Weighing the Risks of Online Dress Shopping
By Lorna Urwin

13 July 2017

Finding and buying your perfect gown is one of the most exciting wedding planning moments. The variety, convenience and lower prices can make online shopping a tempting approach to tracking down your dream dress. But is it too risky compared with a brick and mortar bridal boutique? Read on for our take on the pros and cons!

Pro: It’s cost effective and convenient

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Image by Tamara Gruner

Wedding dresses are expensive! No bride wants to spend more than she has to, especially if the same dress she loved in a store is available online for less. Stores based solely online have fewer overheads than their local counterparts, meaning they can afford to offer goods at competitive prices. 

For busy brides, shopping online can save time compared to doing it in person. You can check a website any time of day and with very little effort – you don’t even need to change out of your pyjamas!

Con: Cheaper dresses can mean lower quality

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Image by Apryl Ann Photography

On a smaller budget, online shopping can be especially appealing. But it’s worth bearing in mind that even if the quality looks good in photos, sometimes part of the reason a dress is so cheap is that the quality of fabric and construction is lower than something you’d find in a bridal salon. 

Always read the product description carefully to understand what specific fabric you’ll be getting. You might also want to find out about the cut, lining and where it’s made. Even better if you can see/feel the fabric beforehand! Explore whether you can order swatches or look at comparable fabric elsewhere.

Pro: A larger selection and the ability to filter

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The Internet puts a huge number of dresses at your fingertips. Though the sheer number might seem overwhelming, most sites have efficient filtering systems that make it really easy to narrow down your options. At the tick of a box, you can see be presented with the colour/length/skirt type you prefer, or the best dresses for your body type. 

Con: Not all websites are reputable

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Image by Julie Paisley Photography 

The high demand for cheaper dresses online means that there are some scammers trying to get in on the action alongside reputable sellers. The Internet is full of horror stories about brides buying cheap ‘designer’ dresses, only to receive unrecognisable knockoffs for their money. 

Always vet websites thoroughly before making a purchase. Check the site’s policies, ask questions, check their customer service and pay very close attention to past customer reviews. 

Pro: Get a made to measure / customised dress 

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Image by Patina Photography

Some sites offer made to measure designs. You simply send them your measurements and they make it to that specification, meaning you have a good chance of getting something that fits like a glove the first time you try it on.

Con: You can’t try it on before purchase

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With most new designs, you don’t have any opportunity to try the dress on before you take the plunge and pay for it. This means you can’t gauge the fabric quality, the level of craftsmanship, the way the dress fits, how it moves and how it makes you feel before you spend your money.

For a dress as significant (and expensive) as your wedding gown, this can be a deal breaker for many brides. Depending on how important it is to you, it can be worth paying more to get the confidence from seeing it in the flesh, rather than risk disappointment when the dress you receive doesn’t match up to your expectations.

Pro: Potential to buy just to try (and/or get it altered)

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Image by 2 Brides Photography

If the prices are low enough, some brides purchase a few styles they like just to have the option of trying them out at home. This is ideal for brides who feel pressure or anxiety in shopping situations, allowing to feel more comfortable when making dress decisions. Depending on the returns policy, they can then either return or sell the ones they decide they don’t want.

If the sizing or fit is off, brides can always rely on a tailor or seamstress (ideally one with plenty of wedding dress experience) to come to the rescue. So long as the dress is too big rather than too small, it’s usually possible for it to be taken in and the fit improved. (For this reason, it’s always better to choose the larger of two sizes if you’re uncertain which is the better choice.) 

Con: It can take longer than you’d think (especially for delivery)

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Though browsing online is convenient, the fact that you’re buying sight unseen can make the decision a really time-consuming one. After checking out the vendor themselves, asking questions and reading reviews, you’ll likely spend hours poring over images from different angles and triple checking measurements in order to feel that you’ve done everything right before hitting ‘buy’. 

Delivery can also be longer than you’d expect due to a range of factors, including whether you buy a standard sized dress vs. made to measure, whether it will be shipped immediately and the country the dress ships from. (Of course, with anything being delivered from abroad there’s also a risk of unforeseen delays. Add some extra contingency time onto the estimate is given by your online retailer.)

Add any alterations needed on top of that and you could easily be looking at several months’ wait!