After Your Wedding, Say Yes to Selling the Dress

by Erin C. O'Neil on 26 September 2012 2 comments
Photo: Ed Yourdon

As peak wedding season winds down, newlyweds may get a harsh reality check in the aftermath of their nuptials — the bill.

Selling your dress can help recoup some of the costs from your wedding. It’s a growing trend among frugal brides who plan and pay for the ceremony. Given the emotionally charged process of finding and wearing a wedding gown, the idea of resale might initially seem strange. But let’s be honest — if you keep the dress, chances are high no one will ever wear it again. Most people don’t really want to wear their mother’s wedding dress anyway, so you won’t be doing your future daughter a disservice. (See also: Alternative Wedding Ideas for Big Savings)

Still, this trend isn’t for everyone. If your wedding dress has deep sentimental value, it’s completely understandable to keep it. Those who admire Miss Havisham should also pass on wedding gown resale. But for ladies interested in cold hard cash, it’s a great option. If you’re ready to part with yards and yards of white fabric and tulle, read on to learn a few popular options to sell a wedding dress.

You’re going to need to do a little legwork to market your dress. Take fabulous photos, have the dress cleaned, and make note of any details that could raise the asking price. After that, check out the following sites to find the best reselling option for you.

Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses

Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses boasts an impressive roster of endorsements. It’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and CNN.com. The selection is vast, ranging from inexpensive dresses to high-end garments from designers like Vera Wang and Alexander McQueen.

How It Works

It's kind of like a posh version of eBay with more pink. You sign up for a seller account and provide details on the dress you’d like to sell. The basics like designer, style, and measurements are covered. Some questions are practical, like the type of reception the dress is suited for, an important fact for potential buyers. You pay a one-time fee of $25 to list the dress. The site estimates that approximately 40% of dresses sell.

How It Pays

The site offers tips for sellers to optimize listings. According to guidelines, a used wedding dress purchased within the last two and a half years would fetch approximately 50% of the retail value. If the dress is two and a half to five years old, that drops to 40% of the retail value. Dresses over five years old can expect to sell for about 30% of the original price. The site recommends that sellers use escrow.com for payments.

Real-World Example

A used Vera Wang dress with a ball gown silhouette purchased for $1,200 in 2011. Assuming the dress isn’t damaged and sells, the sale would fetch $600 as per the suggested pricing guidelines. Subtract the $25 listing fee and $150 to clean the dress, and the net profit becomes $425.

The Recycled Bride

The Recycled Bride touts itself as being eco-savvy, which I guess is true, although you don’t hear much about wedding dresses piling up on landfills. The site design is a little less pink and a little more Etsy. As the most popular site for wedding dress resale, The Recycled Bride has been featured on NBC news, ABC news, Today, and Brides Magazine.

How It Works

The Recycled Bride offers one listing for free. Sellers set an asking price on the dress, and prospective buyers contact you to negotiate the details. If you want to sell more than one item, the site charges $9.95 a month for up to six listings. You’re allowed to sell anything related to wedding apparel and accessories. Here’s hoping that doesn’t include undergarments.

How It Pays

The Recycled Bride also suggests a price point of 50% for used gowns in good condition. They recommend listing damaged or older items for 40% to 20% of the original cost. The site’s secure payment feature uses PayPal. You’ll pay a 9% transaction fee to accept payment.

Real World Example

Using the same Vera Wang dress example, the dress would sell for $600 according to pricing guidelines. The listing is free, but there’s a 9% “transaction fee” (which seems more like a commission), or $54 on a $600 sale. Subtract the fees and cleaning costs, and the net profit equals $396 on a $1,200 dress.

eBay

You can find everything on eBay, so why not sell a wedding dress there? The world's most popular online auction site is a household name, and it boasts over 100 million active users. EBay claims the total value of items sold adds up to more than $2,100...per second. The result is a mixed bag; you'll face more competition when selling a dress, but you'll probably attract a lot more prospective buyers based on the site's volume.

How It Works

Most eBay listings sell by auction or at a fixed price. There are two main fees: one to list the item and a percentage of the sale if the item sells. EBay's fee calculator estimated the total fees for selling a wedding dress at auction to be around $54.90 (given a selling price of $600 and a shipping charge of $10). The calculator lists the insertion fee as free, but in reality you may have to "upgrade" your listing with extra pictures and services to boost the chances of selling your item, which will also boost fees.

How It Pays

Luck of the draw. EBay doesn't offer pricing guidelines for wedding gowns. It's best to do some market research beforehand to see the average selling price of comparable dresses. Showing some personality can help the item stand out in a sea of listings. For example, eBay seller b.mesica’s description of her dress featured the following statement, “I paid $8,500 for this dress and am selling it for $4,500. I only wore this dress for one hour.” Straightforward and effective.

Real World Example

Two Vera Wang dresses, each with a retail value of approximately $1,200 and purchased in 2012, sold for $380 and $515 apiece. Using the fee calculator, that would put the net profit around $194.90 and $317.70, respectively, after subtracting fees and cleaning costs. Popular styles may fetch more, like the Vera Wang “Fiona” dress, which sold in September for $2,000…but the original retail price was $6,000.

The Knot

The Knot encourages members to post dresses for sale with detailed descriptions on their message board. If you’re an active member, this could be a good way to make a sale.

Consignment Shops

Brick-and-mortar consignment shops may offer a slightly higher rate of return, but it often takes a long time for items to sell. Local shops are a mixed bag. There’s less exposure than listing the item online, but also less competition.

Given the options, would you sell your wedding dress? If you have sold your dress, was it worth it?

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Guest

I did not want to sell my dress, but I did not want to keep it either. What I ultimately decided was to donate it. The one organization that I found was Brides Against Breast Cancer. So it made me feel great that another bride would be able to re-use my beautiful dress and I helped a good organization out as well. Win-win-win!

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Guest

This is a great article. People usually act surprise if for some reason the topic strays to my wedding dress and I mention that I sold it. However, I got my dream dress from Craigslist (and it fit perfectly without alteration) for a fraction of what I would have paid for it new ($1400 vs $4000+). I couldn't have worn a Monique Lhullier without someone else being willing to sell it to me, and I know I had a stroke of luck. So I feel like I paid it forward when I sold it to a girl for $800.
Also, keep in mind that not only will my hypothetical daughter not want to wear it, but that lace deteriorates and without careful attention will probably be unwearable in 30+ years.