Q&A with Josie Daga of PreownedWeddingDresses.com

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In the market for a wedding dress? Most brides (hopefully) only wear theirs once—which means there are an awful lot of very-gently-used wedding dresses out there. Hence, a lot of dresses that could be a perfect fit, financially and otherwise, for soon-to-be brides. Josie Daga, founder of PreownedWeddingDresses.com, an online meeting place for wedding dress buyers and wedding dress sellers, gives the scoop on why preowned may be right for you and your very special day.
Cheapskate: How has the recession impacted your site and sales? More dresses? More people coming to the site? Different sorts of dresses or lower prices?

Josie Daga: Without a doubt. We’ve seen more traffic (a 200+% increase over last year), and more dresses listed (we currently have over 2700 gowns listed) and more dresses sold.

We’ve also seen budget-conscious women who are shopping before they are even engaged to make sure they find a good bargain. A recent inquiry read “Your dress is beautiful and exactly what I am looking for. My boyfriend hasn’t given me my ring yet, but I can’t miss out on this dress!”

CS: Which sort of dresses are most desired and quickest to sell?

JD: The well known designer gowns that are priced well sell the fastest. Last week, a Monique Lhuillier Rocha gown sold in 1 day. When the seller wore it, her price was equivalent to $2650 per hour that she wore it. The buyer will wear the like new dress at for her wedding for the equivalent of $900/hour. (And can use her $6100 in savings for a Four Seasons honeymoon or 762 premium cocktails for her guests at her reception).

CS: If you want a specific kind or label of dress, what are some smart tips for tracking it down, and at a good price?

JD: Do your research. Know what the dress retails for, what size you need, and what you are willing to pay. We have a New This Week page that highlights the new dresses added to the site. (Users can view that page via rss or on the site). We also have an email notification that alerts buyers weekly of new dresses listed.

Watch for the dress and when you see it, inquire/make an offer right away. Some popular styles (like Monique Lhuillier Scarlet) are being stalked by many brides to be. So be ready when the dress becomes available.

CS: Is there much negotiating in terms of price, or do most sellers stick to their listing price?

JD: More than half of the gowns listed on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com are listed at $1,000 or less. (The average price of a wedding dress is $1317 according to The Wedding Report), so typically, the asking price is already a great deal.

Some sellers are really ready to get the gown out of their house or apartment and may be willing to negotiate. Others know that their price is already a bargain and are willing to wait for their asking price.

CS: How much does shipping a dress typically cost?

JD: It can really vary. Shipping is really dependent on the size of the dress (a voluminous ballgown will require a much larger box than a sleek sheath) and the destination and shipping method are big factors in the price. I remember paying about $40 to ship and insure my own (voluminous ballgown) wedding dress from Toronto, Ontario, to Richmond, Virginia, back in 2004.

CS: Do you get any sense whether women are happy, sad, or something in between about their wedding dresses being worn by someone else?

JD: Most women are happy. Really happy. Not just because they have that giant box out of their closet (and a few hundred to a few thousand extra dollars in their pocket). But because they have great memories of their gown and would rather know that it will be enjoyed again instead of becoming moth food in their closet over the coming years.

And I’ve heard many stories about buyers and sellers establishing a real connection. One buyer told me she seriously considered inviting her seller to her wedding.

CS: Any other funny stories to share about dresses sold via the site? Like, has a dress been worn by different women who have married the same guy?

JD: In the 5 years the site has been running, the best story I’ve heard the bride who tore out a magazine picture of her dream dress and kept it in her wallet for EIGHTEEN years. When she got engaged, she Googled the dress and style number and found it available on the site for $4,800 less than the retail price (not including the purse and Jimmy Choos the seller included).