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How to find your dream second-hand wedding dress like Princess Beatrice

A second-hand wedding dress can be stylish as well as sustainable - and you've got the royal seal of approval

second hand wedding dress princess beatrice
Fiona Ward
Fiona WardActing Fashion and Beauty Editor
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Princess Beatrice surprised royal fans when she wore a vintage Norman Hartnell dress belonging to the Queen on her wedding day in July 2020 as the ultimate 'something borrowed'. Her wedding dress choice demonstrated the growing popularity for sustainable weddings and pre-owned wedding dresses. Jump on the trend with our top tips for tracking down your dream gown…

RELATED: 10 stylish sustainable wedding dresses for ethical brides

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.

WATCH: Princess Beatrice marries Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi

Search online

As well as getting stuck into thrift stores and charity shops, think about using the internet to hunt for your bridal style. There are many pre-loved websites dedicated to second-hand wedding dresses, like Still White and Bridal Reloved - and also eBay is an emporium of wonder that should be on your radar, as is Vestiaire, which sells designer clothing including wedding dresses.

RELATED: 10 stylish sustainable wedding dresses for ethical brides

Princess Beatrice Edoardo wedding dress© Benjamin Wheeler

Princess Beatrice wore a vintage dress belonging to the Queen for her royal wedding

Look carefully at the dress condition

Chantal Khoueiry - founder of Brides Do Good, a social enterprise selling pre-loved and sample gowns to support charities committed to ending child marriage -  says the dress condition is very important. "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. 

brides do good

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."

MORE: 10 Hollywood red-carpet looks that could be bridal: Elizabeth Hurley, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston and more

RELATED: 7 most expensive royal wedding dresses in order of price: Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Princess Eugenie, more

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.   

vintage wedding dress

Be proud

"Ignore the myth that pre-loved dresses are frumpy or dirty!" Chantal 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."

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.

View post on Instagram

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.

MORE: The high-street wedding dresses that look more expensive than they are

"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...

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