Say Yes to the Borrowed Dress: Would you rent your wedding gown?
Many brides will recognise the familiar feeling of spotting their dream wedding dress online or in a magazine and then having their heart broken when they find out how expensive it is.
For many women, the perfect wedding implies the perfect, fairytale dress. Some see their dress as a family heirloom to be passed down through generations, but in recent years, modern brides have been turning to a more affordable option - renting the dress for your big day.
Renting a gown both checks the “something borrowed” box and makes luxury fashion accessible to women who are unable or unwilling to pay the full price.
Last month, the popular dress hire store Covet, located in Dublin’s Powerscourt Centre, launched its bridal suite, offering everything from delicate veils to statement baubles and, of course, the show-stopping dress itself.
While buying a wedding dress can easily run into thousands of euro, you can rent one for a fraction of the cost. Some of the dresses at Covet have a retail price of up to €4,500, but can be rented for as little as €175 for three days, which includes dry-cleaning upon return.
Covet carries a treasure trove of bridal fashions, including dresses by Rachel Gilbert, Jenny Packham, Monique Lhuillier and Badgley Mischka. Sizes currently range from 6-16, and they provide temporary alterations to ensure a perfect fit.
They have also created their own collection which is available to rent or buy, and offer a bespoke design service for headpieces and gowns.
Aleana O’Shea runs their new bridal suite, and has been working in bridal fashion for five years.
Before coming to Covet, she spent two years in New York as an assistant designer for bridal favourite Carolina Herrera, the high-end label known for creating breath-taking gowns for the likes of Olivia Palermo, Renee Zellweger and Christina Hendricks.
“We decided to open the new bridal suite in reaction to brides coming in and just renting our regular stock,” Aleana explains.
“They were coming in looking for their something blue and borrowed, and looking for something a little bit more bridal. Our reaction was that it was just a no-brainer, let’s do it. It’s been going really well.”
They see a handful of brides dropping in during the week, and weekends are by appointment-only. She notes that Saturdays are always fully
“At the moment, we have brides right up until December of next year who have committed to a dress,” says Aleana.
“There are so many that come in and say, ‘I don’t want to spend a fortune, I don’t want to wake up the day after my wedding and have the fear of how much I’ve spent on a wedding dress.’ So they see something beautiful for €295 and go with that.”
The collection is not just limited to thrifty young couples either.
“We have brides of all ages. We definitely have the mature bride who is not trying to look like she’s 20 coming down the aisle.
“There have been people in for their second wedding and they’re looking for more of a gown (than a traditional wedding dress). They’ll generally avoid the ivories, so we’ll get them into something gold or blue.
“Then there are first-time brides who have decided to get married later in life and they want to have more of a ceremony, so she’ll go for a short number with a pillbox hat and a bit of birdcage covering her face.”
A visit to Covet’s bridal suite is like stepping into the glamorous dressing room of an Old Hollywood icon, filled with gowns of delicate lace, ornate beading, silks, chiffon and sequins.
“The style here is definitely a more pared-back version of bridal, there’s nothing overly embellished, and they’re generally a little more funky. It’s not all ivories – we’ve pulled out everything: blues, silvers, golds.”
The most popular silhouettes include the silk bias cut in the Covet Collection (a 1920s style similar to Keira Knightley’s famous green dress in Atonement), an embroidered lace Tadashi number with silk-tulle overlays in lavender and pale pink, or the heavily beaded Art Deco-style gowns by hugely in-demand designer Rachel Gilbert.
Actresses commonly rent or borrow designer gowns for the red carpet, but some women still bristle at the thought of renting a wedding dress.
Although some brides would rather not admit to renting a gown, Aleana says it’s becoming so popular that there’s no shame in it anymore.
Many modern brides now see renting as a sensible choice – you will only ever wear it once, and it gives you the chance to get the gown of your dreams without the designer price tag.
“Often the brides are so comfortable with it and they’ll think, ‘No way am I spending that much money on a gown when I can rent it.’ They’d be more ashamed to say they’d spent a great deal of money on their dress!”
If you’re still keen to hold on to a dress for sentimental value, renting for your bridesmaids is another cost-effective option. A number of dress hire shops around the country offer a selection of gowns ideal for small bridal parties - or unconventional brides - including Cari’s Closet (with stores in Dublin, Belfast and Cork, cariscloset.ie) and Frock N Fabulous (frocknfabulous.ie).
There are also options for expectant mums, as Style Mama (stylemama.ie) has a range of maternity occasion wear suitable for bridesmaids.
If you’re not looking for a keepsake for your big day, renting could save you money and spare you the effort of storing and preserving a gown that will probably languish in the back of your wardrobe till death do you part.
After all, you’re marrying your partner, not your dress.