A Guide to Finding & Cleaning Second Hand Wedding Dresses

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With the price of an average wedding spiralling into unimaginable realms of expenditure, it’s no surprise many brides are looking for a second hand wedding dresses to help cut costs. Thankfully, vintage style has never been so fashionable.

Money can’t buy style, and just because you don’t have a huge budget to blow on your big day, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on looking your best. Second hand dresses and sarees are by no means second best – and with a bit of care and creativity, you can achieve all the class and sophistication of a custom design without the inevitable guilt and daunting price tag.

With the tips below, your should be able to not only find the perfect dress for your wedding, but also get the vintage fabric looking its best for your big day. But remember – always check the label on your garment before attempting to wash it; if in doubt, refer to some of the laundry tips available online from clothing manufacturers and detergent brands alike.

Finding your dress


Traditionally, a bride will preserve her dress, keeping it wrapped up and gathering dust in the back of her wardrobe for years. These days, however, the sentimental bride is being replaced with a more sensible model, and wedding apparel is no longer regarded as an investment or lifelong keepsake. Consequently, finding a pre-loved outfit is a lot easier than you might think – and there are plenty of websites like OurVivaha.com, OLX, and Quikr that offer rentable and second-hand wedding apparel. Obviously, it’s brilliant if you have a dress in the family that you can borrow, but not everyone will want to wear the same outfit as their mother or grandmother – and no bride should feel obligated to act as a reminder of somebody else’s wedding.

Choosing your dress

Every bride dreams about the perfect dress, but it’s important you keep an open-mind about what is right for you. Wedding dresses are no everyday attire, and until you’ve tried some on, you won’t be able to tell what flatters your figure and compliments your personal style. Experiment with various fits, fabrics and styles, and don’t be shy about trying on many different dresses.

The best thing about a properly vintage dress is that they’ve already proven their ability to stand the test of time.Trends come and go, so don’t be tempted by a dress that’s very ‘now’ – those wedding pictures will grace your mantelpiece until ‘death do us part’, so choose something with lasting appeal.


Most wedding dresses are made two to three sizes larger than your average woman, so don’t panic if every pre-loved creation you try is falling off you. What’s important is the style and look, not the sizing. A seamstress will be able to take your dress up at the hem and nip it in at the bust and waist, sewing in or removing details like buttons and ribbons depending on your taste. Make sure to have your fitting under two months before your wedding to allow for changes in your body shape – they can make a big difference.


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Taking your wedding dress to the dry cleaners can be expensive, and the majority of them can be washed just as easily at home. Always check the sewn-in care label for instructions, and check the material your outfit is made from. Polyester, for example, is machine-washable (run it on a gentle cycle with mild detergent) but silk will need professional cleaning.

Many charity shops will steam their second hand wedding dresses before they sell them, which does a good job of cleaning them without leaving water spots – just be careful to avoid steaming any beading.

The easiest approach to cleaning your dress is to spot treat stains individually, without washing the rest of the dress. Choose a cleaning product that is suitable for the material, and carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions, testing it on an inconspicuous area first to be sure it’s going to work. After you’ve applied the stain treatment, soak your dress in a bathtub of cold water and gentle detergent overnight. Lay it out on a drying rack overnight to thoroughly dry out.

If you are going to use a washing machine to clean the entire dress, place your dress in a garment bag or duvet case and wash on a gentle cycle before hanging it out to air-dry. When cleaning your wedding dress, be careful to always check the material is suitable for the cleaning method and if you’re in any doubt, seek advice from a professional.

Make your dress your own


So you’ve chosen your dress, been fitted for alterations, and put it through the laundry process to ensure it’s looking good as new. Now it’s time to make it your own. How? Accessorize! A successful wedding is all about the details, and it’s no different when it comes to the clothes. Think about what will work with your dress (low necklines look brilliant with a statement pendant) and don’t be afraid to play with various options. As a general rule, if your dress has a simple design, choose jewellery that’s sparkly and eye catching to bring it to life or, if your dress is a real showstopper, opt for something more subtle and elegant. Wedding accessories should reflect your personality. Don’t forget that you can look at costume jewellery, or sites like Ebay for second-hand purchases – you’ll be surprised at what a low-budget can buy you when you stop thinking in diamonds. Now all that’s left for you to do is breathe, relax, and smile. This is your big day – so go out there, be confident that you look beautiful, and enjoy it!

Author Bio: Hannah is a recent graduate and freelance writer who currently lives and works in London. When she is not writing, Hannah is most likely to be found running, cooking or tucked up in bed with a book and brew.”

Images Courtesy: Surf and Wikimedia Uploads

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