photo: bridal designer Claudine

Off-the-Rack or Custom…

Bridal Gown Choices — What's Right for You?

photo: Brideworld magazine cover

Reprinted with permission from Brideworld magazine. More articles…

Ever wondered what the benefits are between purchasing an "off the rack" versus a "custom designed" bridal gown? Well put your mind at ease and read on, your questions are about to be answered!

Whether you are seeking a source to purchase an off the rack gown or a bridal designer to create your custom gown, you will need to do your research.

Off-the-Rack Bridal Gowns

I will start with the most common method of bridal gown purchasing, pre-designed and off the rack at a bridal salon. At a salon will be able to try on an endless variety of designs and fabrics (limitations of fabrics and colors will occur) from the top designers, including designs you would never have thought would be right for you. This allows you to see how a gown will look on you. A little bit of imagination may have to come into play on your part if the sample gown you try on is not in your size.

off-the-rack wedding dresses prices

Off-the-rack wedding dresses



Ability to try on many styles

May feel pressured to make decision

Wide selection of designers

Limitations of designers at some salons

Knowledgeable staff

Style selections limited

Large price range

Size & body limitations

Same-day & sample gown pricing

Fabric & color choice selections

Abundance of sources


Finding the perfect gown


I recommend you do a bit of research on the current available styles, the gown you fell in love with last season may no longer be available. The personal sales consultants know their merchandise and will be able to pull a number of gowns in the design and price range you are interested in trying on. If gown selection is limited and the consultant does not have good knowledge of styles, you may feel pressured into a choice that may not be your ideal gown.

Ah price, bridal gowns are available from $99 special sales to $5000 designer couture. Know that there will be additional charges added to the cost of your gown for alterations, late order charges, fees for special length and possibly for pressing, storage and maybe even a bridal bag.

Visiting a few salons may be a necessity if you are looking to try on a particular designer, not all shops carry all designers and styles. A few salons will carry an in house line of unique gowns to select from.

Advantages also include shopping at designer trunk shows and buying sample gowns. Trunk shows often offer same-day specials and sample gowns that can be purchased at excellent prices. Be prepared to make your decision and possibly purchase that day, often trunk shows are held for only one day and some bridal gowns may not be orderable.

Custom Designer Bridal Gowns

custom wedding dresses prices

Custom (couture) bridal gowns



Your input is utilized

Cannot try on various styles

No style limitations

Wait to view construction of gown

Choice of fabrics and colors

Prices slightly higher, no sale pricing

No extra charges

More fittings

Shopping time shortened

Limited locations

Proper fit


A truly unique gown


Taking the direction of having your bridal gown custom designed and made for you comes with a different set of advantages and disadvantages. Research will have to be done to select the professional who will create your bridal gown. Talk to other brides and view quality of workmanship. There will not be gowns for you to try on since all gowns created belong to individual brides.

Select a couturiere that will include, as part of the service, a muslin garment of your personal design for you to try on. This will be the first time you actually see the design on you, until that fitting you will have only seen sketches of your gown. You can have a gown created for you in a style that's perfect for you and searching for that ideal gown won't take up precious hours. Your best assets will be accentuated and the others will be minimized.

If your ideas are only in your head, a couturiere will be able to utilize them in the design. Have a sketch of your ideal gown? It can be produced for you. Fabric choices and adornments can be open ended (providing the couturiere you have selected doesn't limit you to what's on hand). There are no additional charges for alterations, special length and pressing (normally the price quoted is all inclusive). Prices can average between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00.

Whether you are seeking a source to purchase an off the rack gown or a couturiere to created your custom gown you will need to do your research. Speak with recent brides, visit wedding chat boards, ask wedding vendors about other vendors and inquire with wedding industry professional organizations. Finding a reputable bridal gown supplier with a high level of professionalism and talent will beget your dream bridal gown or a nightmare wedding experience.

More articles by Claudine…