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Buying Off the Rack vs. Special Order

Timiry McCaskell

When brides begin to look for dresses they are faced with a few different options:

  • Buy a new gown that is special ordered
  • Buy a new gown off the rack
  • Buy a gently used consigned gown

Each of these offer their own benefits and it’s a good idea to know where you fit in preference and budget-wise.  Many times, we see brides with a smaller budget that believe they can only afford something used or off the rack.  Something to keep in mind when you are shopping for one of these dresses is the “hidden costs” that are unseen until you have purchased the dress and are well on your way to blowing your budget.  Here’s an example:

Margo has a budget of $1,000 and decides to buy a dress off the rack from a big box retailer (who shall remain nameless) for $580.  What a great deal, right!?  Maybe so, until she realizes the structure of the dress is not quite the same unless she wears a crinoline slip ($69) and a corset bra ($79).  Once she has all of these essential accessories, she begins her alterations (“big box retailer” alterations START at $200 so we’ll budget $250, conservatively).  During alterations, Margo also notices the dress is showing some signs of wear from being tried on by several others before her.  She decides to pay to have the dress cleaned by a local dry cleaner before the wedding ($200).  All of these adjustments make the “great deal” now $1,178.  Not to mention Margo hasn’t purchased any jewelry or shoes yet.

A similar dress from Dora Grace priced around $580 that is special ordered, already comes with the boning and tulle skirting needed for the dress to keep it’s shape.  In fact, most of our brides just have cups sewn into the dress ($18) during alterations which average around $200 at our store.  And, since the dress has been special ordered and made specifically for you, there is no need for the additional cleaning costs.  This means that after all is said and done, Margo could still walk away with over $200 to still spend on other accessories.  What looks like a better deal now?

Another aspect that isn’t normally discussed is the extra work some dresses require if you’re not as tall as a designer’s standard length.  If you buy a lace dress off the rack and you are 5’7″ or shorter, you’re going to be compromising the lace around the hem of the dress.  However, many of our designers offer a custom length when you special order your gown which not only assures the lace stays the same as when you fell in love with the dress, but you will also save money in alterations by not having to make this adjustment.

Having a budget when you start dress shopping is a must, but having a realistic of idea of these “hidden costs” may also open your eyes to gowns that may have seemed out of reach before.  Dora Grace has many beautiful gowns under $1,000 that don’t require extras and are still made with the same quality fabrics and designs as dresses that cost $2,500.