Once upon a time in New York, there was a secret event that penetrated only the highest echelons of the fashion savvy. An event so exclusive, social wars were waged, sisters disowned and friends forgotten. This event was known as the “sample sale.”
The sample sale was a means for the Designer to rid himself of the sales samples and earn some goodwill with his clientele at the same time.
Over time, something happened and the ever-exclusive sample sale became a much wider phenomenon, attracting employees of the Designer, friends of employees and friends of friends.
Unlike Ready-to-Wear, you do not need to know someone who knows someone to get a steal on a sample. Buying a sample is your opportunity to score a great price on a Designer gown–that is–if you know the basics of sample buying and are willing to invest a little extra to make your gown perfect.
- Courtesy 123RF
- Concern #1: Dress condition: Is the gown dirty? Consider having it cleaned (if you are having it cleaned, do the cleaning first, the alterations after). You can always ask your shop for a qualified cleaner and call for a quote. Take a look at where the imperfections are– is it the hem, which you plan on taking up anyway? Is the beading missing? Ask your shop if it is possible to order a bead packet or replacement stones from the Designer. Many Designers are happy to send replacement beading. The same goes for buttons. If there are tears in the fabric, ask if it is possible to replace the piece and/or panel and whether additional fabric can be ordered from the Designer. I’ve seen many a pricey sample marked ridiculously low merely because it needed a new zipper– a minimal fix for a qualified tailor!
Concern #2: The dress is too big. This will depend on where it is too large and how close you want it to fit. Typically, a gown with boning can be taken down two sizes before needing major surgery. Take a look at the number of seams in the gown–typically more seams=more room to take in. But be realistic, as well. Samples aren’t for everyone. If you are a size 0 and the sample is a 10, you may end up paying more in alterations than you will for a new gown in your size.
Concern #3: The dress is too small. Most wedding gowns contain a seam allowance of anywhere from 1/2” to 1” all around. Keep in mind the fabric you are working with–densely woven fabric, like Satin, tends to show stitch marks, while fabrics like Taffeta and Oraganza are a bit easier to let out. Additional fabric can often be ordered to add a panel or godet. If the gown is two to three sizes too small, your best bet may be to add a laced corset to the back of the gown. Again, be realistic. If the gown is four sizes too small, you are likely better off starting with a new gown in your correct size.
Get creative! Did you find a sample you love, and the price is incredible, but you have no way to use it? I knew a bride who bought a sample gown from a Designer. The gown had obviously been on a few photo shoots in exotic locations. The seams were torn, the hem filthy and the interior destroyed. But she loved the beaded lace appliques and the price was right. She scored an amazing deal on the gown and used the appliques to adorn her simple veil.
Most of all, you need to decide if a sample is right for you. Are you okay with a few minor imperfections in lieu of a great price? Are you ready to make a decision quickly? (Samples typically go fast!) Are you okay with wearing a gown that has been tried on by other brides? If so, and with a good eye, a good tailor and a little know-how, you can find the gown of dreams within your budget.
The White Dress will hold their semi-annual “Big Sale” on Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th. We will be offering 30 minute mini-appointments, from 2-4pm Saturday and 9am-2pm Sunday. Appointments are booking up quickly. Call The White Dress today. 949.723.0121.