So You’re Buying A Used Irish Dance Dress…

And it’s still total sticker shock!  I’m sure you’re buying used because you’re thinking it’s way too expensive to buy a new one and you need to save some money but, in the long run, buying a used dress, especially if it’s coming from another country, can wind up costing you a lot more in the long run. Cost of the dress….shipping fees….Customs duty and taxes…. OY! Don’t get me wrong, sure there are some gorgeous used solo dresses out there; it may just be cost effective; your school advises used until you reach a certain stage in your dancing; but there are horror stories out there too. I really have to say that I am not a proponent of buying used dresses. To me, it’s like buying someone else’s dirty underwear! And there are so many talented dressmakers and mom’s here in the U.S. that there’s really no reason not to buy new! Think about it. Kids can be rough on clothing. The previous owner has been dancing and sweating up a storm in it. How rough was the previous owner on it? Does it have an overlay of tulle (netting) in the bodice or is there tulle in the skirt? Catch that on something and the next thing you know it’s ripped to shreds. Does it smell from perspiration and do you really want to have to figure out a way to get that smell out? Are all the crystals in tact? If not, are you going to be able to replace those specific crystals or have they been discontinued and you’re left scratching your head wondering how you’re going to get something to match and look good. How about the embroidery?  Are the threads pulling out from those satin stitches and hanging all over the place? Embroidery repairs can be difficult at best. How short is the skirt? Is there enough material at the waist so it can be let down? There’s usually no hem to speak of in these dresses so it almost always has to be let down at the waist. Are the sleeves too short? Is there enough fabric either in the sleeve cap or the sleeve hem to let it down? If it’s let down, there will probably be a crease and dirt line from the old hem – how are you going to clean it? One of my favorite things is when I hear “there’s two inches of seam allowance so there’s plenty of room to let it out!”  If you believe that – I’ve got a bridge to sell you! Sure, there may be two inches, but that extra fabric has probably been clipped to allow for those seams to lay flat.  So, there goes that theory! Seam allowance for any garment adjustment is usually a maximum of one inch. If you can’t let those seams out, is there any extra fabric the previous owner received from the BNDM so perhaps a gusset can be added for the extra room needed. If not, it’s a good bet that fabric content and color probably can’t be matched. Are bloomers included? What about a matching crown? Styles come and go. Can the dress you’re contemplating buying be updated? All-in-all, the money, time and expense you’ve paid, and will pay for any alterations for that used dress, probably would have paid for a brand new one. One that can be fit like a glove to your child’s exact measurements… and one that will be exactly what you, your child and your TCRG envision to help her win!

If you must buy used, here are a few pointers and questions to ask before you spend all that money to help your experience go a little smoother.

  1. Measure… measure… measure and then measure again! Here’s some great advice on advising how to measure:
  2. Be safe and buy your dress a bit larger to allow for growth. At least two inches if you want it to last and you know your child is going to have a growth spurt.
  3. Ask how much seam allowance there is and if the seams are clipped because you won’t be able to let those seams out past those clips.
  4. Has it been altered before? Are the measurements stated the original measurements or the altered measurements?
  5. Is the embroidery snagged or pulling out?
  6. Is it out of style and can it be updated by adding a new skirt or sleeves?
  7. Are the crystals in tact – do they have extra crystals?
  8. Is there any extra fabric?
  9. Does it include bloomers?
  10. Does it include a crown?
  11. Is it returnable if it doesn’t fit or is the sale final?
  12. Check with your Post Office and/or make yourself knowledgable about duties, customs fees and regulations. Here’s a link to read more:
  13. Be aware of scams! If it’s too good to be true – it usually is.
  14. Pay for your purchases through a reputable means. PayPal is probably the most common and accepted worldwide. Remember, the seller is probably just as nervous as you are about scams and being taken.
  15. All the schools have their preferred alteration specialists, but there are lots of others wanting to get into the business that need a chance. Scope them out, be willing and don’t be afraid to work with them, but work with them!  Don’t leave it all up to the alteration specialist. They can’t read your mind.
  16. When you need to go in for a fitting, make sure your child is wearing the under garments they’re going to be wearing at the Feis!  Because if they’re not, you may just get your dress home and be surprised that it still doesn’t fit. It really does make a difference! and, finally…
  17. Be nice to your alteration specialist! Just like you’re spending a lot of money on your hobby — they have spent a lot of money on their equipment and learning their trade. They are doing their best to make your dress fit and to make your experience the best it can be.