Back in May, I told you about a friend from college, whose wedding was proving to be a major budget-buster. Instead of spending $27,000 – the national average for wedding costs in 2011 – she and her fiance spent a whopping $65,000 on their big day. But it’s not their budget they busted; it was mine.

It’s A Woman’s Prerogative To Change Her Mind

When I wrote that initial post on wedding expenses for guests and members of the bridal party, I told you that the bride had selected a dress under $200. Not long after I published that post, she had second thoughts about the dress – too bad for me. Never a procrastinator, I had already ordered my dress; although I was able to return it, I still had to pay shipping ($15). The new dress she selected was even pricier at $275 and, what’s worse, it didn’t fit me as well as the original option, meaning I had to spend another $35 to have it altered by a seamstress.

On top of that, at the last minute, the bride decided she couldn’t afford to pay for her bridesmaids’ hair on the wedding day, leaving the bill to us. The cost? $90 for the style, plus a $10 tip. I was also strong-armed into paying $90 for air-brushed make-up and false eyelashes, after the bride decided just a week before the wedding that she wanted all her bridesmaids to have their make-up done professionally as well.

Recouping Some Of My Losses

I love fancy dresses – but the fact of the matter is, the last time I wore a formal gown (and wasn’t a member of a wedding party) was 2003. In other words, I didn’t really have an excuse to keep that $275 Monique Lhullier gown in my closet.

Instead, I started looking for ways to get rid of the gown – and get a few bucks back in my pocket. I usually like to donate used clothing from my closet, but I didn’t think I’d recoup enough of the original cost by giving it to Goodwill or even a charity that gives formal gowns to high school students for prom; the fair market value from the tax deductible receipt just wouldn’t come out in my favor.

So I focused on finding a consignment store that would give me the most bang for my buck. In my area, I had literally dozens of options to choose from, including some national consignment store chains like Plato’s Closet. But with the Monique Lhullier label still on the dress, I wanted to find a store that would really appreciate this luxury brand – and compensate me for me.

Comparing Consignment Stores

I started by Googling all the different consignment stores in my area; I immediately any that catered to teenagers or young adults. The cut of this dress was very mature – not racy or overly sexy – and I didn’t think it would appeal to that age group. I also eliminated consignment stores that were in low-income areas; I knew they wouldn’t be able to sell the dress for top dollar.

Eventually, I found three consignment stores that seemed to fit the bill. I paid a visit to each store, with my (recently dry cleaned) dress in hand. A sales lady from each store looked the dress over, and gave me their input:

  • Store 1: Would recommend asking $175 for it. Of that, I would take home 70% ($122.50), and the store would pocket the remaining 30%. After three months on the rack, it would automatically be discounted by 25%, down to $140, reducing my share to $98.
  • Store 2: Would recommend asking $200 for it. Of that, I would take home just 60% ($120), slightly less than the take-home for store 1, even though the sales price would be higher. If the dress didn’t sell after three months, I could either come pick it up or allow the store to discount it by 50%, down to $100.
  • Store 3: Liked the dress so much they wanted to put it in their front window display immediately. They offered to buy it from me outright for $100, or to give me $125 in store credit.

Ultimately, I decided to take the safe money and accepted the offer from store 3. Even though I could have made a little more by selling it at the other two consignment stores, I know that consigning clothes isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re talking about items that may seem expensive in that type of retail environment (I know that I never spend more than $50 on a single item even at the nicest consignment store, just on the principle of it!). Taking the money seemed like less of a gamble, and ensured that I’d see some return out of the dress. I opted to take the $125 in store credit, and bought used it to buy myself 22 different items – my entire winter wardrobe.

Reader, what do you do with old clothes you don’t wear any more?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke