Credit: Patricia Heal

What are the pros and cons of buying my wedding dress at a sample sale?

Great bargains can be had at sample sales, but keep in mind that there will be trade-offs along with the savings. Choice will be limited, both as far as the styles and the sizes available -- many designers' samples come in 6 or 8 only. And since the gowns may have been tried on by many women, they might need cleaning or repair.

Another disadvantage: You most likely won't have the benefit of a personal bridal consultant, whose job involves not only properly measuring you but also offering advice on what gowns work best with your figure and coloring. "Some brides don't know what they're getting into without professional assistance," says Paula Piccirillo, store manager at Fontana Bridal Salon in Scarsdale, New York.

Check a store's alterations policy before buying. There are shops that won't tweak samples, in which case you'll need to find your own seamstress willing to tackle any changes. And don't buy one that's too small, says Piccirillo. "It's very difficult to make a tiny dress bigger, but it's hardly ever a problem to scale it down a bit."

Perhaps the most enticing thing about a sample gown beyond the price: You'll walk out with your dress -- which can be an advantage if you've waited until the last minute to buy.


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