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Wearing hand-me-down gowns

Brides-to-be devote plenty of time to thinking about their wedding gowns, and some women spend months scouring stores for their ideal designs. But what if the perfect gown is already tucked away in a family member's closet?

Some brides view a hand-me-down gown with a degree of skepticism. After all, people may poke fun at dresses passed on by well-meaning friends and family that feature styling that is out-of-date (think 1980s shoulder pads). However, in most cases, dresses can be altered and turned into something that fits the new bride's style and physique.

According to About.com, the average machine-sewn wedding gown made of synthetic fabrics will cost $500 and up. High-end fabrics and special orders can increase the cost of a gown to $2,000 or more. Designer gowns custom cut and sewn according to a bride's measurements may cost as much as $6,000. Some brides simply do not want to pay that much for a gown they will only wear once. In this instance, a passed-down gown makes a viable alternative.

When considering a vintage or hand-me-down gown, there are certain questions brides-to-be should ask before agreeing to wear the dress.

* What is the size? It's much easier to take fabric away from a gown than to match it and add fabric to the gown. Therefore, try on the gown and see if alterations will be possible. Do not plan on crash dieting to fit in the gown. You may not reach your goal, and then you may be stuck with an ill-fitting dress. How well a gown fits goes a long way toward the bride's appearance.

* What is the condition? Many dry cleaners offer wedding gown preservation packages, and brides have been taking advantage of this service. The gown is cleaned and boxed so it will not discolor. If you are receiving a gown that has undergone this treatment, there is a greater liklihood it will look much like it did when it was first worn. However, some former brides do not store their gowns properly, and they may be stained, torn or discolored. While it is possible to do some cleaning, you may not end up with a gown that meets your approval.

* Is the shape flattering? If a gown has good "bones" to it, there's a chance that a talented tailor can turn it into something that will enhance your frame and body type. If the gown is of a style that you never would have considered, such as a mermaid cut or princess style, then it may be much more difficult and costly to transform it into something workable.

* Are you settling? Every bride wants to feel romantic in her wedding gown, which is why shopping for a gown is often akin to searching for lost treasure. If the hand-me-down gown doesn't give you goosebumps when you put it on and you're settling simply because of the price, then it may put a damper on your entire wedding.

* What's your budget? Even though hand-me-down wedding dresses may be no cost initially, you may accumulate a sum depending on the extent of the alterations needed. Get an estimate from a seamstress and find out if it will be financially smart to go with the used gown or purchase something new.

Wearing a hand-me-down gown is something many brides consider, especially if the dress has sentimental meaning or is a family heirloom. Certain questions should be answered before finalizing the decision to go with something vintage.