How to Buy a Used Dress

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How to Buy a Used Dress

Buying a used dress is an excellent way to save money, for instance, buying a used wedding dress which has been worn usually only once. Similarly, formal dresses, like those worn to evening functions or balls, are seldom worn more than once or twice. Buying used designer dresses makes items affordable that are ordinarily out of reach due to the constraints on most purses. The purchase of a used dress need not be limited to formal, wedding, or designer clothing; casual dresses originally from high street retailers offer equally great savings. Aside from saving money, buying used clothing is kind to the environment, since recycling clothes saves energy and keeps discarded clothing out of landfills.

Before buying a used dress, check the condition of the garment, either physically or by asking the seller specific questions. It is best to buy from a seller with a returns policy in place to allow the return of items with serious flaws that were not apparent on first inspection. To ensure that a bargain really is a bargain, research the selling price of similar new items from the same designer or retailer. Used dresses are available from charity shops, specialist stores, and online auction sites, such as eBay.

Checking a Used Dress

Carefully check the dress before buying it in order to avoid buying an item that will never be worn. This section discusses the specific areas and features to investigate, and includes a list of questions to ask the seller.

Fabric Performance

Delicate materials such as silk or satin tend to get damaged easily, and dresses that have been worn more than once may show wear. Check whether the fabric is in its original condition, with no tears, runs, or weakened and worn patches. For example, there should be no evidence of pilling or thinly worn areas on cotton dresses. Similarly, satin should appear lustrous, not greasy from repeated wear. In addition, check for stretched fabric. If the dress was a little too small for the previous owner, stretched fabric may cause unsightly bulges.

Hems and Seams

Hems and seams are prone to damage. Make sure that all seams are intact and none are pulling apart. Check the hems for damage or missing stitching. This is especially important when buying dresses with long skirts as these are often damaged by being stepped on while wearing high-heeled shoes.

Zips and Fasteners

Check zips and fasteners for damage. Buttons should be in place or replacement buttons should be readily available. If the buttons add detail to the dress it is important to replace missing buttons with identical buttons. Zips should be in working condition, opening and closing smoothly without snagging. Where the zip is damaged and easy to replace, point the damage out to the seller and ask whether this has been taken into account.


If the dress has straps, they should be securely in place with no evidence of pulling where they are attached to the body of the dress. Check the area behind the neck on halterneck dresses. If strain has been placed on the dress strap, pulled threads may be evident.

Details and Embellishments

Details and embellishments must be in place. Some details are glued on and, while the dress may look good without the detail, it is possible that the glue has left a mark on the fabric. Similarly, details that were sewn on may leave a hole in the fabric.


Check the back and the front of the dress for stains. Some marks may be removed by having the item dry cleaned or washed, but this is never guaranteed. Opt for dresses that have been dry cleaned before being made available for sale.

Common Issues and Problem Areas

In addition to the areas and features mentioned above, also check common problem areas. The area under the arm may show sweat marks or deodorant stains. This is especially clear on the hem under the armpit and dresses that are discoloured in this area should be avoided. The front neckline of the dress must be checked for make-up stains. Even if the dress was worn only once it could have been removed carelessly, allowing foundation to come into contact with the garment. Foundation marks are difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Finally, do a ‘sniff test’ on the dress or ask the seller if there are any lingering smells. Some fabrics retain odours and a used dress that was worn in a smoky area or stored incorrectly could smell musty or of cigarette smoke.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Dress

The list of questions below can be used for ease of reference when negotiating the sale of a used dress.

  • How many times has the dress been worn?
  • Has the dress been dry cleaned since it was worn last?
  • Does it come with accessories or are accessories available for sale?
  • Is the dress damaged or soiled and does it show wear?
  • Are the hems and seams intact?
  • Does the dress zipper work?
  • Are all buttons and details in place?
  • Are the straps secure and in good condition?
  • Does the dress have a lingering smell of perfume, cigarette smoke, or anything else?
  • Has the dress been altered or tailored?

It is important to ask about tailoring, especially when shopping for formal or wedding dresses, as dresses are often taken in for a better fit.

Check the Seller’s Return Policy

Ask the seller whether he or she has a returns policy in place. If the dress is damaged or shows wear that was not noticed at first, it can be returned for a refund or exchanged. Although used clothing sellers may not always have returns policies, this is especially important when buying more expensive garments such as used wedding dresses.

Research Similar Items

To ensure that the used dress for sale really is a bargain, research the cost of similar items from the same designer or shop. Most retailers have websites that list the prices of their collections. Visit the site to get an idea of what the dress cost new and whether it is still on sale. It may have been bought on sale at a 75 percent discount, or it may be available for sale at a reduced price.

Be Realistic

While buying a used dress is an excellent money saving option, the dress may not be absolutely perfect. Have realistic expectations about the item and anticipate finding slight imperfections. These may have been present when the dress was manufactured and some are barely noticeable or completely unnoticeable unless one is searching for faults. Where flaws are present, the price should reflect this.

Buying a Used Dress on eBay

To find a used dress on eBay, type a search phrase or word (for example "party dress") in the search bar on any page and then select Used from the list of available conditions. Choose the most appropriate category and the features or characteristics required to narrow your selection. If you would like to see more or fewer options, use the advanced search feature to control the number of listings displayed.

Before You Buy on eBay

Before you buy a used dress on eBay, learn how to get to know the seller and effectively check the item listing.

Check the Seller’s Feedback

The eBay seller feedback feature allows buyers to leave feedback for sellers upon the completion of transactions. Detailed seller ratings give additional information about aspects such as the accuracy of the seller’s item description in the listing, the seller’s communication, whether the postage and packaging costs were reasonable, and whether the item was dispatched in a timely manner. To access this information, click on the number displayed next to the seller’s username.

Check the Listing Page

The item listing page contains very useful information to help the reader in their search for the perfect used dress. Such information includes the condition of the item, images of the item, bidding and buying information, postage and payments, the seller’s return policy (if any), and the seller’s accepted payment methods.

Some sellers offer free postage and packaging. If this is not the case, add the postage fees to the item’s selling price to work out the total cost. Use the "Ask a Question" link to contact the seller if you have any questions about the listing.


Buying a used dress is a great way to save money on formal, wedding, designer, or casual dresses. Some dresses, especially formal or wedding dresses, are only worn once, leaving them in near perfect condition and suitable for resale. In addition, recycling clothing is kind to the environment as it saves energy and landfill space. When shopping for a used dress, check each item’s condition. The dress’s general condition should be studied, with specific attention paid to factors such as the state of the fabric, the hems and seams, signs of wear and tear, and lingering smells.

It is best to buy a used dress from a seller with a returns policy, especially when buying a formal or wedding dress. This makes it easier to return the garment if a fault is found after it has been purchased. Doing adequate research about the dress before buying will ensure that the asking price is fair. Finally, it is important to have realistic expectations about the item and to accept minor flaws. A wide range of used dresses are available from eBay sellers.

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