Great bargains can be had at sample sales, but keep in mind that there will be trade-offs along with the savings. Choice will be limited, both as far as the styles and the sizes available -- many designers' samples come in 6 or 8 only. And since the gowns may have been tried on by many women, they might need cleaning or repair.
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Another disadvantage: You most likely won't have the benefit of a personal bridal consultant, whose job involves not only properly measuring you but also offering advice on what gowns work best with your figure and coloring. "Some brides don't know what they're getting into without professional assistance," says Paula Piccirillo, store manager at Fontana Bridal Salon in Scarsdale, New York.
Check a store's alterations policy before buying. There are shops that won't tweak samples, in which case you'll need to find your own seamstress willing to tackle any changes. And don't buy one that's too small. It's very difficult to make a tiny dress bigger, but it's hardly ever a problem to scale it down a bit.
Still, if you have the patience and energy, a sample sale is a great place to score a highly-discounted wedding dress (70 percent off and more, in some cases!). Should you decide to go this route, here are a few helpful pointers to keep in mind:
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1. Wear comfy undergarments and a strapless bra. You don't know who you'll be sharing a dressing room with!
2. Be ready to buy. You won't have a ton of time to hem-and-haw over a gown-some girl might snap it out of your hands.
3. Bring only one companion with you. It gets tight in a crowd. A smaller entourage means you can move more quickly.
4. Cash or credit cards rule. Leave your checkbooks at home.
What do you think? Would you buy a sample sale wedding dress?
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