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When it comes to wedding styling, some of the toughest questions revolve around The Dress. After all, unless you’re a fan of haute couture, chances are that your bridal gown will be one of the priciest wardrobe items that you’ve ever purchased–particularly when you factor in its cost per wear value! While some brides will brandish their credit card with glee when it comes to that perfect creation of silk, satin, lace, and beading, others may find themselves searching for other, less budget-assassinating options. And when it comes to economic and environmental considerations, it’s hard to go past a pre-loved wedding dress. Today we chat to Sky Lee Martin, the enterprising woman behind Worn Only Once, an online shop for buying and selling wedding gowns and other formal wear.

 

To market to market

Worn Only Once was, like most successful businesses, born of necessity. Sky found herself, perhaps like many erstwhile bridesmaids, stuck with a single-wear dress that was taking up space in her wardrobe. But try though she might, she couldn’t anywhere to offload this extraneous item of clothing. “At the time I wanted to sell my dresses the internet wasn’t in full swing like it is today,” she says. “I used some newspapers, including Weekend Shopper and The Trading Post. I also took them to markets to sell.” But the problem was that her would-be customers weren’t shopping in these places.

Given her own difficulties, Sky quickly concluded that there must be other women out there attempting to sell high-end single-wear couture, but that they needed an appropriate avenue to do so. “I needed something more targeted towards people who are looking to buy these pre-loved dresses,” she says. And thus Worn Only Once was born.

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A dressing down

But while brides and other formal dress shoppers are die-hard fans of her site, we can’t help wonder what wedding dress designers think of her business. “I have tried to break that feeling of being in direct competition,” says Sky. In fact, she’s tried to position herself as a valuable conduit between designers and brides. Sky hopes that designers see her business as “a service that they can offer to their brides to on-sell their gowns.” Rather than taking business from designers, Sky’s business helps connect people who mightn’t have connected otherwise. “I feel that a bride who is going to buy a new unused gown will always do so,” she says.

 

Dressed to the nines

Sky’s business offers plenty of benefits to the savvy bride, including a lower environmental footprint, and the ability to purchase couture designs at much more affordable prices. “Saving hundreds of dollars is a great place to start,” she agrees. “These dresses have been worn only once–and not even for 24 hours!” Because wedding dresses are typically dry cleaned after the wedding day, they’re typically in pristine condition. “They really are in fantastic condition and are practically brand new.” A great gown that won’t blow the budget? “I think that will look appealing to any budget-conscious bride,” says Sky.

 

Hemming and hawing

But as all of us who have bought too-small shoes off eBay can attest, one has to be careful when shopping online. We ask Sky what her recommendations are to brides who are interested in purchasing a used wedding gown. Sky recommends factoring in the cost of alterations into the overall cost. Most bridal gowns have been tailored to fit a particular bride, so it’s likely that some minor alterations will be needed. Brides should “keep an open mind,” says Sky, who points out that these alteration costs will be negligible when the overall cost savings are calculated. She adds that looking for a gown a size or two either side of your usual size can be effective, too. “Many dresses have a tie back, meaning that you can squeeze into a size smaller than usual, or have a slightly larger gown drawn in.”

Still, she recommends that her buyer shop smart. “Contact the seller,” she advises prospective buyers. “And ask lots of questions about the dress.”

 

All sewn up

Given that her site caters not only to those looking to buy a dress, but also for those looking to sell a dress, we ask Sky for her tips on ensuring a sale. “Include as much information about the dress as possible,” she says. This not only helps buyers already on the site, but is great for encouraging google traffic to your page. In addition to great descriptions, pictures are also essential. After all, they do tell a thousand words! Sky recommends that these photos show any hard-to-see details such as beading or lacework. Her final recommendation is to be reasonable about your asking price. “Think about the price you set,” she says. Still, this doesn’t mean that you have to let your dress go for a song. “If you’re unsure start with the higher price–you can always drop it if you’re not getting any enquiries.”

 

Off the rack

Given the highly varied dress options posted on Sky’s site, we’re curious about the brides who use her services. Who are her customers? Many are those who have married recently, and who are looking to recoup some of those astronomical expenses. “A dress from the current season and in line with the currently in-demand styles would certainly sell more quickly,” she says. These up-to-the-minute styles represent a large proportion of the products on the site, with Maggie Sottero dresses being the trend a la mode.

But not all brides are looking to help bolster their honeymoon expense account. “There is also a group that would be beyond feeling like ‘a bride’. In my case I had had kids, stopped working and wanted to clear some space in my wardrobe,” she says. “Still, the extra cash was a bonus.” Many of her customers are of a similar mindset, with many selling their dresses years after the wedding.

 

The business of getting dressed

Given that Sky started out on the bride’s side of things, we’re curious to see how she’s finding life as a wedding vendor. She’s enthusiastic in her response. “It’s lovely being involved within the bridal industry,” she says. “I have two boys, so bringing something ‘pretty and girly’ into my life is nice for a change.” But there are challenges, too. “With the two boys, time is short, so trying to get online without too many interruptions can be a challenge!”

She counts among her successes her efforts to be seen as a friend of dress designers rather than as competition. “Trying to have retailers and designers see me not as direct competition has been an interesting thing,” she notes, expanding on her earlier comments. “Some retailers love knowing I exist and will happily pass on referrals. They get asked all the time about where a used wedding dress can be sold.”

 

On-selling wisdom

We ask Sky whether she has any words of advice for soon-to-be-marrieds, and she’s happy to oblige. “Getting married is the most beautiful time in your life,” she says. “I think it is amazing how creative and unique weddings are these days.” But still, in Sky’s mind, weddings are all about “the coming together of two life paths, where two individuals take a single path into the future.”

If you’re looking to buy or sell a wedding gown, be sure to stop by Worn Only Once–and don’t forget to say that we sent you!

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