Find Your Dream Off-The-Rack Wedding Dress With These Tips

Find your dream dress with these expert tips.
Simone Paget - The Knot Contributor.
by
Simone Paget
Simone Paget - The Knot Contributor.
Simone Paget
The Knot Contributor
  • Simone writes shoppable e-commerce articles for The Knot Worldwide, where she covers everything from bridal fashion to where to find the perfect Star-Wars-themed wedding gift.
  • Based on the West coast of Canada, Simone is the nationally syndicated relationship columnist for the Toronto Sun.
  • As a lifestyle, travel and food writer, her words and photos have appeared in print and online in places such as Chowhound, New Yor...
Updated Dec 06, 2021
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For brides who are on a tight timeline—or looking for a wedding gown that won't the bank—an off-the-rack wedding dress is a great option. Purchasing an off-the-rack gown provides you with the kind of wedding dress shopping experience that you typically only see in movies. You get to say "yes" to your dream dress and take it home on the same day, often at a much more affordable price point than a made-to-order wedding gown.

Whether you're planning an intimate civil ceremony, a romantic elopement or simply want to make the process of wedding dress shopping as zen as possible, there's a gorgeous off-the-rack wedding gown for every kind of bridal style and budget. To get you started, we spoke to some wedding gown experts to answer your FAQs about shopping for an off-the-rack bridal gown.

In this article:

What is an Off-The-Rack Wedding Dress?

An off-the-rack wedding dress is exactly what it sounds like: A premade dress that you purchase "off the rack" of a bridal shop. Unlike made-to-order wedding dresses—which can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months to make—an off-the-rack dress is available to try on and purchase on the spot.

Many bridal boutiques carry a selection of premade wedding gowns in a variety of popular silhouettes. Shopping off-the-rack typically means choosing your dream dress from a selection of premade gowns, however, it can also involve purchasing a dress from a sample sale. It's important to note that buying an off-the-rack wedding dress may mean you're buying a floor sample that has been tried on by various brides before you. Oftentimes, off-the-rack wedding dresses also are available in limited sizes.

Is an Off-The-Rack Dress Right for You?

If you're pressed for time or want to make dress shopping as quick and stress free as possible, an off-the-rack gown might be what you're looking for. If you're not sure if an off-the-rack gown is right for you, here are a few things to consider.

The Pros

One of the main advantages of shopping off-the-rack is that it allows you to fall in love with your dream dress and make it yours, all on the same day. "Made-to-order wedding gowns can take three to 12 months to receive, so if you need a dress in a shorter time frame, purchasing an off-the-rack dress can eliminate that stress," says Dara Adams, creative director and lead stylist of Veil by Dara Adams.

The lower price point of most off-the-rack gowns is also a selling point for many brides, explains Frances Armand, a wedding coordinator and stylist at Fashion 4 Brides. "If you have a limited budget allotted for your wedding gown, buying an off-the-rack dress can give you the price options you are looking for," she says.

Saving money on your dress also gives you the option to switch up your looks throughout your wedding day. "If you are thinking of purchasing a second gown for the reception, I highly recommend an off-the-rack gown," says Armand.

The Cons

While shopping off-the-rack can save you money overall, Adams says it may not be the right financial choice for everyone. "When purchasing a made-to-order gown, it's customary to pay a deposit at the time you choose your dress and then the balance a few months later when your dress arrives at the shop. However, off-the-rack gowns require full payment at the time of purchase," she says.

With weddings being such a financial commitment, some people like the idea of securing their dream dress without having to make the full payment all at once. "Depending on the cost of the off-the-rack gown and your budget, purchasing a gown outright might be difficult or truly not a possibility," says Adams.

Lastly, just because you bought your wedding gown off-the-rack doesn't mean that it will be 100% aisle-ready, explains bridal stylist Rachel Sojourner Dickerson. "You may have to make adjustments and alterations to make the dress fit," she says. As a result, you'll want to make sure you factor in enough time to get proper alterations done in time for your wedding day.

Tips for Shopping Off-The-Rack

From bridal boutiques and online retailers to sample sales, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of off-the-rack options for purchasing a wedding gown. To streamline the process, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for an off-the-rack bridal gown.

If You Love It, Buy It

Buying an off-the-rack gown is great if you're on a tight timeline, but that also means you have to move quickly if you find the right one. Unlike a made-to-order wedding gown, Armand says, "You don't have days or weeks to make a decision." Depending on the bridal boutique, they may have a very limited quantity of off-the-rack bridal gowns. This is especially true if you're trying on a sample dress. The moral of the story? "If you love the dress, buy it," says Armand.

Budget Time and Money for Alterations

When dress shopping, it's also important to be mindful of fitting requirements when considering an off-the-rack bridal gown. "Some brides believe buying an off-the-rack dress will eliminate the need for alterations," notes Adams. "But—due to the nature of wedding gown fabrics—most dresses will require some sort of tailoring to have the best fit." Even if you plan on buying off-the-rack, you'll likely need to find a tailor that can alter your dress after you purchase it and budget this into your overall wedding planning timeline.

Be Open-Minded

"Be open and let the dresses surprise you!" says Sojourner Dickerson. While it's helpful if you already have an idea of what silhouettes might work for you, don't just shop for an off-the-rack wedding dress based on hanger appeal alone. If you can, try the dress on and see if it fits the vision you have for your wedding day.

You can absolutely find your dream wedding dress off-the-rack. If you're not sure where to start, consider hiring a bridal stylist. "A bridal stylist can point you in the right direction of which bridal salons to shop, a dress that fits your budget, and help find the best silhouette for your body type. They can also help style your dress with great accessories," says Sojourner Dickerson.

Where to Buy an Off-The-Rack Wedding Dress

Wedding dress shopping is more convenient than ever now that many bridal boutiques offer off-the-rack or "ready-to-ship" wedding gowns that can be purchased from the comfort of your couch. Whether you're shopping for a chic strapless cocktail dress or a tulle ballgown of fairytale proportions, there are off-the-rack options for every kind of bride and bridal style.

Wedding Dress Salons

If you're ready to shop for a wedding gown, wedding dress salons are a great place to begin. Many bridal salons carry a selection of off-the-rack wedding gowns that you can try on and purchase in person.

Most wedding dress salons require that you schedule an appointment in advance. Once you book your appointment, a dedicated bridal consultant will work with you to find the perfect silhouette and wedding gown for your bridal style. Be sure to mention ahead of time that you're interested in off-the-rack styles so they can give you a feel for their availability ahead of time.

Amsale

If a little white dress is what you're after, Amsale has you covered. The high-end bridal boutique has a beautiful selection of ready-to-ship styles—think streamlined, modern silhouettes, sleek slip dresses, strapless tea-length gowns and A-line wedding gowns made of delicate chiffon. Amsale is a great option for brides that want a wedding dress that's chic and timeless at a reasonable price point.

BHLDN

Fans of their sister store, Anthropologie, will love BHLDN's dreamy selection of off-the-rack wedding gowns. Brides can expect to find beautifully detailed wedding gowns with romantic and boho flourishes, along with plenty of chic gowns with clean, modern lines that are available in regular and plus-size. If you prefer an in-person fitting, you can also book an appointment at one of BHLDN's brick-and-mortar stores.

David's Bridal

From boho-inspired ruffle mini dresses to chiffon ballgowns, David's Bridal offers a diverse selection of off-the-rack wedding dresses at reasonable price points. Along with a great selection of styles, they offer inclusive bridal sizes ranging from 0-30W. A one-stop shop for big day looks, David's Bridal also carries an extensive collection of bridesmaid dresses, accessories and more.

Lulus

Budget-friendly brides will love Lulus for its selection of exceptionally affordable off-the-rack wedding gowns. All of their gowns are under $500, with most falling under $200. Featuring everything from classic ball-gowns to on-trend boho-inspired looks that are perfect for a destination wedding, Lulus off-the-rack gowns are a great option for brides who want to look amazing on their wedding day without breaking the bank.

Reformation

Cult-favorite Reformation is known for its sustainably-made chic staples, and their line of off-the-rack bridal wear is no exception. Along with pieces that are made specifically with your wedding day in mind, Reformation offers many of their ultra-popular dress styles in white, making them a great choice for eco-friendly brides that are shopping for an on-trend wedding dress that they could easily wear again.

Tadashi Shoji

Perfect for lovers of lace and pretty details, this bridal boutique proves that you don't have to sacrifice opulence when you shop off-the-rack. Tadashi Shoji has a beautiful collection of timeless and romantic wedding gowns that are ready to ship. To assist with the dress shopping experience, their bridal stylists offer virtual consultations over Zoom. For brides who need to adjust the length of their wedding dress on a tight timeline, they also offer complimentary hemming that's returned within two weeks.

NET-A-PORTER

Brides in search of a luxury off-the-rack gown will find plenty of stunning options on NET-A-PORTER. The chic fashion retailer has a great selection of designer wedding dresses and separates from names like Galvan, Emilia Wickstead and Self-Portrait. Even if you don't plan on purchasing a designer wedding dress, NET-A-PORTER also has ready-to-ship accessories (think: tulle veils, headbands and designer shoes from the likes of Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo) that are perfect for adding a luxe touch to your bridal style.

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