While there's nothing quite like browsing through wedding dresses with your bridesmaids and mother, there's something to be said for the ease, variety, and even savings to be found from shopping online. Plus, "it gives the busy bride the opportunity to try everything on in the comfort of her home with her choice of shoes and jewelry and without the pressure of a salesperson—something that isn't necessarily a luxury when shopping in a store," says Sarah Rutson of Net-A-Porter.
Meet the Expert
Sarah Rutson is the Vice President of Global Buying for Net-A-Porter.
Before you begin browsing, here are nine expert tips to help find your dream dress without leaving home.
Know Your Measurements
You'll need three—your bust, waist, and hips—to shop for a dress with the right fit. Some websites, such as Net-A-Porter, not only measure the gown but the model, "which makes finding the perfect fit much easier," Rutson says.
Get Familiar With Fabrics
In-store, you can run silk through your fingers—but online, you must know just how each fabric will fold and flex. "Certain fabrics stretch while others are much stiffer," says Rutson. "Just know what you're looking for so you're comfortable in your dress."
Know the Store's Policies
Would you still buy it if shipping cost as much as the dress? Or take a risk if you weren't allowed to return it? "The last thing you want is to purchase a fabulous gown online only for it to arrive and not be what you expected with no hope of a return," Rutson says.
Read Product Descriptions Thoroughly
Though quite technical, dress descriptions help you understand exactly what you're buying. "This will give you a clear understanding of what fabrics are being used, how the dress is lined, where the gown is made, and sometimes how it fits," says Rutson. "It's always helpful if there is a video of the model wearing the dress, so scroll through all of the images."
When you're purchasing a second-hand gown ...
Try It on Before You Buy It
Whether you buy your used gown from an online retailer or directly from a newlywed who's placed a personal ad, make sure you have a way to see the dress in person and try it on before you commit fully. Inspect the condition and to gauge its fit. You can coordinate a neutral location for an in-person meetup, or scan a site's return policy to ensure you won't get stuck if you don't fall in love.
Wrap Your Mind Around Sizing
Unlike purchasing a new dress, whoever is selling a gently-used gown may not post its exact measurements. Instead, they'll likely list its size. And bridal sizing is often totally different than street sizing—the size you would wear in everyday clothing—and can also vary drastically from designer to designer.
Before you purchase online, make sure you understand if the size listed is in the bridal size—the size on the tag—or the equivalent street size.
Be Prepared to Act Fast
"A highly-desired used gown at a great price online is a hot commodity, and lots of brides are looking for the same dresses and designers," Steele says. Love it? Buy it, lest you lose it to another bride! Also, "many sites, including Borrowing Magnolia, will allow you to set up dress alerts for specific gowns designers, sizes, and styles so you'll be notified when a gown you are looking for becomes available" and can react quickly, Steele says.