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According to The Australian Institute Of Family Studies, the number of marriages every year has stayed roughly the same since the early 1970s (approximately between 100,000 and 120,000). However, since 2019, and the global pandemic that came with it, those numbers have dropped substantially for the first time in over 40 years. The number of marriages registered reached an all-time low of 78,989 in 2020. In 2021, those numbers picked up by 13% with 89,164 marriages registered that year. But regardless of the fact that we're out of the woods when it comes to lockdowns, it's clear that post-pandemic, the way we're getting married in Australia has been impacted indefinitely. The bridal fashion sector has been similarly affected, with many brides forgoing lavish ceremonies and expensive bridal gowns in lieu of modest, intimate affairs and pre-loved wedding dresses.
Interest in secondhand clothing across the board is at an all-time high, with people looking to save money in as many areas of their lives as they can amidst soaring inflation prices. But a tight budget isn't the only incentive for browsing the internet for a pre-loved wedding dress — it's also a more sustainable option than buying something on the retail market. Post the pandemic, people are far more conscious about how they're consuming, especially in the fashion space.
A survey conducted by eBay (which surveyed over 1,100 Australians in April this year) found that nearly half of respondents were buying more pre-loved clothing in the last two years than they had ever before, while a third said that second-hand items made up at least half of their wardrobes. Reportedly Australians search for designer brands such as Aje, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Scanlan Theodore, and Zimmermann on eBay every two minutes.
But if you're on the lookout for a designer dress for your special day, it pays to have more than a few key search terms up your sleeve, eBay Australia's Head of Fashion, Brooke Eichhorn, tells Refinery29 Australia. Here are her best tips for buying a secondhand wedding dress.
Pay attention to the details
"When browsing through listings, channel your inner detective," Eichhorn says. "Details matter so don't just glance at the pictures; zoom in, inspect the materials, and even consider sizing up!".
"Remember, vintage dresses can sometimes run a tad snug so give yourself breathing room to be able to make alterations," she says.
Drop the seller a message
Don't be shy: "If you're in doubt about a dress, contact the seller and ask for their two cents," says Eichhorn. "It's your big day and you deserve to be as sure about your dress as you are about your partner."
Look for more than just a dress
"Finding different looks for each of the pre and post-wedding events can add up quickly, so shopping pre-loved is a great option to stay stylish during the wedding season and be savvy with your money," says Eichhorn.
"Shopping for your wedding fashion and accessories online rather than in brick-and-mortar stores can increase your chances of finding hidden gems locally and overseas."
Buy from trusted sellers
Most large online marketplaces such as eBay have created security measures such as authenticity guarantees on luxury handbags, and they also clearly identify trusted sellers to minimise the likelihood of fraudulent sales. So you can breathe easy when you add your dream dress and the accessories you've selected for your special day to cart.
"Keep your eyes peeled for trusted sellers, especially when you're eyeing those luxury items," advises Eichhorn.
Where can I shop pre-loved wedding dresses in Australia?
Thankfully, eBay is not the only retailer helping consumers find second-hand, affordable alternatives to the luxury bridal market. Online marketplaces such as Karen Willis Holmes, Etsy, Still White, Barefaced Bridal, Little Bird Bridal and Vestiare Collective all stock pre-loved and vintage bridal that can be shipped to Australia.
Alternatively, you could always explore the vintage stores in your city for unique pre-loved dresses that you won't be able to find anywhere else. These are Refinery29 Australia's favourite op shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart, and the best consignment stores in Sydney and Melbourne for shopping pre-loved designer pieces.