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Vera Wang via Hustle your  Bustle
I was in Vera Wang in San Francisco yesterday and the gowns I saw were positively, absolutely out of this world gorgeous!. I ask you, what bride wouldn't want a Vera Wang gown?  Even if it was worn only once before?  If you want a top-of-the-line couture look on your wedding day but don't think you can shell out the bucks for a Vera Wang (or Claire Pettibone or Jenny Packham for that matter), well, maybe you should check out your local consignment bridal shop. Okay, okay, I know the word 'consignment' scares some of you conjuring up visions of 1980s gowns full of  the pouf and paste of sequins. Perish that thought. Most dresses in these shops with catchy names like Encore and Once Worn are actually cutting edge and you'll find it more like going to a high-end designer salon. In fact, these places offer some elegant, gently worn gowns in better shape than your average designer sample. And yes, the proprietors can get real persnickety about what they take in—some only accepting top designer names like Vera Wang and Reem Acra in all natural fibers. In addition, once gowns are accepted they’re cleaned and pressed (Ask where though. More shops are specializing in environmentally safe cleaning)
Carolina Herrera via Hustle Your Bustle
If you’re price conscious going for a pre-owned gown is the way to go. Gowns that retailed last season for $3000-4000 are typically half off but sometimes can go for as little as $500-600. Believe it or not, you’re going to get very personalized assistance—the same as in a full service bridal salon. Though there will be re-altering involved, you won’t have to wait 4-6 months for your gown. Bear in mind once-worn gowns have already been pre-fit and altered to someone else’s body. Just make sure they’re once-worn; an over altered dress that’s been on more than one body could lose its original shape after awhile. Ask how many and what kind of alterations the gown you want has had. Typically, if it’s gone through more than two brides, forget it. In addition to alterations your shop may offer customizing services (for a fee). Shops realize with previously-worn gowns, there’s a kind of possessive energy the new purchaser wants to create to make the gown her own. Therefore some shops focus on customizing via adding florals, lace, sashes, buttons, etc.

FYI: Naturally bridal consignment shops don’t stock set sizes like salons do. Small and larger brides might have to work closely with staff and keep a lookout locating a gown in their size.

FYI There are also excellent online resources for once worn bridal gowns and designer samples..  Check out Once Wed and Hustle Your Bustle.
Cymbeline via Hustle Your Bustle

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