Photo credit to Suzanne Lytle Photography.

By Amy West, Flora’s Bridal

Most brides out shopping for their wedding gown are not familiar with all the intricacies of the bridal world and expect to walk into a store and leave with a dress. This just is not so in bridal.

I am sure you have heard the term before, she bought that off-the-rack. Well, what does it really mean? Wedding gowns are typically special ordered, not to be confused with custom ordered. Special ordered means the gown being purchased is ‘made to order’ however, it is made to a standard size and will need to be altered to perfectly fit the bride. Custom or couture gowns, are made as ordered to the bride’s exact measurements. The most obvious difference between special ordered vs. custom ordered is usually a few thousand dollars. Both can take up to six months or more to arrive in the shop.

So where do off-the-rack gowns fit in? Generally bridal shop gowns are ‘samples.’ These are the gowns brides try on before ordering themselves a sparkly new wedding dress. But, when a designer decides to no longer produce a certain style, bridal shops will sell these samples ‘off-the-rack.’ As the dress is no longer available to order, a bride can walk into a store and purchase the discontinued gown at a great discount and take it home the same day.

There are some obvious benefits to purchasing a discontinued style: such as, no wait times and the reduced pricing. However, there are hidden costs to purchasing off-the-rack to be aware of before saying yes. If the dress is the wrong size, i.e. too large, it could result in costly alterations. So much so, it is often more cost effective to special order a new gown. Also, samples may have some wear and tear. Cleaning a sample is sometimes necessary as well. Do not let just anyone clean the gown. Ensure they can clean the gown without melting or destroying the delicate fabrics and or bead-work.

Regardless of whether your dress is special ordered or purchased off-the-rack, the results will be the same; a beautiful bride donning a dream gown, enchanting her guests. Absolutely, no one will know if that gown was off-the-rack or custom ordered, so follow your instincts and buy what you love.

Amy West is the owner of Flora’s Bridal 768 W. Lumsden Rd. Brandon in La Viva Plaza. Call 684-0644 or visit

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