Buying from a Trunk Show, or Ebay, or Your Neighbor's Sister's Cousin
Tight budgets seem to be the mainstay of weddings these days. Everyone likes to save money but a bride must understand that shopping off the main market will mean a savings in purchasing but it comes with many pitfalls. Trunk show gowns may come with flaws that are not readily apparent. An already loved gown might have already been altered once and you will not usually be told what was done or how. The seller might not even know.
A bargain is not always a bargain. If you are able to question the seller about the gown's history, that's great. Any information you can get will be helpful in making your decision. But usually, you are buying blind. Not being able to try on this important garment before you buy it is very scary. And then there's the sellers who lie to you on purpose.
added February 2011
Thanks so much for the quick and informative reply!! I think I'm going to give it a shot but get another opinion before I make the plunge as well. There are actually a total of 7 seams which is how she came to the conclusion of 1 3/4" (a 1/4 inch each).
All the best, Jane
added October 2010
I found your site today and appreciate all the advice you have provided.
I am ordering a dress from a person who is able to order wedding dresses
whole sale. After taking my measurements the person handed me a size
chart and told me to order the size I felt was best. I was not prepared
for that at all. My measurements fit between a size 8 to 10. The final
order has not been sent in yet and I would greatly appreciate any advice
that you can give me.
I have attached a picture of the dress and one of me in a sample dress.
The dress I tried on was a 12 and much too big - had to travel 3 hours
to find a store that had it. It is ruched around the waist, lace and
3-d flowers at the bust and netted lace on the bottom.
Bust 35.5 Waist 28.5 Hips 37
Bust Waist Hips
Size 6: 35 26.5 38
Size 8: 36 27.5 39
Size 10: 37 28.5 40
I would be grateful for any sizing advice you can give me. Thank you so
much for your time and help!
Thank you, Chris
It's really hard to say without seeing you in the sample dress in person but I can give you some things to ponder.
I can see the clips they put at your back on the sample, but I can't see how much fabric is in them. Generally, one inch equals one size. If they clipped 2", than I would advice you to order a size 8.
Another factor in your case is that your measurement distribution is not the same ratio as the Cheri chart. This is very typical. What they advise you to do is order for your largest measurement and alter the other areas in. It's much better to go in than out. Your largest measurement is your waist. The other big thing to consider that the bridal stores usually don't tell you is that it's important that a strapless gown fit snugly in the waist. Most brides can order the waist measurement much smaller than what they are and the gown fits fine even though the chart said otherwise.
One more thing to consider is that the bodice top should be a bit loose. Many brides think I'm kidding them when I explain this part. The neckline of a strapless gown should lay gently on your skin, not constricting it and creating unlovely bulges under your arms or your back. The gown should be supported by the snug waist so the boning can hold it up. It should never be held in place at the neckline.
Since the gown skirt is gathered, the hip measurement is not crucial.
So, for your measurements I would advise the 8 or 10. Either way may mean some alteration in the bodice area. If the gown laces up the back I would say 8 for sure, but if it zips, the 8 might be just a little too snug in the waist. Only you can say how much tightness you want.
I hope this has helped.
An Off-topic Observation:
I do not advise that you try on dresses at a bridal salon if you know you will not be buying your gown there. This is simply wrong ladies. The store is there to sell dresses. They have to make money to pay their bills. Spending time letting you try on dresses they have no hopes of selling to you is a waist of their time. They are NOT there to let you just try on dresses so you can go buy it for less elsewhere. I am all for brides saving money but I am very NOT for brides using the stores in wrong ways.
added October 2010
Thank you for your kind reply and advice.
Yes, there are too many issues with this dress and this company. The dress was non-refundable, but according to my statutory rights (which are not affected) I am told that this is a case of misrepresentation during sale, which gives me an opportunity to enter out of the contract and get a refund. The company is however having none of it and are happily ignoring my calls and letters hence I warned them I will take a legal action if I do not get a refund within the next 7 days.
All of my friends who have been there with me during the purchase have written witness statements to support my case.
It is extremely frustrating to realize that the very famous bridal boutique can have such trading practices in place. It cannot be a nice place for the staff to work at if this is what they resort to doing – i.e. bend and/or not tell the truth during sale of a bridal outfit. They are a well known company and I think it is a case of name and shame them.
I have cried my eyes out over this issue and I do hope to get a refund sorted very soon. I just wish other brides were spared of similar experiences to mine.
Have a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year 2011. Thank you again for your kind words and your opinion.
Best regards, Katherine
An Off-topic Observation:
Though Katherine felt this way, she is NOT a Pear Shape. Many ladies value the no hip body look. They feel that their hips need to be the same measurement as their waist. The female body is not constructed that way. Hips are supposed to be larger than the waist. They are not supposed to be so large that they are many inches wider than the bust. That is when you get what is generally called the Pear Shape body. A lady that is 36, 28, 36 is not pear shape. A pear shape would start at about 36, 28, 40.
added July 2010
Your website is amazing. Many thanks for taking the time and energy to share your wisdom with all of us brides to be. :-)
I found your website yesterday, after having already bought my wedding dress off of ebay. It is a beautiful dress (Jim Hjelm, size 4-6), which I bought for $150. It is a sample dress, from a few seasons ago, and is missing a few bits (a rhinestone has fallen off here and there). These features of the dress were advertised. What was not advertised was:
(1) the inner lining is ripped off for about 5 inches from the zipper at the back,
(2) the zipper is old (does not seem to zip easily, especially when on my body) and
(3) the exact dimensions: before buying the dress, I asked the seller for the dress dimensions, which matched mine. It turns out that the dress is a little tight. It zips all the way up, and I can breathe and sit OK in it. But it is nevertheless tight. When I sit, the dress bulges/folds over itself a little over my lower tummy (where the tummy fat is).
The dress is an off the shoulder. I've read online (only after already buying the dress) that off the shoulders should be a little tight. The seller has a no return policy and told me it should 'stretch'. (I see a little "stretching" by the thread at the seams, so I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
The dress is simple in design. There is some pretty embroidery around the upper part of the bodice (by the breast area and round the back). But the rest of the bodice and dress is unadorned. It's high-waisted and has got a train.
I am thinking I might try to have it "let out" or to use a back lace up corset option as you described on your site. I live in Chicago. I see you are in Cincinnati. Can you recommend any place or person that would be good for alterations in Chicago or the Chicago area? -- Your website has a link to "Dame Creations" but the link is dead and I can't find them on Google. (Maybe they've gone out of business?)
Also, I know you can't give exact recommendations without seeing the dress and the bride, but can you offer any suggestions? I'd love to send a pic of the dress, but I don't have a working camera right now. I can send a picture in a little while though.
Many thanks for your advice!
Many, many thanks for your detailed response!
You are so kind to take the time to advise clueless young women like myself, who are embarking on the huge task of coordinating a wedding, figuring out formal clothes etc. Your advice is great: professional and re-assuring. I will use your suggestions. I will also use your online website as a benchmark for professionalism.
Come to think of it, could you suggest some things to look for in alteration specialists? (For example, general cues that might give an ingenue a sense of whether the person is a true professional, like yourself?) I didn't find such a section on your website. If you had the time to respond, perhaps you could add this section to your website to share with other brides to be.
Many thanks again! -- and I hope you are still dancing. :-)
Yes, there is one here: http://www.leanna.com/Bridal/BridalQA/Finding.htm
I have many letters and pictures that are waiting to be put on the site. During bridal season I do my best to answer as many letters as I can but have little time to do much else. I have several ideas for more pages of writings but that will have to wait until my in house brides are all married.
Thanks for your encouraging comments.
added June 2010
I love your site, and have been using it as a guide in looking for a wedding dress. Since I'm trying to find a used or sample dress, your tips on alterations and smart shopping have been particularly helpful!
I found a dress that I really like used, but the original owner is a lot shorter than I am-- she was 5'5'' in heels, and I'm 5'7'' without. She measured the dress from the top of the bodice to the floor, and I would need to add 3-4 inches to the length for it to fit correctly. The dress has lace offset tiering, and was probably taken up at the waist rather than at the bottom, so I wonder if it would be possible to let it back out, or whether the extra fabric would have been removed during the first alteration? The previous owner asked the place that did the alterations, but they said they couldn't tell her how the hem was altered.
Here is a link to the dress picture:
I'd really appreciate your advice, because I love the dress, but obviously am afriad to purchase it without knowing whether it could be altered.
added April 2010
added February 2009
I have not heard any good stories from any of this type of market. It is very risky. I would not personally buy this way. Saving money is a good thing but using the knock-off market usually gets you wasting the money you do spend.
added October 2007
First my I say how grateful I am to have stumbled upon your website! I’ve just started reading a bit of everything and am amazed how much useful information there is. Also, I’m so thankful to see you’ll accept and answer questions because you’re just the person I want to talk to. I just started dress shopping last weekend for my May 2008 wedding. I had some luck and found a gorgeous Maggie Sottero wedding dress, style Vienna (http://www.maggiesottero.com/dress.aspx?keywordText=vienna&keywordType=any&page=0&pageSize=8&style=A3021- ); however, since my fiancé and I are paying for the wedding ourselves I don’t feel comfortable with spending a small fortune on a dress. I’ve been trying to find ‘similar’ dresses that are closer to my price range, and while I can find ones with similar attributes, nothing can meet or beat this dress. Now I did find someone selling this dress, worn once with no alterations except hemming and bustling, on eBay in Canada (I’m in the US) in a size 8. I asked the seller and the person who wore it is actually a size 8 and a 36B. I don’t have my measurements right now (none of the shops seem to want to measure, they just throw a dress you and don’t discuss size) but because I’m a 36D I’m almost certain this dress won’t fit. The only question in my mind is, because this dress is a lace up dress, would it be possible to alter it without making it look like I’m stuffed in something too small? Also, one of the shops I went to mentioned ordering a panel of the same material to insert in the back extending the fabric that covers your skin under the laces. Is this possible? If so, where would you order the panel from? Or should I just drop the entire idea of the once worn size 8 off eBay because no matter the financial savings in purchasing the dress (though I know alterations would be more) it’s not worth the stress?
This just might be a good deal for you if your other measurements are close to the size 8. Will the eBay seller let you return the gown if it doesn't fit? Many bridal gown sellers do that.
Good Morning Leanna,
Right now, no, my measurements are not at a size 8…over the past few years while being blissfully happy with my fiancé I’ve put on a few pounds that I previously lost, neglecting the gym. I’m only 25 years old though and usually can drop weight very fast when I jog. I did read your section on loosing weight, and I completely agree; however, I just want to loose it for the pictures (and my health). Don’t worry though; I plan on using the next month to drop the weight (down to a size 8) and maintaining thereafter. For me, I think these are more than reasonable goals. I’m quite confident I can quickly get my waist and hips measurements back to the size 8 quickly…I just know I don’t loose in my bust and even when a few pounds lighter I was still a 36D.
I’ll have to ask the seller if she’d let me return it, but because it’s not a bridal shop, just someone trying to sell her dress, I’m doubtful. I suppose worst case I could try to resell it myself.
Actually, it's quite common for eBay sellers to have return
policies, even for wedding gowns were a bridal store will not return a gown
for any reason. If not - I have heard stories of buyers selling the gown for
more than they bought it for. It all depends on how you describe and picture
it and who is looking at eBay any given week.
I think you'll be fine with this dress. The lacings are very adjustable. Part of the reason for their popularity I would guess. You may want to plan for enlarging the panel as you thought, but that should be an easy change.
added July 2007
I desparately need your advice on this gown I am thinking of purchasing.
Here is the situation: I live in Maryland and I called a CA bridal salon that has a Reem Acra Gown I am very interested in called Magnolia. The retail price for the bridal gown is $3250.95 and it is a sample gown for half the price ($1626). I believe the dress is silk satin. Its the perfect size 14 in the color Ivory, but there are flaws on the dress.
The flaws are:
Some beading and threading are no longer intact, there are 2 snags in front on the skirt of the dress, and in the back about 2 inches from the zipper are the major 2 snags that worry me the most.
My concern is there any way to fix the snags in the back by the zipper? I was told that it could possibly look less snagged when the dress is pressed and drycleaned.
Please tell me your honest opinion on this gown. Is this worth buying and dealing with major alterations? Also, can you do Alterations on a Reem Acra gown?
The small snags that look like loops can be pulled to the back
of the fabric. The snag by the zipper can not be fixed and will not look any
different after drycleaning. A few threads on the surface of the fabric have
been cut creating the snag effect. BUT I would not worry about this. No one
at the wedding will notice it and it will not show in your pictures. If you
hadn't sent me such close-up pictures pointing out the snag, I would not have
noticed it simply looking at you in the dress.
If I were you, I would buy the dress and be very happy for saving $1626.00. Even a full priced gown can have this type of thing in the fabric that happened from the shipping process. This is a great deal.
added July 2007
I am seriously considering purchasing this Monique Lhuillier lace gown from a seller on ebay -- http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170129902091&sspagename=ADME:L:RTQ:US:1. I believe it would only have to be altered down one size to fit me, however the dress was made for someone who was 5’10” AND planning on wearing 4” heels (wow…that’s tall!). Conversely, I am 5’5” and since my groom is on the, er, shorter side (5’8”) I probably wouldn’t wear more than 3” heels, for a total height of 5’8” (versus the 6’2” the dress is currently suited for).
I am concerned since there is no waist to take the dress in at, that taking 6” off the bottom of this dress would be difficult. Am I correct? Thanks!!
Six inches may not seem like much but you will loose a lot of
the sweep if it's done at the bottom. A talented Alterationist can hem it
in the upper leg area since it's totally lace, but it will be expensive to
do. The lace can be cut and moved up so that no seam shows in the lace pattern.
You could run into other problems in the body area for the gown is set for
a tall person. The proportions may be very off and need altering too, adding
to your expense.
It would be wise to have the person you plan to alter this see it before you buy it. I could do these alterations but she may not know how and then you're stuck.
Also, I would be very worried about paying $1,400 for a dress I could not try on first. There is no return policy on the listing.
added March 2007
I love your website - how wonderful of you to share your knowledge with everyone! I am from Connecticut like you and think you're just brilliant. I have a question... I am dying to take this bargain, but I will take your advice.
I really love this dress from hard-to-find Eternity Bridal, and although I haven't tried on a dress with cap sleeves yet, I feel pretty confident that this is the dress. I am a street size 4 with 34D breasts and am 5'2". I am behind schedule in ordering, though - I am getting married in 7 weeks. Here's my question: I can order the dress from a shop for $599 and have it in 2 weeks if in stock, 6 if not. I would still have alterations though, considering my height. OR, I could buy this dress in a size 16 from a bridal shop on eBay and have it altered all the way down to my size, which would probably be faster.
I have included pictures of the dress and would be very grateful for your advice.
Eternity Bridal Picture 1:
Eternity Bridal Picture 2:
Thanks a million! Audrey
I would not buy the 16. It will be very difficult and costly
to alter - like making the dress from scratch!
I know the alterations will be rushed with ordering, but odds are you will only need a hem. Have you asked about rush shipping options?
Thank you so much for your response! I thought at first that the 16 would just mean plenty of extra fabric for the alterationist to work with, but reading through your site I learned about things like structure!
I didn't think to ask about rush shipping the dress, but I will now - it would certainly be worth the extra cost. I was also worried about the hem considering the lace on the bottom, but I guess they would just take it up from the waist.
Thank you once again! Audrey
Hi Leanna, it's Audrey again,
I just wanted to update you on my dream dress. I have been calling all
over the country and finally located it in Utah in a size 8, and at
10% off too! I was measured and am right between 4 and 6 on the bridal
chart. I just wanted to check with you that this will be okay to
That's so much better than a 16!! You should have no trouble getting it to fit beautifully.
added January 2007
Your website is great --thank you. My daughter saw a
Maggie Sottero dress that she loves and I can't afford. I have been contacting
ebay stores from china that sell cheaper wedding dresses and asked if they
could clone the dress. Am I looking for trouble? Have you had any experience
with this type of dress acquisition?
I have not encountered this particular situation but I think you're asking for trouble. You do not know the people who will be doing this deal and they are in another country. Anything can happen and you could loose the money and have no dress and there would be nothing you can do about it because they are not in the US. I could see this working if you knew someone personally in China or if you were planning a trip there, but I just can't see it being a safe deal otherwise.
You do have one thing in your favor - most ebay stores have
a degree of reputation through the ebay rating system. If they are new to
ebay I would be very cautious about them, but if they have a feedback rating
of over 100, they are probably a honest company.
There are many options for buying gowns with less expense. There are web sites that sell used gowns at great discounts. Plus you can find a gown very close to this one in design and have it altered by someone here who you can talk to face to face and know that if something goes wrong you have some options.
added January 2006
I found my "dream dress" at Priscilla of Boston
(it's from the Melissa Sweet collection), but it is a little out of my price
range. (I thought it was part of a sample sale, but it wasn't.) I just happened
to see the dress on ebay, but I have some concerns about buying it used.
The bride selling the dress is 5' 7 1/2" but I am only 5' 1". Will it be difficult to shorten the dress so much, especially if it has already been altered previously? Also, what if the dress has already been altered to include a bustle? I wanted some advice before I emailed the bride or put in a bid on the dress.
Thanks so much, Grace Lin
This is probably no problem. Can you send me the ebay link so I can look at it?
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I emailed the bride today to ask about any alterations which have already been made on the dress. Hopefully she gets back to me tomorrow. I usually wear a street size 2-4, but I am much shorter than she is, so I wanted to be sure the alterations wouldn't be too complicated. Thanks, Grace
There's about 6" difference between you and this lady,
give or take a little for what shoes you choose. It's not easy to see in the
pictures if the gown has a waistline, but it's doesn't seem to - so any hemming
has to be done at the bottom. There looks to be much beading or embroidery
of some kind at the hem in the front that would be a shame to cut off but
it is very near the edge. Since you need 6 inches this is going to be tough
I would really need to see this gown to advise you for sure, but I haven't meet a gown in my 20+ years of altering for brides that I could not hem in some way that looks nice. There are many unconventional ways to hem other than the 2 main ones of at the waist or at the bottom. Its only limited by your imagination and how you want the gown to look like. Neatly placed tucks, pleats or scalping gathers all can be artfully used to bring up a hem without cutting off any fabric. This gown is very sleek and simplistic in design. Adding elements like these I think will change it more than you may like.
I don't know how popular these gowns are on ebay, but I would take the chance, wait 5 days and see if it doesn't sell and then offer the seller to ship it to you on approval. This is too much money to get stuck with a gown you can not hem to your liking and there are many other beautiful gowns out there to choose from that will fit your size situation better.
I tried the dress on in a bridal salon today and had a friend take some pictures of it. Since these pictures show the dress more clearly, I was hoping you could take another look and tell me how difficult you think it would be to hem. Does hemming involve altering the train also, or just the front? I just love the dress and would love to wear it if at all possible. Thanks so much for your time!
There is decoration very close to the hem that you will loose if you hem the gown in the normal fashion. You have to decide if that is ok, or if you want to use tucks or some other method to bring the front up.
Normally the train is not shortened, but it can be if you want. It will be an extra expense.
added September 2005
I am purchasing a wedding dress that is on sale for a very inexpensive price. The only problem is that the measurements are just a little smaller than me. This dress has been used before and if I purchase it it will be shipped to my house. I will be unable to try the dress on, but she has provided me with pictures of all angles of the dress. I wanted to know if letting out a dress can be done. The dress is very simple. Her measurements are bust 32-33 and waist 25. My measurements are bust 34 and waist 26-27. Is letting out a wedding dress a common alteration-and is it possible to do?
Most gowns can be let out 1 to 2". It's not a common alteration and I have seen gowns that could not be let out at all. In this case you have to add pieces of fabric to the seams called gussets to make the dress larger.
If this gown was taken in for her you might be able to get more, but I really can not tell you definitely without seeing the dress. Quite often when seams are taken in the seams need to be snipped to accommodate the sharper curve it creates. If this was done the seams can not be let back out.
You are taking a risk. Have you asked her if there is room in the seams to have the gown let out and if she will let you send it back for a refund if it can not be?
added May 2004
I have a question for you----
I recently went to a Trunk Show for a St. Pucchi dress.
The dress that I have fallen in love with comes with a hefty price tag of $8,000.00!!!!!
After a brief back and forth with the sales lady--with me about to walk away---she suddenly offered to sell me the dress, the headpiece, the veil, and alterations for a total and final cost of $7,200.
This may seem odd, but I didn't trust this at all, and walked away. I felt as though this woman was going to sell me the dress right off the floor!
Does this ever happen? Do brides sue these salons for
lying to them? And if so, how common is this?
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU'RE BEING SCAMMED????
Thank you so much! Hope you can help!
Was it that you wanted to order the dress you saw and not buy
the one in the trunk? It's quite common to get discounts on dresses from the
rack. That's how many brides get more dress than is really in their budget.
Alterations are always needed whether you order one or get one off the rack
so it's not always a bad deal. The gown might need cleaning so you need to
figure that expense into your budget, but you usually need a finish steaming
that costs anywhere from $60 to $100, so having the thing cleaned doesn't
If they told you they were ordering the dress and then gave you the one from the rack, then I'd complain. But since they offered such a discount I would not think they were intending on ordering a fresh, new one. It's not a scam and it's very common for Trunk Show sales. They just need to recoup their investment in the rack gowns so they often sell them for less than the list price because they have been tried on by many brides and may be slightly worn.
If you like the gown enough, go back and talk to them and make sure you understand what they are offering. They may even make you a better offer.
Q & A
Busts and Bodices | Before You Order | Botched Alterations | Buying from . . . | Cleavage & Necklines | I Just Want to Change . . . | Cheers & Jeers | Why the High Cost | Sweating the Details | On a Diet? | Finding the Right Alterationist | Do I Have To? | Hemming | Politically Incorrect Answers | Lace-up Backs | Maids and Others | Moms and Dads | Not My Job | Other Stuff | I'm Pregnant!!!!!! | Refunds | Bridal Salon Issues | Selecting the Right Alterationist | Skirts | It's Just Too Big | It's Just Too Small | Doing Your Own Alterations| Sewing Your Gown from Scratch | Gown Care |
site created and maintained by: Leanna
© Copyright 1994 by Leanna Studios. All Rights Reserved.