If you’re looking for a wedding dress, you’ll probably check the usual suspects: bridal boutiques, pre-owned websites, and maybe some sample sales in your area.
But there’s one place worth checking you might not have thought of.
Yes, that online marketplace where you can buy things like Magic the Gathering cards and silver moon boots.
I know what you’re thinking:
But wait, isn’t eBay sketchy?
But wait, don’t I have to try the dress on to check the size?
But wait, am I going to miss out on the bridal boutique “experience”?
No, you won’t be greeted with a glass of champagne like you would in a bridal boutique, but if you expand your horizons, eBay is where you can find tons of hidden gems and some sweet, sweet deals. I know, because eBay is exactly where I got all my wedding outfit stuffs. No, that’s not a typo. I bought STUFFS.
First, here were my dress requirements:
- It had to be unaltered. Buying a dress that was altered seemed to be way too complicated to deal with. I had more important things to deal with, like figuring out the correct font for the wedding invitations. Because the font has to match your personality perfectly, am I right???
- It had to be a designer I liked. I like designer stuff in my everyday life so anything non-designer would be super off-brand. And who wants to be off-brand on their wedding day? I wanted to be exactly me, but just a touch more glam.
- It had to be $300 or less. Every purchase you make is an opportunity cost, and I wanted to spend my money on other things.
So, let’s see what I bought!
Wedding Dress: Self-Portrait V-Neck Dress with Fluted Pleats
Price Paid: $300
My wedding dress was an off-the-rack non-bridal dress from Self-Portrait. I was familiar with this brand already and knew they made a lot of white, lacey dresses, so perfect for the modern bride. I wanted something simple I could move in, and I thought the skirt part was so pretty! Plus, it was midi-length, so no hemming required (remember I didn’t want to deal with alterations?), AND you could see my shoes underneath. I don’t know about you, but I’d be bummed to spend hundreds of dollars on weddings shoes when no one could see them underneath my dress. OK, so after zeroing in on the design I wanted, I created an eBay search alert for ‘Self Portrait Fluted Dress 4’. They had a few dresses in that style already on eBay, but none in my size. Yet. About a month before the wedding one in my size popped up brand-new, for $300. A month before the wedding would stress a lot of people out, but I knew I’d find something that would work.
Wedding Shoes: Charlotte Olympia Daisy Shoes
Price Paid: $150
Obviously, since the dress had a shorter hem the shoes could not disappoint. I was trolling around on the Bergdorf Goodman website for any shoes that were white, silver or beige. Every time I saw a shoe I liked, I’d check to see if it was on eBay. One day I was on the Bergdorf site again and came across these Charlotte Olympia shoes. They were adorned with daisies with Swarovski crystals. Fun, fashion forward, and unexpected. I checked eBay and there they were! Brand-new in box with the receipt and all. They were half a size too big, but you know what? I’d make it work. It turns out, they actually run half a size too small, so they fit me perfectly.
Random Party Dress: 3.1 Phillip Lim Kite Dress
Price Paid: $228
Ever since this 3.1 Phillip Lim dress sauntered down the runway in 2012, it’s been on my lust list. A dress that looks like a high-end potato sack? Sign me the hell up. I’ve actually had this dress on eBay follow alert forever now, and a brand-new one finally showed up last June. Before I was even engaged. I knew I would use it for my “future wedding” so I bought it. I’d wear it to the bachelorette or other wedding events that eventually popped up (we had a post-wedding dinner that friends insisted on).
Random Party Shoes: Joshua Sanders Macrame Eyelet Bow Slip-on Sneakers
Retail: $475, currently selling for $285
Price Paid: $78
These were yet another discovery from the Saks website. I wear sneakers almost all the time in my everyday life, so I thought: why shouldn’t I wear sneakers on my wedding day?! With the oversized bows, these were so crazy-looking I had to have them. You can see now how I’ve prioritized amazing shoes over everything else! Again, I created an eBay search to follow so I’d be alerted in case they ever popped up. Two pairs popped up: one store model that had some slight, but unnoticeable flaws, and one perfect pair for $20 more. I went with the “flawed” pair and have no regrets. I bought them to swap in in case the wedding heels got too annoying to wear. And they were really fun to wear to the bachelorette and post-wedding dinner. Even guys commented on them, and guys never say anything about my shoes.
And that’s how I got all my wedding outfits without really having to settle on my “vision”. Summary:
Total Retail: $2,765
Total Price Paid: $756
Total Savings: 73% Off
My Top Ten Tips for Buying Your Wedding Dress from eBay
1. Think Outside of the Box
I know, such a cliché phrase, but it’s true. Not one of the items I bought was marketed as “bridal”. If you search for items that are “bridal”, you’re going to face a bit more competition, which inevitably drives up demand, and then prices. When you search for wedding clothes online, instead of limiting yourself to the site’s merchandised bridal shop, filter by colors instead: whites, creams, beiges, and silvers.
2. Know What You Want Before Browsing
Randomly browsing ‘wedding dress’ on eBay is not effective or efficient. You’ll be overwhelmed by results, and I’m not going to lie, there is a ton of crap to wade through on there. So before you even hop on eBay take a day or two to figure out the brands and styles you’re interested in. I personally went onto all the high-end department stores websites because I wanted something designer. You could go look on the BHLDN website or even go to a few local bridal boutiques to get a feel for what you like. The key is to have some sort of focused ideas.
3. Set It and Forget It
Once you narrow your search down to specific brands and styles, create an eBay search alert so that you get notified if the item pops up. Then move on with your life. This is one of the same strategies I talked about in this post, and exactly how I scored both of my dresses and the sneakers.
4. Start Early
I can’t recommend this enough. Especially if you’re looking for something from many past seasons ago. The second you are engaged or even had a feeling you’re going to be engaged, I’d be looking. Remember, when you wait until the last minute, usually your options decrease. Do your future bridal self a favor and get cracking ASAP. Some may call me overly aggressive, but I say I’m smart. For reference, it took me about 6 months full months to get everything I wanted. That 3.1 Phillip Lim dress was a rare find!
5. Double Check the Sizing
It’s a legit concern to think buying a dress online is risky in terms of sizing. I never tried on dresses from Self-Portrait before but I had done some research by Googling ‘self portrait sizing’. Then I found the dress 2 sizes too big on The Real Real. I knew I could return it, so I bought it, just to get an estimation on sizing, and to make sure the cut looked good on me. I did end up paying about $20 to ship the dress both ways, but it was worth it for peace of mind. If you can’t find a returnable dress from online, go to a local bridal store to see if you can try on a similar style from the same brand.
6. Avoid Sellers from Outside of the US
Many of the horror stories I see are because people bought custom dresses from Asia. I think buying anything on eBay outside of the US is risky. First, you can almost never get insurance or tracking on a non-US-based package, which increases the chances of the package getting “lost” in the mail. Second, many times people complain that the item they receive looks nothing like the pictures in the listing. If you’re gung ho about getting the item from a non-US-based seller, at least make sure they send you pictures of the actual item you’ll receive.
7. Check the Seller’s Feedback
I’ve been burned a couple times buying thing on eBay because I didn’t check the seller’s feedback. But later, I found out if I had taken the time to look at their reviews, I would have seen the red flags. I had no one to blame but myself for not doing my due diligence.
8. Ask Questions
I always ask the seller questions because A. most of the time the listings don’t have enough information and B. It helps to gauge what the seller will be like if there’s a problem down the line. If the seller takes a long time to respond, doesn’t thoroughly answer your questions, then be wary.
9. Make Sure You Can Return It
Check the seller’s return policy and make sure you understand the terms. My wedding dress actually wasn’t returnable, but I felt that since I had tried the dress on in a different size and cross-referenced exact measurements, I could handle the risk. The dress ended up fitting perfectly.
10. Best Brands to Check
OK, so now you’re ready to look for your wedding dress on eBay. Here are some brands that have lovely wedding dress options and crop up pretty frequently on eBay:
- J. Crew. Especially the Gracie dress. I absolutely adore that style! It would be so, so right for lots of different types of weddings and body types.