Pros & Cons of Buying a Wedding Dress at a Sample Sale

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I know I’ve already said this but: I bought a wedding dress! It was at a Claire Pettibone sample sale, and I’m super-excited. However, the decision wasn’t made without some hemming and hawing about whether a sample sale purchase was a wise one. Here are the pros and cons, as I see them.


  • Sample sales are deeply discounted. I got mine at 75% percent off. So, for example, if you covet  Jenny Packham (pictured above), but she seems out of reach, you may be surprised to realize that one of her sample sale dresses could be in your price range.
  • You don’t need to know your shoe height. Non-sample sale dresses are made just for you, so consultants take your measurements and ask for the height of your wedding shoes so the length of the dress hits at the right spot. Personally, I’m debating between a slightly elevated shoe or flats — tall heels are out of the question between my klutziness and a history of knee problems — but I’m not ready to commit to either. I prefer to find the dress and then find the shoe that goes with it — that shoe could be a flat or have a kitten heel. A sample sale dress allows me to do that.
  • If you buy a sample sale dress, your dress has likely been discontinued. Some may view this as a negative, but I’m thrilled I’ll be less likely to see my dress all over the Internet in the months leading up to my wedding.
  • Your dress will be on hand as you piece together the ensemble. You won’t have to guess about whether the veil you just purchased goes with a dress that isn’t in your possession. The dress will be right there, so you can tell if the accessories work.


    • You’ll need to make a snap decision. A typical bridal shop experience means you can go home and think about the dresses you tried on, but a sample sale dress may not be there the next day. That said, once a dress has been marked down for a sample sale, that’s typically it’s new price.
    • The dress will be on final sale. That’ right: No returns.
    • The dress may be dirty or damaged. On my dress, the long ribbon that runs the length of the back has been trampled on a few times. The bridal shop consultant thought the soiled bits would come right out. If it doesn’t? I’ll have a seamstress cut the ribbon. It’s long enough so that being slightly shorter won’t make a difference. But you should be confident that any damage you see can be addressed in a satisfactory manner.
    • It may not fit — in fact, it probably won’t fit. Wedding dresses are typically custom-ordered to your exact size, but you get the sample dress as is. Also, the shop won’t have all sizes in that style. Just be sure your dress can altered in the way you imagined and be prepared for the expense of major alterations.

Please feel free to add to my list of pros and cons, and check out my posts on “10 Tips for Trying on Wedding Dresses” and “How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Dress for You.”

Photo via Wedding Inspirasi, dresses by Jenny Packham — btw, these designs from 2012 could feasibly be in a sample sale.

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