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It takes two ... or three? When you’re stuck with multiple wedding gowns

August 2, 2010 |  3:16 pm
Lucy-dress-badgley-mischka It seems like kind of a cruel joke, doesn't it? You set out months before your wedding day to scour bridal store after bridal store searching for the perfect dress -- only to fork over a chunk of cash for your dress of choice and then be told they'll contact you in a few months when the lovely design finally arrives in the store.

No wonder a bride can get cold feet. Take Tonya Clark, 48, of San Jose. A little less than a year away from her December 2009 wedding (and getting a little too close for comfort, in some store clerks' opinions), she'd scoured seven bridal stores when she found a $1,200 Casablanca gown that was pretty nice -- not something she thought was a knock-your-socks-off dress, mind you, but good.

Then the sales attendant said, "You're never going to find anything you're really going to like; this does fine," and Clark caved. She was making peace with the less-than-perfect dress until she picked up a copy of Martha Stewart Wedding and got that "this-is-the-one" feeling when she saw a stunning Matthew Christopher gown that even her fiance admitted was some dress.

She bought a Matthew Christopher, meaning she not only added a $3,500 purchase that was way beyond her anticipated price tag, but she also had to contend with the first gown. So Clark took to the Web.

In its March 2010 user survey, -- one of the online listing services available for those looking to unload a purchase and Clark's website of choice -- found that 20% of their users were there because they'd purchased two or more gowns during their dress hunt. Sometimes this happens because, like Clark, brides find a better dress after they've already purchased one; sometimes it happens because brides want to wear a succession of different dresses for the ceremony and reception. Whatever the reason, the site, which Josie Daga founded in 2004 thinking it would appeal to divorcees and those affected by broken engagements, saw 139% growth in 2009. Besides her original target market and the brides who bought multiples, Daga says her users include budget-conscious buyers who want to save money and sellers who want to recoup some of their wedding expenses while doing a bit of recycling and giving their purchase a second life in the process.

Clark still ended up selling the Casablanca, plus the yard and a half of extra fabric for $600. Daga suggests pricing most new, never-worn gowns at about 25% off the purchased price, while used gowns that are in good condition and have been worn in the last two years should be priced at 50% off that figure.

Some of Daga's tips for selling gowns online: "Give a full description and include great pictures. Talk about the fit and fabric and detail as well as when you purchased it and why you're selling it. We have listers put their measurements ... a bride who's buying a gown already altered [needs to] compare her measurements to the actual dress."

And now a word for the brides who buy multiple dresses on purpose. It may sound like a good idea during the planning stages to have a change of costume during your big day, but (with apologies to Chelsea Clinton) unless it's a cultural thing, it's probably not a good idea.

 "If you just have a regular wedding that is a one-day affair, then generally that wedding is only so many hours long," says Randy Fenoli of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress." "How long is it going to take you to leave your party, go up to your hotel room, get out of the dress that you're currently in, change shoes, change dresses....     You're going to be losing 45 minutes, which [could be almost a] quarter of the time for your reception."

He says he'd rather "a girl ... get one gorgeous dress" or try designers like Monique Lhuillier, Badgley Mischka and Domo Adami that sell dresses with overskirts or skirts that can be changed out that "take literally two seconds" to change up a look.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photo: Badgley Mischka Lucy gown with removable skirt, suggested retail price: $3,950. Credit: Dan Lecca