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Ask the Strategist: Where Can I Find a Stylish Wedding Dress for Under £500?

Photo: Kelvin Murray/Getty Images

In our advice column “Ask the Strategist,” we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please email with one of your own or DM us on Instagram — we’re here to help.

My fiancé and I are eloping in September. We’re looking to keep costs relatively low, so I don’t want to spend more than £500 on a stylish wedding dress. Any ideas?

First off, congratulations!

I’m sure you’re not alone in wanting to keep wedding costs low. According to a 2021 survey, the average UK bride spent £1,300 on a wedding dress. And that may seem truly unappealing (or simply impossible) given the current economic situation. Luckily, in recent years, we’ve all seen high-street retailers dabble in bridalwear, so you’ll definitely find options that sit comfortably within your budget. You may worry that an inexpensive price tag could only hang off a plain or unrefined-looking dress, but I’m happy to report that isn’t the case. I’m not sure of your height, body type, or personal preferences, so I have highlighted a few options across your budget, each with a different aesthetic.

Along with price and style, I’ve kept quality in mind. Not physically seeing a dress before ordering it is daunting enough for a night out, let alone a wedding, and you’ll want to ensure it’ll last for years (as a keepsake or for the next suitable event). With that in mind, I’ve broken down the materials each gown is made of and scanned through reviews to hear from brides who’ve tried and tested them on their special day.

This understated, elegant gown from ASOS Edition is elevated by flowing oversize sleeves and a subtle floral embossing. The dress is lined with a polyester-and-elastane blend, making it suitably opaque, and its embossed outer layer is made from 100 percent cotton. It’s within your budget, at £205, and will leave you with plenty to spend elsewhere. That being said, one reviewer (who is five-foot-nine) said the gown was so long she had to get it altered so it didn’t trail along the floor. Another reviewer with a larger bust said she loved the gown but had to have modesty panels sewn in around the chest area to keep her comfortably concealed. Alterations would cost more (and take time), but your overall total could still be well under £500 with the right tailor. The dress is available in sizes UK 4 to 18 but is currently out of stock in any size above a 14. And since it was just on sale, I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be restocked, which is hugely frustrating.

This next pick runs in sizes UK 16 to 30. It’s currently unavailable in a 16 or 30 but has been online at ASOS consistently, so I reckon it’ll be restocked soon. Dozens of positive reviews — 68 percent of them five-star — showed love for the gown’s beaded and embellished bust and its short sleeves layered over simple chiffon. Brides also love how the chiffon skirt flows and is long enough to create a romantic train, but several said it is ever-so-slightly see-through. So, along with some nude undies, many brides recommended wearing the gown with a slip (which again adds to costs, but as it’s priced at £190 currently, it’ll still be well within your budget).

You’re paying more for a higher-quality fabric, here. Many satin or silklike gowns on sites such as ASOS are made from polyester, which can sometimes snag along hems and stitches and can make you feel sweaty in really warm weather. This Reformation gown, though, is made from 100 percent silk charmeuse of a medium weight. Silk’s not only a better quality material, but it also has an opalescence under light that polyester simply can’t mimic. That means it’ll look much more enchanting under the flash in your wedding pictures. The dress also features some subtle lace detailing that wraps around the front of the gown to its three-button-up closure midway down the back. As with all silk charmeuse, you’ll need to dry-clean this one and ideally store it in a dust bag to protect it. It’s available in sizes XS to XL, which roughly translates to a UK 6/8 and a UK 14/16.

This gown reminds me of a slightly more formal take on Lily Allen’s cropped, off-shoulder Vegas wedding dress. You get that ’50s look from its Bardot neckline and cropped length, minus any of the possible signs of wear that can crop up when buying secondhand for major events. Large, smooth pleats add some shape to the lower portion of the gown, flaring it out just so from its cinched waist as you move around. The dress runs from UK 6 to 22 in size, but at the time of writing, the UK 20 was sold out, sadly. Although it’s a heavy-cut polyester, reviewers have found its material of a high quality. And this may sound cliché, but some of their main qualms with the gown came down to it being too nice to wear once. On the topic of reviews, I particularly liked the styling advice from one bride who said she’d paired the gown with a crystal belt and deep-purple shoes (though you may wish to opt for something blue if you’re a traditional type).

Speaking of Lily Allen, you didn’t tell me where it is that you’re eloping. If it is Vegas, this one’s for you.

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Where Can I Find a Stylish Wedding Dress for Under £500?