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

Hi Leanna,

Thanks so much for your incredibly useful website.  I wanted to send you some pictures after a very upsetting appointment with a seamstress today.  I bought my beautiful wedding dress from someone else who supposedly had identical measurements...turns out one of us made some mistakes.  As you can see from the pictures I can get it on fine but the rear/upper thigh area is quite tight and creases.  I also can't sit comfortably which would obviously be a problem.  I took it to a highly recommended seamstress here in LA and she said that I would need an additional 3" to have it let out and the most she could get out was 1 3/4."  Should I just give up and try to sell it or will that 1 3/4" be sufficient?  3" seemed like a lot for what I would need, but I don't have the expertise to know?  I have an appointment to see another seamstress but I wanted your opinion too. 

Thanks! Jane

P.S. The seamstress today also said maybe if I worked out some more...only problem is I ran 14 miles yesterday and am training for my 5th marathon, so I don't anticipate I'll be able to lose much more weight.

Hi Jane,

The rule of thumb for fitting the hip area is that you be able to pinch an inch of fabric for sit down space. But many a bride ignores that rule and the previous owner might have liked the tight hip look. It is looking very snug on you to be causing the wrinkles in the pictures. The 3" she was guessing seems like a good estimate but it's just a guess. The 1 3/4" might be just fine. It's a gamble when you are letting seams out. You have to try it and see how it feels.
In the pictures there are front and back princess seams. Did the seamstress look there too? Often they can be let out. Usually, not much but with 4 seams it could add up to an inch or 2. I once got 6" out of one dress by letting out the sides and all 4 princess seams. Even I was amazed by the results.
Working out won't help. It can even make things worse because muscles can grow from the working along with the loosing of fat. Since you are a runner to begin with I seriously doubt your body is going to change from diet or exercise.
I think it's worth trying it. The gown is very lovely on you.

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

Hi Leanna,
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.
My sizes:
Bust 35.5    Waist 28.5  Hips 37
Mon Cheri:
              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
Hi 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


Dear Leanna,
I stumbled across your website while researching the topic of wedding dress alterations so that I gain a better understanding. The reason being that I am a bride myself and I am currently rather disappointed at the level of bridal shop service.
I bought my A-line wedding gown in a sample bridal shop sale event at the nearby hotel.
I am a pear shape and the company had a policy that no dresses can be tried over head but have to be stepped into instead. As a result most dresses I chose to try on were too tight around my hips to even try them on. Therefore the bridalwear consultant asked what I looked for and brought a huge gown 2-3 sizes above my regular fit of tops & dresses (as I only wear dresses which are loose around the hips therefore concealing the pear shape and flattering my figure).
I happened to like the gown and because the bridalwear consultant constantly assured us that the alterations would make it fit perfectly to my body despite the dress is 2 sizes above my bust/midriff. My purchase included flat fee of an all inclusive alteration package of the dress and complimenting lace bolero (which is also I would say 1 size larger and has a damage, a hole approx 4-5cm long, which i was assured would get fixed and bolero would be fitted to my size).
After i signed the contract and paid for the gown, I was given an information sheet on the alteration package with a map and address of the store. Later on at home i noticed a note on this information sheet that maximum alteration any dress can be taken in is 2". The dress being 2 sizes too big requires minimum 4-5" taking in at the bust and midriff.
I called the bridal shop following day to enquire and this was confirmed on the phone this was a shop policy of the alteration package.
I therefore called the company, and spoke with a lady who took details of my order and the problem I had. I then tried to get in touch again and the company did not get back to me after numerous calls.
I therefore spoke to Consumer Standard Agency and wrote a letter to the company stating misrepresentation during sale of dress. They did not respond. Again I tried calling a number of times and I spoke to the same lady as before who acknowledged the receipt of my letter. She insisted that she had not seen the dress and therefore thinks if the bridalwear consultant advised it could get done that it would get done, despite the information on the alterations package I received after the sale. To give everybody a benefit of the doubt I gave in and said I would therefore go for a first fitting full of hope it would be as this lady and the bridalwear consultant assured me a million times. The lady also kindly arranged a seamstress to call me the same day and we arranged an appointment for a following day.
During the fitting the dress did not fit well at the bust. I have taken a friend with me and asked to take numerous pictures so I can ask an experienced seamstress what her opinion is on
A - what the seamstress said
B - an opinion on the dress fit, size and its suitability for my body shape
I attach a few pictures to show the details of the fitting. The seamstress did not measure me at any point.
She was happy with the fit of the dress pinned up. When I pointed at the fact that it was still too big at the top and that there was an empty space in the bust area, she said she would use padding to fill it up (I have a summer wedding and I was never told about padding as a form of an alteration. I do not wear padded bras as a choice. I am happy to be the size I am). I do not want to be hot in a dress when the temperatures outside will be very warm 30 degrees centigrade.
The seamstress was also happy with the fit of the bolero. I said it was too big and did not fit snugly as it should. She said she could take the bottom sleeve seam in and that was it. The bolero is big at the back too. It is just too loose and so it accentuates the fact I am pear shape and very narrow on top part of my body.
After pinning up the dress I tried to lift my arms (I am a ballroom dancer and so my first dance will be a ballroom hold dance - 3 minute waltz in professional ballroom hold). You could clearly see then how much space was at the top of the dress and how empty it was, despite being taken in at the sides by more than 4" in total already.
Overall I am very unhappy with the advice I was given by the bridalwear consultant and by the advice the seamstress gave me. I feel ugly in the dress and am very upset that it accentuates my pear shape figure making it unsuitable choice for my body shape. I do not think the dress can be fitted to my size due to the intricate beading on the top and due to the fitted boning.
The seamstress will only add padding and take the dress in at the sides (or the back and sides) and will adjust the gown's length. She will repair the hole on bolero and make the sleeves narrower. This is the extent of the proposed alterations. I am very sad and frustrated.
When I said that it did not fit too well at the top, the seamstress said that she would add a hook that could be pinned up to my bra making the dress fit snugly at the neckline and creating a sweatheart shape. I do not even want to wear a bra underneath my dress as I have the luxury of not having to wear one being a small size. I also I do not like a sweetheart shape neckline as it just does not suit me.
When taking the dress off, I could not step out of it - due to my waist being a lot narrower than my hips, being a pearshape. Hence I broke another company policy - by taking the dress off over my head. The do not allow dresses to be put on and taken off over head as I mentioned earlier.
What would be your advice on the suitability of the dress and proposed changes?
I am of the opinion that I should get a refund and go elsewhere because the shop is going against their policy on dress alterations and proposed alterations are not making the dress fit well, they are just bringing it down in size. (the dress will stay as it is currently and no alterations are being done, just the pins are attached to the dress until my next scheduled fitting).
Considering that the wedding gown, bolero and alterations package cost almost $3000 I am very disappointed.
Thank you very much in advance for any advice and your valuable time.
Kind regards, Katherine
Hi Katherine,
You have a lot of issues. And I can understand why you are unhappy. I know it is frustrating to shop for a gown when you have limited places available to you and their rules are not conducive to fun shopping. I've never heard of the no-over-the-head thing. I understand the reasons for it but gee, it sure does put a damper on customer enthusiasm.
I think the biggest issue is: should you return the gown? My gut instinct says yes for I can see how unhappy you are. The pictures don't look as bad to me as your writing feels. I don't see the pear emphasis you are concerned about. The gown flatters your bustline nicely in the first few pictures. I'm not sure why it's acting oddly in the last few, except that it is very rare to see a strapless ballroom gown and now you know why. The alteration process they are doing has issues but it is not far out of normal for a package deal thing. 
Bottom line is, you are unhappy. If you can return the gown and find one better suited to your needs, that would be best, but you may not have that option. Does it say anything about returns in your paperwork? If the paperwork does allow a return and alterations have started, you may not be able to return it at this point.

Dear Leanna,

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

Hi Leanna,

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!


Hi Anjie,
If the dress measured exactly the same as you then I am not surprised it is a bit small. Any garment needs to have an amount of wearing ease in it's measurements for it to fit. If it doesn't then it's just like a second skin and will be too tight. Most areas of a garment need at least 1 inch wearing ease. This will give a snug fit in places like the waist. In places like the bustline, 2 to 3 inches is needed depending on how much definition you are designing. Places where you need more ease, like hips, will need 3 or more inches. So, if your hips measure 38" than the garment you are considering needs to be 41" or more so you can get into and zip it.  
Doing a lace-up conversion is a great answer to many too tight situations. I've added 8 inches to a dress this way. Letting out the seams is not always a good option because many fine fabrics will retain a mark where the old stitching was. Sometimes this can be steamed out and sometimes it can't. Since you said you can see that the seams are stressed and showing it then I am pretty sure they will leave an impression if the stitching is moved. 
I do not know any one in the Chicago area personally. I'm sure there are many. Look in your local phone book under alterations and call a few. Ask a lot of questions and make an appointment with one you feel you can communicate best with. 
I hope this helps,

Dear Leanna,

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. :-)


Hi Anjie, 
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. 



Hi Emily,
Very lovely! I really like that vintage look. 
I seriously doubt the fabric from the hemming is still there if it was done at the waist. It would have made the waist area very bulky and it looks rather slimming in the picture. I would not have done the hem at the waist, though. I would have taken up each layer a small amount to keep the whole asymmetrical layering even.  If it was done that way it is possible the fabric is still there, but someone will have to know how to look under the skirt at the seams to tell if it is. It sounds like your seller is not knowledgeable enough to do this.
It's hard to tell because of the asymmetry, but comparing her pictures to the model it looks to me like only the last layer was shortened. Depending on how the layers are constructed the fabric might still be there and could be easily let back out. I make it a policy of not cutting anything that is not totally necessary. I can't guarantee the gown was done the way I would do it but it is possible.
If you really love this dress, I would ask her if she'd ship it to you on approval. Maybe offer to pay her half and the rest if the dress can be altered. If it can't you send it back for a refund. Part of the price of buying a bargain is not monetary. It's the risk that you both have to trust that the other person is being honest and will pay or refund as promised.
$200 is a great price. If you do buy the dress and find out it won't work for you, you can list it for re-resale. I know of brides who have done this and sold the gown for more than they bought it for. The resale bridal market is huge!

Good Luck,


Hi Leanna-
Thanks so much for your quick and very helpful response.  I hadn't thought to compare the pictures of the dress before and after alterations, but I think you might be right about the bottom tier looking noticeably shorter...potentially good news. 
I'll also see if I can work something out with the seller along the lines you've suggested.  I really appreciate your advice!

added April 2010

Hi Leanna, 

Thanks so much for putting up the Q&A section on your site!  It's been a fun read + I feel much better knowing a little more about the alteration process as I'm looking for wedding dresses.

My question has to do with a dress I found recently that I really love.  The problem is that the dress is a little tight around the bust area.  The girl who's selling the dress said that she had the bust taken in a little for her wedding.  Do you think it's possible that there is still some excess fabric available on the dress that would allow it to be taken out again...  or do you think they would have trimmed it in the first alteration?  If it was trimmed, do you think that it would be difficult to let out the bust about an inch on this dress? 

Go forward to the pictures of Dress #3 (La Sposa "Fiordo"):
** there should be 7 total pictures of this dress

If the alteration on the bust is possible, do you know what a reasonable price would be for this type of work?  Also, how soon before the wedding should a dress usually be sent in for alterations?




Hi Susie,
It's my policy to not cut an fabric in a bridal alteration unless it is absolutely necessary. Many follow this policy but some may not. If your gown was altered without cutting the seam allowance it should be simple to let it back out. If it is trimmed, I have no way of knowing how much they trimmed it. It should be a simple thing to look inside the dress and see if it was trimmed or not. You can usually go to the hem and look in between the layers to see the side seams. Some hems are sewn together at the bottom and you have to open a seam in the lining to get inside to see the side seams.
I normally like to see brides for the first time 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding with the goal that the dress will be finished 2 weeks before the wedding. This works well for the bride usually has many things she has to attend to right before the wedding and worrying about. Her gown is one I like to eliminate. This timing can very depending on what the gown needs but works well for most situations. If the side seams are the only thing you need done than you don't need so much time, but this also depends on the schedule of the person you get to agree to do the work. You have plenty of time between now and November so you should not have any trouble getting this fixed.
I think that answers all your questions. Good luck with your gown.

added February 2009

There are a number of factory-direct websites from China that offer knock-off gowns.  Is there any reputible ones....the testimonials almost always have a mixture of good and bad...but mostly bad.

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

Hello Leanna,

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 ( ); 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?

Thanks! ~Danielle

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.

Thanks! ~Danielle

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

Hi Leanna,

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 -- 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

Hi Leanna,
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?

Dear Leanna,

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?
thank you,

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 to hem.

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?

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 add much.

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.


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