Now that you’ve seen what dress I chose (and I’ve gotten so many lovely comments about it!), I wanted to take a brief pause in the recaps to sort of finish up the wedding dress narrative. If you recall, I was close to renting a gown from Rent the Runway, but ultimately decided not to and chose a dress from a designer I found on Etsy.
There were a few reasons:
- First, and most simply—I started liking the Etsy one a bit more. It might have been that I had been staring at the Reem Acra for a lot longer, but slowly the drop sleeves seemed more romantic than the cap sleeves, the silk more bridal than the tulle.
- Besides concerns about the state of the dress, as more girls rented the dress, I read more reviews, and quite a few people mentioned that the color was closer to a blush pink than a nude. I was a fan of a nude wedding gown, but very much anti-pink.
- The sleeves. I asked the Etsy seller how mobile the sleeves were (like many of the commenters, I was concerned about ripping them or not being able to dance as rambunctiously as I wanted); she told me that they were somewhat restricting, but that many brides simply tuck them in after the ceremony as the material is light enough not to bulge through the bustier. I had been considering ways to make a small change from ceremony to reception, and thought going from sleeves to strapless would be a nice, simple way to do that.
I was ultimately thrilled with my choice, although there were some cons too. (Disclaimer: I’ve clearly only bought one custom wedding gown from one person, but I figure most of these points would translate across the board.)
- Typically, you can customize the dress a bit. I got to choose my color and had options for sleeves, volume, a belt, what the back looked like, etc.
- Custom fit. I sent in my detailed measurements and the dress was constructed using those. Actually, if I’m being honest, I sent her a few inches smaller than I measured (wishful measuring?)—this turned out OK because I did lose a few pounds, but man did I sweat that decision. Maybe don’t do that to yourself. I did end up needing to get it hemmed, but that was my own bad measuring (and I was really mad at myself for it).
- It’s YOUR dress. This one is sort of intangible, but I definitely felt really special that no one else had ever tried on my gown and that it was constructed with me as its only possible future wearer.
- Great design at a great price. I chose this dress because it was reminiscent of a Reem Acra gown that was many-times-over the price I paid. Going with an unknown designer/seamstress can often give you a couture look at an affordable price. And who knows? You might be an early adopter to a big name designer.
- The way I did it (online via Etsy), I couldn’t try the dress on as it was being constructed. This didn’t worry me TOO much because of the measurement thing, but there was definitely a fear that what looks good “on the rack,” so to speak, wouldn’t translate well in person. When it finally arrived I definitely had a few moments of “oh shit oh shit oh shit.”
- Somewhat risky, financially. While I was protected from like, fraud (if she had sent me a box of crayons and not a dress, I would be able to stipulate that), there really wasn’t anything I could do if I just didn’t like it.
- No real chance for multiple fittings—this was more of a normal product purchase than the typical consultative experience.
- No “that’s the one!” moment. I didn’t care too much about this, but sending a link around to my bridesmaids and mom was surely way less exciting than trying on dresses and discovering the gown together.
Finally, some tips for brides who want to go this route—and I suspect that this might be quite a few of you!
- Ask questions. My conversation with Tatyana on Etsy was really long—I asked some really detailed questions. She was also really responsive; I judged most of my wedding vendors heavily on this, and my dressmaker was no different.
- If you can, go see it. I didn’t do this, but probably could have (my seller was based in NYC, a bus ride away). From what I can tell, a lot of the major Etsy dress designers are in bigger cities (mostly New York), so if it makes sense, do it.
- Ask for references and photos of other girls in the dress, or at least something similar. My seller had a website and an active Facebook page, where she posted pictures of other brides quite often. Just seeing their ecstatic comments was SUCH a comfort.
- Ask for swatches of the fabric. A lot of what separates a great dress from a cheaper feeling one is the material, and you might not be able to discern quality through photos. I got a ton of different color options for mine (I chose a creamy ivory)—which also reassured me that she was going to make the dress for ME, not just rejigger something that already existed.
- Use common sense! Whether it’s eBay or Etsy or similar, there’s usually a rating or review system. If your seller has no reviews or several bad ones, stay away. Check the site for anything sketchy—broken links, bad grammar/spelling, deals that seem to good to be true. Use a secure payment method to safeguard against fraud. Paypal is really good about this.
- Try on lots of dresses. I still went to different bridal salons and tried on every silhouette I could just to make sure that the shape was right. (There seem to be a ton of bees who buy dresses that are completely opposite of what they thought they’d buy.)
Anyone else go this route? What advice do you have? What online shops gave you the best—or worst—experiences?
All photos by Emily Clack Photography. Dress by Tatyana Merenyuk.