The Nitty Gritty: Talking About The Real Cost Of Your Wedding Dress

The Nitty Gritty: Talking About The Real Cost Of Your Wedding Dress

Most brides are hoping to find their dream dress, at the perfect price, but just how much will you be expected to pay? You should only spend what you can afford, and what you’ve budgeted for, but this line becomes blurry when you’re buying the most important dress you’ll ever wear. We compare couture gowns to off the rack dresses, and show you what factors influence the price of your wedding outfit.


The average price of an off the rack wedding dress is between $1500 – $2000, compared to a couture gown, which starts at around $3000 and goes up (and up!).


Dresses that are mass-produced will cost less than couture gowns, as these are handmade, specifically to fit each bride.


Couture gowns are one of a kind, made to the exact wishes of a bride, and this guarantees that no one else will walk down the aisle in the same dress as yours. Compare this to off the rack dresses (particularly if you choose not to have major alterations done – like changing the neckline) then there’s always the possibility that someone you know, will wear the same outfit. You pay a higher price for a couture gown, because it’s completely original.


Another major factor that alters the price of a dress is its material. To keep costs low, off the rack dresses are usually cut from more economical (often synthetic) fabrics, but one of the hallmarks of a couture gown is how it drapes and keeps its shape, and this is due to what it’s made from. Couturiers typically work with the finest fabrics – like silk – which are natural, delicate, durable and, as expected, more expensive.

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Fit and Alterations

Wholesale dresses come in a range of generic sizes, and because women come in all shapes and sizes, you can consider yourself extremely lucky if the dress you pick, fits you like a glove. Most brides will need alterations, and depending on the extent of the work, it can sometimes significantly increase the final price of the dress.

A bride who chooses the couture route will have her measurements taken, and in a series of dress fittings, the gown will be made to those exact requirements. You’re not charged for all these alterations, as it’s part of the process of having your dress made, but the overall cost is more expensive, because you’re paying for the expertise of your couturier.


On average, a machine-made dress can be completed in 10 hours, while a couture gown takes somewhere between 40-50 hours to make. Of course this depends on the level of detail, as more intricate accessories will add on extra hours of labour, and (yup you guessed it!) extra dollars.

Even if you find the ideal off the rack dress, you may still need to order it, or have alterations done, so give yourself about 4-6 months ahead of your wedding to ensure your dress will be ready. In contrast, a couture gown can take anywhere from 6-12 months to make, depending on how busy your couturier is. The duration of the dress making changes the price, but the most important factor is making sure that you give yourself enough time to get your dress finished before W day.


You can decorate your dress with anything you choose, from Swarovski crystals and pearls, to rhinestones and beads, but your choice will influence the overall cost. What’s also important is how they’re attached. With machine-made dresses they’re usually glued on, but they’re hand sewn onto couture gowns. This disparity in time and man power changes your dress price.

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A wedding dress is a complicated item of clothing to make – whether by machine or by hand. You have to deal with bustles, buttons and boning, not to mention lots and lots of layers of fabric, but the overall finish of the dress will vary, depending on how it’s made.

The biggest difference between a couture gown and one that’s straight off the rack, is workmanship, and this is also the key reason for the big price gap. A couturier’s reputation is on the line with each dress that they make, and this means that they’ll work until the bride is happy, and the dress is perfect – from the sleeves down to the hem. It takes incredible skill, and considerable time, to make each outfit by hand, while factory made dresses are mass produced, and so they simply don’t have the same attention to detail.


Whether your dress is custom made or machine made – if you’re choosing it because of the designer’s name, it will come with an expensive price tag. You’re paying for the brand, the exclusive material, and because it comes in the latest style, but before you break your budget, you need to make sure the dress is 100% you. If you’ve only ever imagined yourself in Vera Wang, then be my guest, but there are many unknown, or lesser-known, designers that produce beautiful and affordable dresses, that may suit you better.

The most popular way to buy a wedding dress today, is off the rack, but for brides who want to fulfil their wedding dress fantasies, it’s couture all the way. Whichever route you choose, make sure your wedding dress matches your personality, as well as your budget!

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