So you’re searching for the perfect wedding gown. And whilst price may be no object to a small select few brides, the vast majority want something that they can feel is good value.
So if the idea of buying a a £1000 dress at, say £199, just because it’s an ex-sample, has your ears pricking up, then read on, this article is for you!
Most bridal shops will have some ex-sample dresses at reduced prices throughout the year. And at certain times of year, there will be more of these dresses than normal. Autumn is always a great time at Aliya Rose for anyone looking for a bargain - we have to make room for next year’s collection, so you’ll usually find a larger than normal number of gowns on the sale rail, and they’re usually priced to GO! Currently we have about 25 gowns on the sale rail, starting at a miniscule £99....
A lot of brides on a budget are afraid to set foot in a bridal shop for fear of being forced into dresses they can’t afford. But it’s always worth a look before you reach for the internet – you might be pleasantly surprised at what you can pick up.
Here are the questions you should be asking yourself or the shop if you're looking at ex-sample dresses…
Should I phone the shop ahead of time?
Always worth it. If nothing else, it will mean that you can make sure there's a changing room free for you to try things on - you can never really tell what something will look like until it's on you!
What condition will the dress be in?
Now, don’t get me wrong, ex-sample dresses are not going to be in perfect condition. You can expect some dirt and make up, and maybe a few missing beads here and there. Some samples have been well-loved! But usually any damage is minimal and can either be repaired or concealed by the dressmaker or put right with a professional clean. The price should reflect any defects (and normally it will MORE than make up for them!!). Make sure you have a really good look over the dress before you commit yourself, as you’re very unlikely to be able to return it if you change your mind.
Should I get one that’s not quite the right size?
If it’s a little too big (say up to 2 inches), then that shouldn’t be a problem for a good dressmaker to take in. Most brides will need some alterations, even if they’ve ordered a new dress, sometimes by that much anyway. If it’s bigger than that, then ask for advice before you go for it! If it’s too small, then think very carefully – if it can be let out, then it won’t be by a lot, and if you’re planning on slimming into it, you’ll want to be very confident that you’ll be able to fit into the dress.
Will the dress need cleaning?
Firstly ask the shop if they’ve had it cleaned recently. If they have, it may not need it. Some of ours have been cleaned very recently. Then, it’s really up to you. If it looks grubby, you might want to have it cleaned. Go with a specialist wedding dress cleaner rather than a local dry cleaner. Specialists who deal only with wedding gowns will use processes that are specially suited to delicate fabrics and beading. And you’ll probably find them very competitively priced compared to local cleaners too.
What about alterations?
One of the advantages of buying an ex-sample dress from a store, rather than buying online or second hand to save money, is that the shop will already have a system in place to deal with alterations. This can save a huge amount of hassle trying to find a suitable dressmaker! Why buy ex-sample when I can buy new on ebay for the same or even less? A lot of internet sellers aren't all that honest, and they'll use original designer's photos to sell their cheap copies. The thing is, it's not just about what a dress looks like on the outside - true beauty comes from within, even in a wedding gown, and a lot of what gives genuine designer dresses the ‘wow’ factor is the internal structure and corsetry that they have. Very cheaply manufactured dresses won’t have this sort of structure; they won’t pull you in the same way to give you an hourglass figure; they often won’t have underskirts in them at all, so you’ll need to buy extra underskirts to give the skirt any structure; the bodices will often collapse under the bust. Buying a genuine designer gown in a sample sale represents true value for money – you’re still getting the fabulous internal structure and great quality fabrics, and you actually get to see the dress on before you make a decision. I'm not saying never buy online - that's up to you, not to me! But it really is well worth a look at the sample sales before you make that decision.
So how can shops afford to sell dresses off at these prices? Really? I mean come on..... are brides just being ripped off the rest of the time?
Well, believe it or not, we make no money AT ALL on such low prices. We pay full price for our sample dresses, so to sell a dress off at £99 or £199 that has a retail price of over £1000 means we are actually selling them at a considerable loss. But at certain times of year, when designers are discontinuing some of their gowns, and the arrival of a new collection is imminent, the rail space is more valuable to us than getting a really good price for a sample dress! Which means that you get the chance to buy dresses at less than what the shop paid for them. Bargain? Hell yeah!