Princess Beatrice surprised royal fans when she wore a vintage Norman Hartnell dress belonging to the Queen on her wedding day in July as the ultimate 'something borrowed'. Her wedding dress choice demonstrates the growing trend for sustainable weddings, with fashion search platform Lyst recording a 93 per cent increase in searches for pre-owned wedding dresses, and a 43 per cent rise using the words 'vintage' and 'second hand' year on year.
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Feeling inspired? Even though we don't have access to Her Majesty's fashion archives like lucky Princess Beatrice, it is still possible to find a beautiful pre-loved wedding dress. What's more, brides on a budget can expect to save bucket loads on dresses that originally cost thousands - we'd call that a win-win.
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Princess Beatrice wore a vintage dress belonging to the Queen for her royal wedding
Just like traditional gown shopping, there's an art to finding the perfect second-hand dress. Chantal Khoueiry - founder of Brides Do Good, a social enterprise selling pre-loved and sample gowns to support charities committed to ending child marriage - has plenty of advice for nailing your nearly-new look.
Look carefully at the dress condition
"Does it have any visible stains or dirt marks? Pre-loved dresses have been danced in and can often have very dirty trains," says Chantal. "Though these are marks of a good time, you do need to be confident they can be removed. Always ask if the dress has been dry cleaned – if it has, and these marks are still there, there is a good chance you won’t be able to get them out.
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Brides Do Good stocks dresses from the likes of designer Galia Lahav
"If it hasn't – are you expected to pay for the dry cleaning, and are you happy to do so? If the marks don't come out to a good standard, will you be able to return the dress? Also, always look at where the marks are. If there is a bit of a mark on the underside of the train it probably doesn't matter. Always make sure you understand the shop's returns and refunds policy and be sure you are happy with it before you buy."
Alterations are important
"Any dress - whether it’s pre-loved, sample or new - will need to be fitted to your body shape to ensure it fits you perfectly," adds Chantal. "If you are buying from a store, ask for their recommendations for trusted dry cleaners and seamstresses – they have often tried and tested many."
This is an opportunity for you to customise a pre-loved gown to make it your own, too - you could add straps, sleeves, embellishments or a waist detail, if you like.
"Ignore the myth that pre-loved dresses are frumpy or dirty!" she says. "Many pre-loved bridal companies out there, like ours, take great pride in selling only the best 'as-new' dresses. Be adventurous, have a little faith and have a look around! It's an excellent way to shop sustainably, save money, and - in some cases - give back in the process."
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Still gasping in horror at the thought of wearing someone else's wedding dress? Just look at ultra-cool interior designer Lucy Barlow, who recently shared an Instagram picture of herself in her stunning designer wedding dress, and its new owner after she sold it on.
She wrote: "The story of my @johannaortizofficial wedding dress… She danced in a Palazzo in Rome, and almost a year later danced down the streets of New Orleans. I cannot wait to see where she ends up next. I was always going to sell my dress - I loved wearing her SO much but felt that being stored in a cupboard never to be looked at again was such a shame.
"If, like me, anyone's contemplating selling their dress I would really recommend it. Don't think of it as being sad, think of it as giving your beautiful dress a new story and maybe making a new friend in the process - it sure worked for me."
There's something quite romantic about the idea of a beautiful wedding dress with many lives, isn't there? If only fabric could talk...