For sale: One wedding gown, never worn

I’m still engrossed in One Perfect Day. One uber interesting things that stood out in an already tremendously interesting book was the manner in which the bridal gown industry pushes its product. If you’re a bride-to-be or even a former bride, you may be familiar with the concept of the “aha” moment, also known as the “oh mommy” moment.

You know what I mean…a bride-to-be is trying on her thirtieth gown. She’s stepped up into the mirrored alcove and is turning to look at herself. As the saleswoman smooths down her skirt, the young woman before us draws her breath in sharply. She can’t believe what she’s seeing–the image before her is herself, yet not herself. Tears well up in her eyes, and her mother, who is watching the whole drama unfold, puts her hand up to her heart.

And so on and so forth. I didn’t have a magical aha moment. My relationship with clothing doesn’t work that way. Sure, I’ve teared up in a dressing room, but that was only because I’d managed to slide gracefully into a pair of skinny jeans that didn’t make me look like an overstuffed sausage. I mean, that is a sob-worthy experience, in my not so humble opinion.

The problem with the oh mommy moment, as outlined in One Perfect Day, is that it’s to some extent manufactured by the bridal salons. Why else would there be so many never worn wedding gowns on eBay and Craigslist and other similar sites? I can accept that there were some canceled engagements and potentially even some deaths, but the shear number of unworn gowns says to me that a lot of future brides are changing their minds.

I wonder if the gals selling the gowns below had an aha moment before realizing that the frocks they chose just weren’t what they were really looking for…

Unloved dresses, for your considerationUnloved dresses, for your consideration
Unloved dresses, for your considerationUnloved dresses, for your consideration

All in all, these gowns make me a little sad. I wonder why the brides changed their minds and whether they’ll recoup some of the associated costs. What do they feel as they post their classifieds? And did they find dresses they liked even more?

It’s interesting to think about, so I have to ask you: Did you buy a dress and then change your mind? What made you buy the first one, and why did you ultimately opt for another?

14 Responses to “For sale: One wedding gown, never worn”

  1. Molly says:

    Actually…. I had that moment (or something very close to it) and so did one of my closest friends. When I tried on the white prom dress that I wore to my wedding and showed it to my roommate, she actually started crying. Not because I didn’t look like me, but because me getting married became real in that moment. The third or fourth wedding dress she tried on elicited the same response from me. I walked out of the dressing room and she turned around and asked me what I thought and I started crying and gave her a thumbs up.

    The best way to explain what I felt was this – watching my friend try on wedding dresses wasn’t emotional for me. But when I saw her in that dress, her wedding day immediately became real for me because of the dress. The perfect dress was the dress that changed my perception of her from “trying on a dress” to “bride.” We never had second thoughts about the dresses we picked out, nor did we try on all that many. I think there are a lot of women out there who try to force that moment, which may be what leads to trying on so many dresses but not necessarily what causes all the resale.

    As for the eBay sales, J.R. will testify that even finding the perfect dress doesn’t mean you will be allowed to wear it on your wedding day. It seems just as likely to me that unworn dresses are being sold in volume not because *the bride* changed her mind about what she wants to wear, but because after buying a dress her family or friends pressured her to buy something else or even bought something else for her. (Furthermore, some of the unworn dresses may be getting sold due to sizing issues – how many pregnant women end up getting engaged and then getting married earlier or later in their pregnancy than they intended or after delivery?)

  2. JaneC says:

    I started to have second thoughts about my dress in the three months or so before my wedding. If I’d had any money, I probably would have bought another dress, but I had no money of my own and I didn’t dare ask my mother to buy another dress after she’d already spent $900 on the first one (specially made, and un-returnable).
    Looking at my photos, though, I am extremely happy with my dress. The second thoughts were probably just wedding nerves.

  3. I was engaged to my college boyfriend. I bought a dress from a dress warehouse for $250 — it was a floor model that they were discontinuing. Then I changed my mind — not about the dress (although I should have — it was a muffin dress and it was hideous, but this was shortly after Princess Di had married and we were all influenced by that dress a little, weren’t we?) but about getting married.

    I was reluctant to invite strangers into my home to try on the dress, so gave it to Goodwill. Had eBay been an option, I would have listed the dress in a second.

  4. AnneG says:

    I fell in love with my dress in a magazine, and then had a definite “oh mommy” moment when I tried it on in the store. We bought it, but I ended the engagement 6 weeks before the wedding. However, I still LOVED the dress, and held on to it until I got married two years later. Now my 23 year old daughter wants to wear it when she gets married, because she loves it to.

  5. Tizzy says:

    I had one of those moments in bridal salon but I was shopping for my senior prom dress. I was looking for a green dress which was apparently not en vogue at the time so I resorted to bridesmaid dresses. They didn’t have one I liked but there was this brown tafetta dress that I liked the cut of. It was a Jim Hjelm sample size and I think it cost 300 dollars. I cried when my mother said she’s buy it for me. I had gone to half a dozen formals through out high school and I had always made or borrowed my dresses. I felt so fancy.

    And I suspect that I will be one of the few women who never has to look back on her senior prom pictures and cringe.

    I hope I have that moment when dress shopping but I think I’d be wary of it. I’m so afraid I’ll get bored with something I have to pick so far in advance.

  6. Kate says:

    I’m not really a bridal salon kind of girl. This is probably a result of when my friend got married, and I went with her to a much recommended local salon, only to be treated incredibly rudely by the staff.

    So when I got engaged, I started looking for something off the rack. I picked up a lace halter dress at a Nordstrom’s outlet on clearance for $50, considering it to be a back-up dress. In other words, if I couldn’t find the ‘oh mommy dress’, at least I had a go-to dress. Which was good for me, since it took off some of the pressure to find the perfect dress.

    Later, after reading reviews of the jcrew bridal line, I bought another dress. Since it was purchased off the internet, there was no trying it on in front of Mom and MOH, no tears of joy. I have ‘the dress’, but without any ‘oh mommy’ moment. I felt kind of weird about that for a while, like somehow even though I love my dress it couldn’t be right because I didn’t have that moment. It’s a bit of a relief to think of that moment as commercially contrived.

  7. Twistie says:

    I never went to a bridal salon. I knew what I wanted wasn’t out there, and besides, I was determined to make my own wedding lace and most commercial gowns either have lace already or are designed specifically in ways that don’t go with lace. Either way, a regular salon was not for me.

    So one of my bridesmaids and I designed my gown and she amazingly cobbled my ideas together out of about three different commercially available patterns with a few tweaks to add all the special details I really wanted from a couple illustrations I had of historical gowns. It was a huge effort on her part, and I can never properly thank her for the way she made my dream come true.

    Of course, between her work, her family, a good social life and several extra-curricular activities, it was hard to add in making my gown as well. Throw in a couple last-minute personal crises and I was beginning to worry that I’d have to race out the night before my wedding to buy a white dress – any white dress! – and do without. If it had come to that, I was absolutely prepared to just let my dream dress go, too. I’d hit this sort of weird Zen state a couple weeks before my wedding and absolutely nothing seemed able to shake me.

    My friend, however, did come through and the gown was delivered at the rehearsal dinner. That meant that I didn’t see it completed and on me until my wedding day. I was still feeling super Zen when I got up that morning, but in the moment when I finally saw myself in my gown…I didn’t cry, but I don’t believe I have ever felt so entirely delighted in my life. It actually rivals the moment Mr. Twistie and I were officially declared married.

    My mother, sadly, wasn’t there to share the day, but I know she would have loved the gown, and probably would have gotten teary at the sight.

    And the gown went on to win second prize at the county fair. True story.

  8. Kate says:

    I had the “oh mommy moment” in a slightly different way. Mom wasn’t there, but several friends were, and according to them, it wasn’t tears welling up, but I did look alternately like I was going to puke or pass out. I did call my mom and say “so, um, you can stop looking for dresses with sleeves, cuz i’m kind of wearing my wedding dress…”. But it was definitely the right dress, with a strong emotional reaction attached. (I shall not say I didn’t wear it; the wedding is in 8 weeks. But I’m sure gonna wear it!)

  9. Kate says:

    You know, the glorification of the whole “aha” moment doesn’t really reflect that often the sample gowns are not the correct size for the bride. I’m going to get married in September. I was gown shopping early this month and found a few beautiful gowns in a small bridal salon in Brooklyn. There was one lace gown that I thought was especially lovely, and in a style that I thought would be flattering to me. However, the sample size was two sizes too small for me. It was a beautiful gown, but when I looked in the mirror, I looked like the proverbial two pounds of sugar in a one-pound bag!

    I ended up ordering the gown, which I’m sure will be lovely when I have the correct size. So far I haven’t had any second thoughts – stay tuned!

  10. C* says:

    I was almost a 2 dress bride.

    I saw a dress in a magazine that I wanted from the start but I was wary of ordering a dress I hadn’t tried on, and there were no shops in my state (or any surrounding ones) that had the dress is anything but a size 2 (I was a 12 at the time). So, I found a dress at a bridal shop that I liked and was able to try on and I was so happy that it fit after being told at several shops that with my street size 12 body I wouldn’t find any shops but David’s that catered to “big girls like [me]” I decided to get the one I didn’t love, but liked all right. So I dragged my mom, sisters, and sister-in-law to the shop, tried on the dress and everyone cried. Everyone except me. I was resigned to wearing it but then I had a major breakdown and decided to buy the one from the magazine even though I hadn’t tried it on. I am so glad I went with the one I loved…it looked amazing and I felt like a super model.

  11. Kassi says:

    I bought a dress, at the very beginning stages of planning and have since changed my mind. The dress wasn’t an ‘oh mommy’ moment for either my mom or I and we got the dress from Brides Against Breast Cancer event so it was less than half the price of what it would be at a bridal salon. The problem with the dress was I let too many people talk me into getting it because I looked pretty, not because I really loved it. Since I bought the dress we have completely changed our wedding style (opting for a more simple and casual wedding) It is a great dress, but not what I would really picture myself getting married in. So now, I am not compromising just to use a dress I bought. My mom is great with selling it on ebay and so we will after the wedding. I am happy knowing that I don’t have to have a perfect emotional reaction, but I think I will know the dress I really want when I try it on.

  12. Melissa B. says:

    The first time I was a bridesmaid, I went with the bride when she tried on dresses. We had so much fun! I loved seeing the different styles and watching my kindergarden pal try on all of these glamorous gowns (although we were both annoyed at how few non-strapless options there were).

    But I totally agree that the “aha!” moment is largely manufactured. At one salon, my friend tried on a dress the saleswoman suggested. It was all wrong for what she wanted — strapless and plain satin when my friend had told her she was looking for cap sleeves and beading. She tried it on mostly to be polite. When she came out of the dressing room, the saleswoman clapped her hands together and gushed, “I’ve never seen anyone look so beautiful in that dress! It was *made* for your figure.” I think she was hoping to push an “aha” moment on my friend to make the sale, which kind of annoyed me. I do understand that she works on commission, but the dress was so clearly wrong based on what my friend had said she wanted that the whole moment came off really phony.

  13. Pencils says:

    Kate–it’s very true about the sizing of the sample gowns. I tried on one that I think would probably have looked great on me in my size, but the sample was so small, there was no way to make it look right. I did have the “aha” moment, sort of. I went to a big discount bridal store in Manhattan with a list of dresses I wanted to try in different styles. While waiting for a dressing room, I found another dress on the racks that I liked, as it was another type I hadn’t thought of trying. When I tried that dress on, it was the first, and turns out only, dress that made me feel like a “bride.” The others were pretty dresses that I thought would flatter me. But I wanted to be a “bride,” as that was the point, right? After ordering it, I did my best not to look at any other gowns so I wouldn’t change my mind. I couldn’t afford another gown. 😉

  14. Kate says:

    I think the issue for me was how to feel like a “bride” and how to feel like me at the same time. I tried on a couple of gowns that looked great and I felt very bridal, but ultimately chose something I thought was more reflective of my personality.

    Was the big discount store in Manhattan RK Bridal?