tremendously!!!! :) :) :) :)

  8. Member
    poelette13 75 posts, Worker bee @ 6:41 am

    I started buying wedding magazines and hiding them in the middle of stacks of regular magazines soon after I met my husband, lol.

    I would agree with you that secondhand gowns, or vintage, isn’t discussed enough. When I started planning our wedding, I had a slim budget and wanted the focus to be photography and food. I figured (correctly) that if I love the dress and it fits, what does it matter about the history? I ended up finding a beautiful dress on craigslist that needed zero alterations (amazing since I’m both petite and rather well-endowed), and you know what? It was kind of my dream dress, and new would have been completely outside my budget. By about four times the cost. It was already bustled, cleaned – I was beyond pleased! Enough gushing, though.

    Be very guarded about who you tell, because this was the single biggest point of contention between my mother and I. She was not with me when I made the purchase (like I’m going to take my mom to a random craigslist meet-up?), and she took issue with the whole used thing. We always shopped thrift, but for her the wedding is about starting a new life, and I guess the symbolism of beginning in a new gown really irked her? She still is upset and insists I “deserved” new. To me, it wasn’t about deserving anything, it was about priorities within my budget and what made me happy.

    So in short, I say go for it! Just, be careful who you tell, and if your mom has dreams of living her own “Say Yes To the Dress” shopping excursion with you, shop with her first, and just fail to find something you like 😉

    Good luck!

  9. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:42 am

    @vermontia: I’m 5’7″ and I felt like it was hard to find dresses that would allow me to wear heels on the preowned sites! I can’t imagine how slim the choices would be for someone who was truly tall!

    @Jessica: I wonder if this is an American thing? I know we have brides in other countries…I wonder what they think about that importance we place on buying THE ONE.

    I also hope to pass my dress along. :)

    @teacherandageek: I try to tell people that many of the dresses on the preowned sites are new! I’ve seen plenty of dresses with tags attached being sold by women who just changed their minds.

    I’m so glad it worked out for you!

  10. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:44 am

    I think it’s a genius idea – I mean, why not?! You get the most bang for your buck.. and generally, women want to keep their gown as pristine as possible, regardless of whether they will keep or sell it after the wedding, so you know you’ll still get a gorgeous gown!

  11. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:44 am

    @Kristen: Amazing! Congratulations! 80% off…that’s fantastic!

    @poelette13: Oh my gosh, what a great story! Having the bustle already there and not needing alternations? Another benefit to buying preowned!

  12. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:44 am

    I don’t think there should be a stigma attached to buying preowned dresses at all. I didn’t go the secondhand route, but I considered it. If I hadn’t found a dress in my budget as easily, I would have most likely pursued this option more.

  13. Member
    soyjoy222 3817 posts, Honey bee @ 6:46 am

    I laughed when you said you felt like you were not allowed to look at bridal magazines unless you had a ring. I felt the same way! When I would go past them in the grocery store I could feel them glaring at me and taunting me with ‘you cant buy us! you cant buy us!” After I got engaged, I bought them all!

    I bought a new dress, but if I was not able to, I would do pre-owened. If I found a designer dress that I was in love with and could not do without, I’d get preowned in a heartbeat.

  14. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:47 am

    @Miss Fox: Exactly. Someone who destroys her dress probably won’t try to sell it.

  15. Member
    haelmai 321 posts, Helper bee @ 6:48 am

    I actually bought my dress (David’s Bridal T9612) pre-owned on Recycled Bride. It saved me at least $300, which was a good deal to me. I almost bought the dress on eBay, but somebody else won it out from under me! I’m planning on trying to sell the dress, or simply give it away after the wedding, so I really didn’t care if it was new or not. :-)

  16. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:50 am

    @Miss Hawk: Agreed. For some reason, I feel there is more of a stigma on preowned than samples, though.

    @soyjoy222: I remember thinking the cashier was looking at my left hand when I bought one on business trips. It’s so silly of me!

    Yet, a line for Growing Pains (am I dating myself here) stuck with me for years. When Mike and Julie were going to get married, Julie said something like “I haven’t subscribed to Brides Magazine since I was 16 years old for nothing!” and I remember being shocked that a teenager would subscribe to a bridal mag.

    I guess there are people who don’t feel any hesitation about buying them!

  17. Member
    Chery_L 132 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:03 am

    I think it can be an excellent option. I bought my wedding gown secondhand. The first owner canceled her wedding, so it’s never been worn. She purchased it at Saks in NYC for over $7,500 and I bought it from her for $500 + shipping. It’s a Reem Acra. The workmanship is outstanding. I never thought I’d have a designer gown – it wasn’t even something I had considered, but by buying secondhand it made it possible.

    I don’t think it’s something to hide. I’ve told friends and family. In my family frugal is king. :)

  18. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:07 am

    @Chery_L: That’s amazing, Cheryl! A Reem Acra for $500! Whoo Hoo!

  19. Member
    Chery_L 132 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:18 am

    @Miss Mink: I know! :)

  20. raccoon Member
    raccoon 308 posts, Helper bee @ 7:52 am

    I think it’s a great idea! I don’t think I could keep it a secret though, I brag about shopping steals.
    Your illicit magazine – too funny! I bet you’re not alone with the stashes under your bed though.

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Tiger, Guest @ 8:32 am

    I did! And I lived to tell the tale! I bought a dress in the 4 figures for 3 figures that was a price i felt much more comfortable paying for a dress I would only wear for a few hours. It was a dress in a style I loved but wouldn’t have been able to afford had it not had a “trial run” already…the dress was gorgeous, got tons of compliments, and i feel very happy about my decision to go “pre-owned”

  22. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:35 am

    @Miss Raccoon: If I get a great deal, I’ll brag about it online! :)

    @Miss Tiger: Congratulations!

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Tiger, Guest @ 8:39 am

    I totally did! Similar to Cheryl, I bought a gown that was originally in the 4 figure range, for a much more reasonable 3 figure price tag (a 90% discount)…the dress had actually been worn however, but in great condition…i felt much better spending the amount i paid for a dress that would normally be way out of my price range, especially for something you’ll only wear for a few hours. The dress was gorgeous and would have not been affordable to me otherwise. I didn’t have any qualms or superstitions about going “used” –i just considered it my “something old”…and was able to put more $$$ towards other parts of the wedding to improve our guest experience, while STILL lookin like a “million bucks” …if you can find a deal–GO FOR IT!

  24. Member
    TinyTina 3312 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:16 am

    I was looking for a very specific dress and I couldn’t find it anywhere! I eventually found it, but for a while I was looking for it on preowned dress sites. If I had found it there I totally would have purchased it!!

  25. Member
    CurlyRN 355 posts, Helper bee @ 10:21 am

    My dress was a sample from Kleinfields, in fact it was the one on Fridays episode, Jim Hjelm. I got it at 80% off. I could have got a brand new dress but my thoughts on the expense did not justify it. Granted, the dress had some TLC issues, but they become more a labor of love for me and my seamstress.

  26. parasol Member
    parasol 2955 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:23 am

    I totally would have bought a secondhand gown! Especially over the other, more popular option of getting a Chinese replica. Before swallowing the pill and buying my POB gown, I looked online for a preloved version. I only found one that I could make work, but the seller only took $300 off the ticket price and wouldn’t budge. That’s fine, but at that point, I figured it was safer to just buy it from POB directly, and I have no regrets!

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    guest, Guest @ 10:32 am

    @Mrs. Parasol: I LOVE your dress!! The Maeve from PB or Lindsey are my dream dresses. I am not yet engaged, although it is very near. When I heard PB was going out of business I was devastated bc I knew I wouldnt be dress shopping before they closed shop. So I just kept stalking the preowned & ebay sites for either POB dress just for the heck of it. Well I found the Maeve, and for sooo much less than new, even at the clearance sales. So, I bought it, and amaxingly it fits like it was made for me , no alterations required! So yes,
    I think Preowned can be a great way to go!! No way I would ever be able to buy a POB!!

  28. Member
    MrsKeAloha 1044 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:41 am

    Buy the dress you want, make sure you love it don’t just settle for. There are so many dresses out there in a good price range- and there are several places you can buy a preowned dress while supporting a good cause.

    I will be donating my dress after I wear it to Brides against Breast Cancer in honor of my sister who was diagnosed June10th at age 29.

  29. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 11:11 am

    @Miss Tiger: I think it’s wonderful to see so many examples of a preowned dress working out!

    @TinyTina: I had the same thinking!

    @CurlyRN: I know your dress, Curly! Do you know who I am? I was a regularly on the thread where your dress was discussed. :) I love your gown! Did the mending work out?

    @Mrs. Parasol: Preloved. Love it!

    @guest: Oh, that’s not my dress in the picture up to. I’ll be posting about the next step in my dress search soon!

    @Miss Ke Aloha: I post a list of the preowned and sample sites on the boards fairly regularly. Sometimes I browse them just for fun. :) I’ll add your site to my list!

    The pre-owned sites:

    Pre-owned Wedding Dresses
    Once Wed
    Recycled Bride
    Bravo Bride

    The sample/resale shops:

    Church Street Bridal (online and b&m, proceeds go to charity, gets donations from Kleinfeld)
    Vows (online and b&m)
    Your Dream Dress
    Le Dress Boutique (online and b&m)
    Encore Bridal (online and b&m)
    Fabulous Frocks of Charleston (online and b&m)
    Fabulous Frocks of Alexandria (online and b&m)

    b&m = brick and mortar

  30. Member
    CassidyR 298 posts, Helper bee @ 2:37 pm

    I bought mine off a Bee in the classifieds and LOVE IT!

    And it came with shawl and veil for only $25 how can you beat that?

  31. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:46 pm

    @CassidyR: That’s got to be one of the best dress deals ever!

  32. Guest Icon Guest
    BMoreBlogger, Guest @ 4:00 pm

    I have the same secret habit about wedding magz even though I am not yet engaged. This weekend I bought one in the airport and the cashier asked when the date was! I was so embarrassed I mumbled something incoherent and shuffled off in shame! I still enjoyed the magazine though :)

  33. Guest Icon Guest
    Eb, Guest @ 4:51 pm

    I know exactly what you are talking about. I bought mine the following weekend after my family and friends took me bridal dress shopping. I was alone and went to a nonprofit where they loan out or sell their dress. No expectations. I zeroed in on the one plus size dress that would accommodate my height. It was my dream dress and similar to the one I had picked out with my family the previous week but short! I loved the short. But I hesistated to tell anyone and it took away some of my joy because one it was 150 dollars, two it was used, and three I found it on my own. Talk about a triple whammy. EverI know exactly what you are talking about. I bought mine the following weekend after my family and friends took me bridal dress shopping. I was alone and went to a nonprofit where they loan out or sell their dress. No expectations. I zeroed in on the one plus size dress that would accommodate my height. It was my dream dress and similar to the one I had picked out with my family the previous week but short! I loved the short. But I hesistated to tell anyone and it took away some of my joy because one it was 150 dollars, two it was used, and three I found it on my own. Talk about a triple whammy. Everyone keeps pushing that I deserve more but I deserve my dream and budget friendly pockets too!

  34. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 5:52 pm

    I think buying pre-loved is a great idea, I saw so many ‘older’ styles that I would have loved to wear, just couldn’t find my size. I can’t wait to see how your search goes!

  35. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:08 pm

    @BMoreBlogger: Hee hee! I knew some the cashiers would take notice!

    @Eb: Yes! I wish you’d join the boards so we could see the dress! It sounds beautiful! I love short dress, by the way. :)

    @Mrs. Pony: I think that’s a big factor…the sizing is so different from designer to designer.

  36. Member
    bRooklynRocks 4048 posts, Honey bee @ 7:24 am

    Yep yep. I loved the pre-loved dresses too. I got mine from preownedweddingdresses.com. It was a sample but I didn’t have any qualms buying used if it came to that. As it is, I’ve sold off most of the stuff I used from my wedding. From hair flower on down. I bought a lot of used stuff for the wedding too. It’s one day. I was spending lots of money as it was. No need to add extra expenses. And yes Ms. Mink, I’d love to read about your dress shopping too :)

  37. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:28 am

    @bRooklynRocks: Another preowned bride! Awesome!!! I think it’s so good to show all these positive comments about the preowned experience.

    My dress search was VERY interesting. Posts are coming!!!

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    rojgoakf, Guest @ 7:39 am

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  39. Guest Icon Guest
    baker169, Guest @ 11:46 am

    Hiya! I’m fairly fresh to this website. I have been lurking about around a few weeks and thought i would make an effort to interact a little. So once again, hiya everyone.

  40. Guest Icon Guest
    watson656, Guest @ 12:25 pm

    I’ve regularly visited boards.weddingbee.com. Having spent the morninglast few hours going through the archived threads, I feel just like a child inside a sweet shop. I’m looking towards reading your site content, and perhaps even making a few of my very own.

  41. Guest Icon Guest
    roxqtlwu, Guest @ 1:15 pm

    Hey very nice web site!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also…I am happy to find a lot of useful info here in the post, we need work out more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  42. Guest Icon Guest
    BUYVEETIDS, Guest @ 9:55 pm


  43. Guest Icon Guest
    Debra, Guest @ 9:13 am

    I’m speaking as as recent bride who just sold my dress . . . I think it’s the best idea ever. Mine was a designer dress (Claire Pettibone) that I had no business spending that much money on. But I knew that the price would be easier to swallow if I planned to sell it in the end. I loved my dress so much and am sorry to have parted with it, but I’m thrilled that someone who loves it as much as me will be wearing it again. If I had kept it, it would just end up being packed away for the rest of my life and then who knows what would have happened to it.

    The single hardest thing, I think, about buying a used dress is not being able to try it on beforehand. This is what kept me from buying used when I was shopping for a dress. The person who bought my dress, however, had just tried on the same dress at a high-end bridal shop, so she knew exactly how it would look on her.

    It worked out great for both of us because we both got the dress of our dreams at a price we could afford.

  44. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:29 am

    @Debra: Yay! I’m so glad it worked out!

    That’s definitely another way to go through the dress search…looking a little over whatever you were expecting to spend with the thought of selling afterwards.

  45. Guest Icon Guest
    unoNEsha, Guest @ 2:42 am

    you must read for promotion code online shopping

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