How to avoid the wedding dress premium

Today the Washington Post ran a Wonkblog entitled "Don’t buy a ‘wedding dress’ for your wedding" that warns about the markup anything labeled wedding, including dresses incurs. This is now borne out by analysis:
Edited studied thousands of e-commerce listings for white wedding dresses across mass-market retailers such as J. Crew, Nordstrom, H&M and Asos and compared the pricing of those items to the pricing of dresses that were comparable in design but not described as bridal gowns in any related text or keywords. The analysis found that, on average, retailers were charging 3.9 times as much for the wedding dresses.
 And it's not just the bride that can end up shelling out big bucks for wedding day attire: Researchers found that frocks marked as bridesmaid dresses were 1.8 times more expensive than like items that were not labeled bridesmaid dresses.

Years ago I wrote about the fact that the same exact gown sometimes costs more in white than it does in other colors simply because it can then be marketed as a wedding gown.

But you do have alternatives with respect to gowns. As they are typically only worn once and not needed again (even women who remarry tend to choose a different dress for the next trip down the aisle) there are many wedding gowns available for borrowers.

The most cost-free option, of course, is borrowing the gown from a friend or relative. Be sure you obtain full permission to alter the dress if you are planning to do so. Your cost for this would be alterations you will need to make the gown fit you perfectly. You can expect to pay $50 to $300, depending on if you need it taken in a tad, wish to add on decorations, or if you need major changes. The only other cost you would have is cleaning. If you get the gown clean, it is only civil of you to return it clean. If it was not cleaned after the owner wore it, put off your own cleaning until after your alterations are done, so that you will get it pressed and cleared of any dirt it might have picked up in the seamstress shop. Professional dry cleaning prices for wedding gowns vary widely – from about $100 to $250 and even higher, depending on how much fabric and detail is in the gown and the pricing scale of your cleaner. So do ask around for recommendations and prices.


Another borrowing option is a bridal gmach. There are gmachs throughout New York, New Jersey, as well, as other areas in the US and Israel. You can find out if your own community has one, or travel out to the many that you will find listed in directories such as the one on Gmachs do not conform to any universal model. Some are supplied by kallahs who donate their gowns after wearing, while others actually purchase new dresses. Given the differences in operation, gmachs will not all have the same upkeep costs. It behooves you to ask upfront about fees. Some gmachs really lend out the dresses and only require that they be cleaned. Others charge fees; these can range from just covering the cost of the cleaning to something that verges on what bridal salons charge for their rented bridal gowns. However, whereas the rental charges at a salon generally include any alterations, that is not likely to be the case for a gmach. You can also choose to rent a dress, though do carefully price your buying options before doing so to be certain you will not pay as much for renting as you would to purchase.


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