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The Two Best Tips To Remember When Buying A Secondhand Wedding Dress

There are lots of reasons for buying a 'pre-loved', not least of all is cost.

However there are other reasons why a bride would prefer to buy a secondhand wedding dress . . .
* Green credentials - except for freight, there is no further cost to the Earth.
* Love - a bride may see a vintage or retro dress and it could be the perfect dress for her.
* Minimalism - some brides feel that there is no need to add to the 'stuff' that is already on the planet and prefer to look for items already around.

But there are pitfalls!

Rather than troll the internet for what those pitfalls are, we decided to ask an expert that we already know. Fiona Caveney from Caveney Couture, is a qualified dressmaker with years of experience. She is well aware of the problems that brides face and wants to arm as many women with the knowledge before they buy that perfect secondhand dress.


Hi Brides,

Buying a second hand wedding dress or a dress on sale or even a dress online can have its pitfalls - but there are many things a professionally trained dressmaker can do to alter the dress to fit you perfectly. If you are buying your dress second hand - make sure you are supplied with the drycleaning receipts...as second hand dresses can be trashed......and sweated in....and drycleaning is expensive. Otherwise there are 2 difference scenarios for buying a dress;

1. Buying a dress second hand or on sale - where you are trying on the dress.

This is the best situation, as you are able to assess the dress yourself as to how it fits on you, before you buy it. If you are size 6 and you are buying a dress that is size 12 or 14 - then it is a lot of work to alter....but if you have got the dress for a bargain it is still sometimes worth buying.

Things to watch out for that can add to the price are;
• Beading along the seams of the dress (this can add to the cost significantly as usually the beading needs to be unpicked, then taken in, then rebeaded)....and if the dress is completely beaded this can be a huge amount of work.
NB If the dress is just sequins though, then 9 time out of 10 you can sew through the sequins.
• Lace work that cover the seams of the dress. For example if the lace has a seam line the same as the lining seam line, then this is cheaper to alter than if the lace is sewn across (and covering) the seam line.
• Adding a lining to the dress - this can get a little expensive.
• Replacing tulle or lighter weight fabrics (eg chiffon) where it is torn - usually you would only replace the tulle or lighter weight fabric around the neckline and shoulders where it is torn....and this can potentially get expensive. If the tears are around the hem or other insignificant places around the dress then it is easier to repair the tear almost invisibly.

2. Buying a dress second hand or on sale or online - where you can't try on the dress.

In this situation I would make sure that you know the finished garment size of the dress across the bust, waist and hips - or you can look at the size charts for the company and check that you are getting the right size.

If the dress style is only fitted across the bust then compare your bust measurement with the garment measurement. If the dress style is fitted across the bust and hips and your hips fit into a size 14 and your bust would fit a size 12 then go with the size 14. When you are buying online remember that, as in the above scenario, beading and lace work can add a significant cost to the alteration.

So remember . . . . . . . . Basically wedding dressmakers can work magic on all kinds of dresses. Depending on the dress - the dress can sometimes be let out 1-3 sizes....so that is always a possibility too.

As a professional dressmaker and seamstress, I would never say I couldn't do an alteration, until I saw the dress and was able to see if I could work some magic.

The most important thing to remember, is that wedding alterations by a professional wedding dressmaker aren't always cheap. You may have got a dress for an absolute bargain but if you need lots of alterations done to the dress then this will add significantly to the cost.

Your wedding dress is the one garment that you want to look beautiful, feel comfortable and feel like yourself in - so it is worth spending a little more money when you buy the dress to get the right dress. You can scrimp on the cost of flowers, bonbonniere, shoes, etc etc etc but your wedding dress is the one thing that will define you on your wedding day, and you will be looking back on your photos of you in your wedding dress for many many years to come. It is important that you feel beautiful in it.

I see A LOT of very, very cheap wedding dresses that have been bought online and their quality is awful....and there is only so much you can do to make the dress look amazing. As the old saying goes - "you can't make a silk purse from a pigs ears".

When buying a wedding dress, remember that if you need to get too many things altered on the dress then it may be worth spending a little extra to get a dress that is closer to your size and what you want.


Fiona C

Caveney Courture - Side Seam

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