Melissa Manwell has experience with buying and selling used wedding gowns. The Merrillville bride is currently selling a bridal gown online that she purchased at a thrift store. “I couldn't believe my luck when I saw it on the rack at Goodwill. It was a dress I had saved to my favorites on my David's Bridal account,” she says.
After purchasing the dress, Manwell and her then-boyfriend broke up and she never wore it.
A few years later, she moved on and got engaged. She planned to wear the dress she had, but her parents wanted to buy her a new one for her walk down the aisle for her October 19 wedding at Festival Park in Hobart. She placed the other gown for sale on Craigslist in hopes of making extra money to spend on items for the new home she and her fiancé are buying.
Manwell recommends that past brides be patient when selling their dresses, because online shoppers are expecting to find a deal.
For brides-to-be looking to recycle a dress, she says, “Don’t settle. When you do find the perfect dress, try negotiating, but don't insult the seller with a really low offer. Also, a great idea is bartering. I'm new to the concept, but I've heard great things about it.”
Manwell’s first dress came from Goodwill, a good starting point for brides shopping for the perfect gown, says Debie Coble, vice president of Workforce Development Services for Goodwill Industries of Michiana. Inventory varies by store, but some may have a selection of half a dozen bridal dresses. “Our Gary outlet store has several and those go for $50 apiece. That’s it,” she says. At the other stores, wedding gowns run from $75 to $300, depending on the quality.
The gowns often look unworn, she says, and although brides may not typically think of a thrift store prior to purchasing a new dress, they should. “I know if I were getting married today I’d rather spend money on my honeymoon or other things,” Coble says. “You wear it one day. Nobody has to know where you got it.”
At thrift shops, brides can find a beautiful dress that doesn’t break the bank, even if it needs alterations.
Coble suggests brides plan ahead and give themselves enough time to check multiple stores multiple times. “My best advice is to strategize a time to hit several of the Goodwills at the same time. I would suggest a half-off day.” To find future half-off days, visit goodwill-ni.org.
The stores also can be a good resource for attendant dresses, especially for weddings with one bridesmaid or with bridesmaids wearing mismatched dresses. “They do get pretty formal dresses, too, so they may have something for you,” Coble says.
If the groom wants to don a suit instead of tuxedo, Goodwill can help him, too, she says, explaining they often have nice suits for sale.