Why Does Your Wedding Dress Cost So Much?

As a bride-to-be, your wedding dress is one of the biggest decisions you face. The cost of a wedding dress depends a lot on your location, size, materials used and design. Fabric, craftsmanship and alterations are three key factors to consider as well. According to surveys completed by the Wedding Channel, the average price of a dress in 2012 was between $1,200 and $1,300. Specifically, brides in New York City paid more than other regions.

To get a better understanding of what your dress will cost, it helps to understand how a dress is priced. Here is a video done by NPR entitled, “Why Do Wedding Dresses Cost So Much”  that discusses in detail the factors that are associated with a the price of a wedding dress.


Wedding Dress Fabric

Most bridal gowns come in polyester/satin, silk or velvet. The material used to make your dress dictates a portion of the dress cost.

Silk is the most expensive option. On average, white silk costs about $18 to $30 per yard. Satin ranges between $6 and $12 per yard. Velvet is a little pricier with the average cost ranging from $13 to $35 per yard.

wedding dress fabric costs

Photo Credit: Fabric and Art

Wedding dresses usually have multiple layers. With a polyester organza, the average cost of materials is a $5 per yard. Chiffon is less than $4 per yard. Netting is about $6 per yard. Lace is very expensive and often costs upwards of $20 to $80 per yard. Dress designers who mass produce wedding dresses do get hefty discounts for buying the fabrics in bulk, so that does save them money.

With a standard dress size, the layers of fabric alone generally costs about $300 to $500. Plus-sized dresses use more fabric, and that drives up the cost.

Clearly, the type and amount of fabric you choose for your wedding dress directly influences the cost of your dress.


Craftsmanship and Decorative Touches

Many wedding dresses purchased in stores or online are manufactured in clothing factories. These machine-made gowns are less expensive to purchase, but there are still labor costs for the employees running the machines.

Some gowns have additional decorative touches, however, that are sewn or attached by hand. For each item that is attached by hand, the cost of the dress goes up. Dresses with lace appliques, beads, embroidery or rhinestones cost more. First, you have the cost of the decorations. Beaded silk is approximately $120 per yard. Embroidered satin costs around $60 per yard. Rhinestones alone cost about $12 to $18 per yard. If they are already applied to bands, they range in price from $14 to $100.

The more intricate details you have on your dress, the more expensive it will be.

wedding dress details costs

Photo Credit: Vogue Magz


Dress Alterations

It’s very rare for a dress to fit perfectly. Most brides have to take their wedding gown for alterations to ensure that the length and fit is ideal. Prices range from state to state. Expect to return to the seamstress you choose at least twice before your wedding day.

how much does a wedding dress cost

Photo Credit: Twirl

If you just need your wedding gown shortened, the cost runs between $40 and $225. Taking in the dress on the sides ranges in price from $40 to $200. Adding a bustle ranges from $25 to $100, depending on the number of layers on your dress’s skirt. These prices go up if your dress has a lot of embroidery or beading.


The Entire Wedding Cost

Beyond the dress, the total average cost for a wedding tops $26,000, and that’s before you add in the cost for a honeymoon. Saving money on your wedding gown is important, especially if you have a limited amount of money for your wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon. Here are some tips to help cut the cost of your wedding dress.

Check out vintage and consignment shops. With a high percentage of marriages ending in divorce, many dresses end up in used clothing stores. You may find a beautiful dress at savings of at least 50%. If you have a Goodwill store in your area, it’s not uncommon to find wedding dresses for less than $100. There are pre-owned wedding dress websites which you can save up to 90 percent off retail prices.

wedding dresses

Photo Credit: Crown Tailor

Shop for sample dresses. Wedding dress designers need room for new designs. To get this room, they put up their samples for sale at huge discounts of up to 90 percent off. As most dress samples are in size six or eight, sample sales only work if you’re the ideal industry size.

Sell your dress after the wedding. Most brides want to preserve their wedding dress to hand down to their children. If you’re not attached to your dress, sell it after your wedding for about half of what you originally paid. Another bride is thrilled to get the discounted dress, and you can quickly regain half of your money.

Finally, consider renting your dress. For years, grooms have rented their tuxedos. Stores are starting to catch on and now offer wedding dress rentals. Instead of paying thousands for a dress, you pay can rent a current style for as little as $100. There are plenty of wedding dress websites that offer good wedding dress rental options

 Wedding Album, Wedding Abums

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Why Does Your Wedding Dress Cost So Much?
Article Name
Why Does Your Wedding Dress Cost So Much?
As a bride-to-be, your wedding dress is one of the biggest decisions you face. The cost of a wedding dress depends a lot on your location, size & materials.

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3 Responses

  1. Helena says:

    HI, I made a few typos so just correcting it ! Thanks

    I work in the bridal business and wanted to make a few points, I don’t want to offend but I feel your video is one -sided and over simplified.

    1. In my experience bridal gowns are rarely mass produced, far fewer are sold than other types of clothing ie jeans etc, so they are not made in large numbers, also often they are not made abroad so labour is dearer. I do work a little differently to how you describe, which I would like to explain,
    I would not have my gowns made in China as I fear that workers are exploited, so I pay to have them l made locally at a cost of aprox $450 to $550 per dress, sometimes more, that is only for the labour -then hand finished by myself -which can take six or seven hours. I then have an appointment with the bride to try it and resolve and fitting issues so that can add up to another days work. I also pay for silk covered buttons, and beaded trims, and possibly other extras.
    I notice your lovely dress has a zip and buttons on top, I would for example not do that as it is a short – cut. If so what about local taxes/ import duty/delivery costs etc, I have friends who do have their gowns manufactured in China and say the extras all add up.

    2. Direct cost of sales – with commercially produced dresses – as well as the cost of manufacture and fabric there is also the wages of the sales assistant and all the shop over heads, I assume you visited several shops and tried gowns on, there is a very real cost to the shops each time a bride visits; light/ heat /marketing/ packaging/insurance and cleaning costs etc.
    Also major cost such as rent or mortgage/ business development loans repayment etc.
    Many times a visit or even several visits by one bride does not result in a sale, so shops have to take that in to account, Shops may average one sale in eight or nine or even ten appointments, and then the sale may require further visits it is rare for one visit to create a sale. You also have to ask yourself how much you earn per day and then think about the shop staff do they work for nothing ?

    3. On going pattern development and sample making, someone made the pattern and possibly several fabrics were tested and several proto-type dresses were made for each design, pattern cutters and sample makers again do not work for nothing. I plough a lot of my profit in to improving fit and testing new styles and fabrics
    4. Hidden costs – all manufacturers have their products photographed which is one of many hidden expenses a model /makeup artist /photographer/ studio /prop hire is not cheap. Fashion shows /trade shows /website development /SEO/ magazine advertising/ blog adverts
    all have to be done, Accountants have to be paid also book keepers ‘admin staff for large shops etc. Tax also has to be taken in to account.

    4. Polyester is a good fabric, it is cheaper than silk of course but never creases which is important, and hangs very well. Sometimes I cannot find the right weight/colour of silk and use the most suitable fabric wether it is polyester or silk. For example I have observed that top Designers (for example Alexander McQueen ) sometimes use polyester in their evening gowns and line them with silk. Silk is a somewhat ‘unkind’ fabric -the silk worms larvae are destroyed in the process, and in my opinion should be used where appropriate not just for the sake of it.

    5. Many workers are involved in the bridal trade and all have to make a profit – to keep going, the alternative is to buy online which involves no service do you really want to boil the experience down to it’s barest minimum like buying a loaf of bread?

    6. I charge around $2000/2500 for a dress but actually work six days a week and make very little money as I give a lot of help advice with accessories /underwear/ etc and general service, brides are always lovely, but can be quite demanding and are not always easy to please. One dress sale can involve five or six visits and accommodating quite a few family and friends making them tea etc, which all takes time and energy. Apologies for going on a bit -just making a few points and I hope I have not given any offence

  2. Lynda says:

    Excellent descriptions, thank you. Can you recommend where I might get free wedding dress fabric samples.
    Thank you.

  3. Very nice post. I definitely like this website. Thanks!