Daphane Birch knows they’re out there, the wedding dresses women wore once and then tucked in the backs of closets and under beds.
There are the perfectly-preserved lace A-line silhouettes; the tags-still-on, can’t-return-it trumpet gowns; the antique dresses handed down from an aunt or grandmother that just aren’t right.
But as Birch, 32, learned when she tried to find a buyer for her own dress, it’s not always simple to sell.
On Saturday, she’s hoping to make it a bit easier, with the launch of a “pop-up” bridal consignment market, a one-day event that brings together buyers and sellers at Southern Star Ballroom Center in North Raleigh.
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For many sellers, it’s a chance to send a dress they adored on to the next person, she said.
“They loved their dress,” she said. “They think it was the perfect one, and they want someone else to experience it.”
If a buyer finds a dress she loves, she likely will pick it up for far less than the original price. A $1,200 dress might go for $500, Birch said.
Torrey Shanay of Durham plans to consign a wedding dress at the sale. She bought it while engaged several years ago but didn’t end up getting married.
She thinks consignment is a smart strategy for couples who don’t want the trappings of a wedding – and the expense that goes with them – to mean more than the marriage itself.
“I want someone to feel like they got what they wanted without paying an arm and a leg and going into debt to start their marriage,” she said.
Tough to sell
Birch turned to Craigslist a few years ago when she decided to sell her wedding dress.
She’s a thrift and consignment shopper who didn’t want her dress to go to waste. The thought of making back some of the money she had spent on it didn’t hurt either.
But Birch soon found herself overwhelmed by offers from prospective buyers that were clearly scams.
As she talked with other women trying to sell their wedding dresses online, she found they also had run into problems, from difficulties finding a way for a buyer to try on a dress to questions about how to accept a payment of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Birch’s online dilemma got her thinking about whether in-person consignment might be a better way to go. She realized she didn’t know of any local brick-and-mortar consignment shops that catered exclusively to brides.
As she researched, she found the rent for retail spaces was too expensive for what she envisioned. That’s when she settled on the idea of a temporary market as part of a larger wedding planning company she calls Luxe Bridal Exchange.
A few weeks before the sale, Birch already had arranged for more than 100 dresses in a range of sizes with more expected to roll in until the day of the market. Dress prices will start at $100.
Birch is accepting dresses from individuals and boutiques with a surplus of dresses. The consignors set the price for their dress and share the profits with Birch.
Carly Buchanan, who works at Keep It Classy, a consignment shop in Roxboro, said the store stocks a section of wedding dresses, but they’re slow to sell.
Some of the dresses have the tags still on or arrive when a dry cleaner drops off a preserved, abandoned dress. But not too many shoppers come looking for them.
“I think when people think consignment, they think thrift,” she said.
Buchanan thinks the pop-up market will be a way to sell some dresses and show the value of a consigned dress.
Birch said she’s paying close attention to all of the details of the sale. She wants brides to feel the same way they would in a fancy bridal salon when they finally put on the perfect dress.
“It will still have that luxury feeling,” she said.