Ask the Expert

How to Shop a Bridal Sample Sale Like a Pro

When you buy your wedding dress, you don’t actually walk away with the dress you try on—that dress is what industry professionals call a “sample.” So, when bridal boutiques need to update their collections, they hold sample sales to clean house and make room for new samples. Since these are the same gowns that brides try on, they may show some minimal wear and tear. But if you fall in love with one, you won’t find a better deal. Christina Plumlee, seasoned buyer at Stanley Korshak Bridal, answers all our questions.

What is a sample dress?
A sample gown is one that has been displayed in our salon and tried on by other brides.

What size is a typical sample?
The normal sample is a bridal size 8 or 10. This is comparable to a ready-to-wear size 6 or 8. Remember these are couture sizes and not like a gown you would buy off the rack. You  can alter the gowns and make them smaller or, in some cases, larger.

What time of year are sample sales typically held?
I plan our sales twice a year, normally in July and December. This can vary depending on how many of the new gowns have arrived and other trunk shows we have scheduled.

Are the dresses current?
“The best answer is yes. There are always a few gowns that have been recently discontinued from a designer’s line, but most of the gowns are still current and can still be ordered new. In our salon’s case, the only reason we have sample sales is that we do not have room to store all the gowns.”

Do you have to pay for your own alterations or do they come with the price of the gown?
Yes, you will pay for alterations. Gowns are sold “as is,” so any repairs or alterations are the responsibility of the buyer. Brides are welcome to receive a quote from our alterations staff or they oftentimes take the gown to their tailor.

What are the markdowns?
Our samples start at 30 percent off and go as high as 75 percent off. This is an amazing deal. You can buy a gown that normally sells for $7,000 for as little as $1,750. The price is determined by several factors such as how long we have owned the gown and the condition of the gown.

What are the benefits of a sample sale?
It is a great time to find the gown of your dreams at a very affordable price. Most of our gowns are in great shape. You do need to show up at the start of the sale and decide quickly because they sell fast and there is only one of each style. Remember they are final sale, so be sure you are in love with the gown.

Illustration by Carrie & Seash.

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