Want to become a featured bride or vendor on Vancity Bride? You can submit an application on our contribute page, or contact us for more info!


Off the Rack: A Guide

June 6th, 2012 by Jeannine

Off the Rack: A Guide

A great way to save on wedding dresses is to buy “off the rack.” But what does that mean? Bridal stores carry a selection of wedding dresses (otherwise known as samples) for brides to try on. Usually, wedding dresses are made to order but some women don’t want to wait 6-8 months for their dress to arrive or even pay full price for a brand new gown! The solution? Bridal salons offer to sell the samples as is, or “off the rack.” This is a more economical to way to get a dress but there are some things to look out for if you choose to go this route. I sought some help from my friends at Isabelle’s Bridal. Co-owner Cheri Hamm was more than happy to answer my questions!

The main advantage of buying off the rack is the money you save, as Cheri says…

“You generally will get a discount on the sample dress because others have tried it on and it is not brand new.”

You can also take sample dresses home the same day you purchase it – perfect for brides with very tight deadlines! But truth be told, buying off the rack also has its disadvantages.

“Your dress may need dry-cleaning and there may be some wear and tear on your dress, which can be taken care of with alterations.”

Dry-cleaning can be expensive and the more complex the dress is, the higher the price can be. Cheri recommends to take this into consideration when looking at the marked down price of the dress to see if it really is worth it to buy off the rack. You can probably spend the same amount on a brand new dress! Due to the nature of sample dresses, don’t forget to inspect your dress very carefully for any stains, rips, loose beads, or any other defects or evidence of wear and tear. Ask for an alteration estimate to give you a better idea of what kind of investment you’ll be putting into fixing your sample dress. It’s important to keep in mind that…

“All sales are final in a bridal store when purchasing off the rack. So be sure on your dress!”

Sample sizes are usually limited at bridal salons, so is it worth buying a dress that’s not quite your size and getting it altered? Cheri explains…

“That is dependent on the price of the sample gown in comparison to a new gown.  If you save enough on the sample gown to cover your alteration cost, then it may be well worth it to buy a dress that is not quite the right size.”

If your sample dress and alteration costs are below the original dress price, Cheri says you are doing well! Keep in mind that, there will usually be alteration costs in addition to the full price of a brand new dress, unless of course you are lucky enough to not need any! Cheri also cautions that how much a dress can be altered for size depends on the type of gown you choose.

“Gowns can be difficult to take in depending on the details of the dress… such as beadwork.  We try to keep the dress and its symmetry looking just as it did in the larger size.  Dresses can easily be taken down one or two sizes, after that it can be tricky depending on the dress.”

Further to that, a dress can only be taken out if there is enough seam allowance. What would also help is replacing the zipper with a lace up back instead or by adding panels to add more room.

So what do you think? Will you be buying your dress off the rack? I just want to thank Cheri again for helping out with this article – if you’re ever in North Vancouver, you should drop by their fabulous shop along W. Esplanade. If you have any other dress questions, their friendly staff will surely be happy to help!

Did you know that Isabelle’s Bridal is a Vancity Vendor? Read their profile here!

All photos courtesy Vancity Bride

You may also like...

Support Local Vendors


  • June 6th, 2012 at 12:36 pm
    Anh says:

    I bought my dress off the rack at Djamila Bridall. They give a huge discount for it, and mine was in pretty good shape. With alterations included with any of their dresses, I saved a lot and left extremely happy. Did I mention I’m getting married next year? Yeah, I work fast.

  • June 6th, 2012 at 1:27 pm
    Erica says:

    I actually bought my dress off the rack at Isabelle’s Bridal in January. I absolutely love it and it is in perfect condition; I do not even have to get it dry cleaned. However, it is 3 sizes too big on me and will need some alterations, as most dresses (new or off the rack) need anyways. Even with the cost of alterations, I will still be well under my original budget for a gown. I never thought I would buy a dress “off the rack” but it ended up being the “one” and I could not be happier. More money to spend on accessories and shoes :)


Leave a comment