The modern fashion customer has a very different relationship to ownership than previous generations, being far more likely to purchase pre-owned luxury goods. That’s translated to an upswing in search and sales for pre-owned wedding rings, dresses and other bridal fashion.
According to The RealReal, engagement rings jumped from the site’s 43rd to seventh most-saved product on the site. (Users can save “Obsessions” to their profile to be notified of price changes.) Searches for engagement rings have nearly doubled year-over-year from 2018 and sales of engagement rings have jumped up 30 percent since last year. Searches for wedding dresses have grown by 42 percent.
The RealReal attributes this growth to the combined rise in popularity of resale and sustainability and the fact that even high-profile celebrities are wearing pre-owned rings.
“Women are now more involved in the [ring] purchasing process than ever before, particularly when shopping secondhand,” said Trish Stevens, category director of fine jewelry and watches at The RealReal. “As the sustainability movement gains more momentum, consumers value the fact that their piece was already in existence, reducing the impact of mining and/or manufacturing on the environment. Celebrities like Zoe Kravitz & Gwenyth Paltrow, who both have vintage engagement rings, have also helped drive this trend in the market.”
The increased interest by fashion consumers in pre-owned bridal fashion has given rise to companies like Nearly Newlywed, which has built a business on selling pre-owned wedding dresses.
“There are a few converging factors,” said Jackie Courtney, CEO of Nearly Newlywed. “There’s a lot happening in resale in general. There’s been some great partnerships between luxury brands and resellers, like Stella McCartney and The RealReal, that have made the category very normalized. And a lot of the cultural things around wedding dresses have eroded over time, like the fact that you have to own them, they have to be expensive and you have to pass them down to your daughter.”
The demand for pre-owned wedding dresses is not necessarily tied to price or value, according to several resellers. Dresses sold on Nearly Newlywed tend to be around 40% to 50% cheaper than buying them new from the same designers, averaging between $800 and $2,000 as opposed to up to $4,000 for a new dress. Courtney said that when Nearly Newlywed was founded seven years ago, many of the early customers were more than affluent enough to afford a brand new dress.
Instead, much of the demand comes from people wanting to allocate that money toward wedding-related experiences, like holding the ceremony in an exotic destination, over objects. Additionally, The RealReal said its customers are turning to resale in order to find unique dresses that might not fit the typical “wedding dress” style or trend.
“I think one of the main things is that we are seeing brides look for — I hate to use the word ‘alternative’ — but non-traditional wedding dresses,” said Sasha Skoda, category director of women’s at The RealReal. “A lot of people just want a cool white dress for their wedding, as opposed to a ‘wedding dress,’ and there are not always a ton of in-season options there. But with resale you can see inventory from the past 10 seasons, or however far back you want to go.”