Online Dress Shopping: Is it Worth It?

By Lorna Urwin

One of the most exciting moments of wedding planning is trying on and buying that perfect dress. We currently live in a world where the variety, convenience, and lower prices of online shopping can make surfing the net a tempting approach to tracking down your dream dress. But is it too risky compared with a brick and mortar bridal boutique? We've weighed in on the debate and weighed up the pros and cons of online dress shopping. 

Pro: Get a made to measure/customised dress 

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.

Designer, dress, shopping, wedding, bridal, gown, style, weddings, brides

Image from Trish Peng.

Con: You can’t try it on before purchasing

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've spent your money.

For a dress as significant (and expensive) as a wedding gown, this is a deal breaker for many brides. 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. Not to mention, there is no feeling comparable to that moment you walk out of the changing room, you turn and your bridesmaids' faces are simply beaming, and then you look in the mirror and you see it "the one". 

Pro: Cost + Convenience

It's no surprise that wedding dresses are expensive. Few brides want to spend more than they have to, especially if the same dress they loved in 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. You can check a website at any time of day and with very little effort – you don’t even need to put on shoes.

Designer, dress, shopping, wedding, bridal, gown, style, weddings, brides

Image by I do Photography, dress by Vinka Design.

Con: The Cheaper the dress, the lower the quality​​​​​​​

It's not always the case but sometimes the price is reflective of the workmanship. 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: more options + filtering tools

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. These tools allow you to select the colour, length, and skirt type you prefer which can be a lot faster than working your way through a bridal boutique filled with dresses on a rack. On the other hand, many designers and bridal boutiques (including Vinka, Trish Peng, Astra Bridal, and Jane Yeh) have their collections available to view online so you can see a larger number of dresses and take full advantage of the filtering tools, and then go into the store with a clear idea of what you want to try.  

Designer, dress, shopping, wedding, bridal, gown, style, weddings, brides

Image from Jane Yeh.

Con: Not all websites are reputable

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 knock offs and no refunds. 

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

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 on 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 to improve the fit. For that reason, it is always better to choose the larger of two sizes if you’re uncertain which is the better choice. 

Designer, dress, shopping, wedding, bridal, gown, style, weddings, brides

Image by Leftusphoto, dress from Astra Bridal.

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

Though browsing online is convenient, the pressure of buying the right dress (which you've never seen in person) can make the process incredibly time-consuming. After checking out the vendor themselves, asking questions, and reading reviews, you will likely spend hours poring over images from different angles and triple checking measurements in order to feel that you’ve done everything right before committing to the purchase. 

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. With anything being delivered from abroad there’s also a risk of unforeseen delays, so be sure to add some extra contingency time onto the estimate given by your online retailer.

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

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The verdict 

Image by Haley and Tonchi Photography, dress by Vinka Design.

So, buying your wedding dress online may not be perfect for everyone. It has its pros, which could almost all fall under the category of convenience. If you're a bride who values convenience over anything else then online shopping might be the way to go. However, if you're a bride who wants to put in the extra hard work in the search for the perfect dress, then be sure to check a few bridal boutiques before you go browsing online. 


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