May 27, 2009 — -- You've found true love, you've got the ring, now you need the dress, but it's going to cost you!
"I was doing a bit of research and I can not believe the prices," she said.
Heather is afraid she'll have to spend upwards of $5,000 and that's not so unusual. According to about.com the average designer dress costs about $3,000 and Brides.com says the average cost of a wedding dress (designer and off-label) is $1,075.
But as a thrift-store fashionista, I noticed a trend: almost every consignment, second hand or thrift store I shopped at had a wedding dress on sale. Some were older, others were out of style, but I wanted to see if I could find a dress for our bride that came in at a tenth of her budget. I set out to find the sub-$500 wedding dress.
Over the course of a month I scoured the second hand shops in the San Francisco Bay area and that's my first tip; give yourself a lot of time. I also recommend taking a pad of post-it notes with your name and contact information written down and giving one to the clerks at each store in case a dress comes in.
I went to upscale consignment boutiques like Labels in Walnut Creek, I went to charity donation stores like Next to New, the Junior League's second-hand shop in San Francisco.
I went to Goodwill, the Salvation Army Thrift Town, Out of the Closet, Seconds To Go, Main Street Rags, and the Alta Bates Thrift shop in Oakland.
And that's another tip; don't limit your searches. People drop off and donate wedding dresses to all kinds of places in all kinds of neighborhoods. The first day you go out looking, go everywhere.
At two of the thrift shops I didn't see any dresses, but when I asked about them, I hit the jackpot. Wedding dresses are big and often difficult to arrange on a hanger, so stores often keep them off the floor. At one thrift store, they pointed me to an upstairs area where I found two dresses each priced at $20.
In the end I purchased seven dresses. The headliners are a never worn Vera Wang valued in the thousands that I got for $375, a Beautiful jewel encrusted Lazaro dress for $275, a Jim Hjelm off-white stunner for $108, and a no name dress with a gorgeous modern back that cost $20.