strategist investigates

Is It Possible to Buy a $70 Wedding Dress on Amazon That Actually Looks Nice?

This very dress was $70. Photo: Classic Photography

You may have noticed some posts from our friends at the Strategist on the Cut. They’ll be dropping in every now and again, sharing their expertise on the basics you don’t have time to research and the weird and wonderful things you don’t yet know you need.

On one recent slow news day, just for kicks, we typed “wedding dress” into Amazon to see what would come up. A lot came up. And a lot with excellent reviews, and price tags starting in the two digits. This, it turned out, was exactly the random way in which multiple brides we interviewed for this story ended up walking down the aisle in a mermaid or A-line or tea-length gown that arrived via Prime shipping, in the same boxes that usually carry the toilet paper. We had to know more. So we found a whole bunch of these women, asked for pictures, and interrogated them: How did they settle on a dress? Did the corset actually fit their bust? And did the synthetic lace make them want to scratch their eyes out?

In the cases of the eight women we talked to here — who, on the whole, had quick turnaround times for their wedding dates (sometimes less than a month) — the results were not necessarily bridal-boutique quality, but nonetheless much more expensive-looking and -feeling than they would have expected. And one woman even wound up (unintentionally) choosing an Amazon seller whose gowns are made to measure in Hong Kong, for no extra cost. She was surprised as anyone when the company emailed her for exact measurements.

“I had no desire to go to a bridal salon, get undressed in front of strangers, and be picked and prodded over.”

Photo: Carlos Gomez and Misty Ballew

Carol-Le Braden
Wore: The Ruolai ASA Bridal Vintage Cap Sleeve Gown

What brought you to Amazon? I had no desire to go to a bridal salon, get undressed in front of strangers, and be picked and prodded over. That sounded like hell. Initially, I ordered a dress from an online vendor that I’d rather not name — about five weeks out from the wedding, I decided I wasn’t happy with it. I said, “You know what? I’m going to go on Amazon and see what I can find.”

Photo: Carlos Gomez and Misty Ballew

Seems rather late in the game to order a whole new dress, no?
I was definitely nervous about it showing up on time, and what it would look like. It arrived in about two weeks, ten or so days before the wedding — which was cutting it a little close. But I had decided, if it didn’t show up or didn’t work, I was still going to get married. That was the important thing.

And so what made it work?
It had what I wanted: romantic lace — with that vintage feel — and an A-line silhouette. There was an option at the bottom of the Amazon page to message the brand with your measurements for a custom-made dress for no extra cost — but it fit right out of the box. And I loved the delicate bits of lace around the neckline. We had a hundred-person wedding at the Downtown Central Library in Kansas City, Missouri, and I got so many compliments; nobody believed I bought the dress on Amazon for under $200 — which was less than my maid of honor’s dress.

Ruolai ASA Bridal Women’s Vintage Cap Sleeve Lace Wedding Dress

“I’m usually a really cautious decision maker, but not with this dress.”

Photo: Justin Heyes

Angelia Lynn Lo Russo
Wore: The Ubridal Lace Mermaid

Had you thought much about wedding dresses before you got engaged?
I do remember seeing on Pinterest a line of wedding dresses by Alfred Angelo based on Disney princesses. I was never the princess type of kid, or the fantasize-about-my-wedding type of kid, but I did love Alfred Angelo’s “Little Mermaid” dress. And then when I got engaged — this was back in 2015; there weren’t as many wedding dresses on Amazon then, but when I typed in “wedding dress,” just to see what I could find, one of the few results that came up reminded of the Ariel dress: tight at the top and then flowing out a little, but not puffy like a typical princess thing.

And then you just went for it?
I’m usually a really cautious decision maker, but not with this dress, but my now-husband and I were mainly focused on buying a house together, and we wanted the wedding to be fast and simple. By the time we realized that a nice date for us would be December 20th — exactly a year and a half from when we began dating — we only had three weeks to plan. I had to pay $50 for expedited shipping, so $150 total — which I was willing to do because it looked like exactly what I wanted. Even though I didn’t actually think it was going to work out.

And?
It perfectly fit and flattered my body. Well, it was too long for me–I’m only five-two, so I had to wear my Jessica Simpson stilettos, but otherwise, the lacy cap sleeves just rested softly on my shoulders, and the lace overlay of the upper half of the dress showed just a hint of cleavage. And the satin-lined bottom had volume but it wasn’t itchy and annoying.

What kind of reaction did you get?
It was crazy because I didn’t have to have it altered or anything. People were like, “You ordered this online and it just fit you?” I got a similar response to my cubic zirconia wedding band and engagement ring [Ed. this is indeed the exact one], which my husband bought as a set for less than $50, also on Amazon. At the time I was working in bank sales in this very well-to-do neighborhood in Main Line Philadelphia called Lower Merion, and the old ladies around would be like, “Oooh your rings are gorgeous; are they vintage?” When I walked down the — there wasn’t exactly an aisle to walk down at the Observation Deck, but my father walked me from the elevator to around the corner where my husband was standing, in his new uniform; he’d just been promoted to Army sergeant. He hadn’t seen me in the dress yet, so it was a big reveal.

Ubridal Embroidery Lace Mermaid Court Wedding Dress

“I wanted something easy… we wanted to just run away from our home in Iowa for a few days and elope.”

Photo: Steven Russell of Simple Wedding

Danielle Rinner
Wore: The Irenwedding Ruched Empire Waist Dress

Did you know that Amazon sold wedding dresses when you got engaged?
I just figured they have everything, and I wanted something easy — this was the second wedding for me; we wanted to just run away from our home in Iowa for a few days and elope on Pass-a-Grille beach in Florida. I started searching for beachy wedding dresses on Amazon, and sure enough this popped right up; it was my favorite of the dresses I saw online, and then when I noticed it again on Pinterest, I took it as a sign and ordered it.

Did you worry about it fitting in your suitcase — and, of course, how it would fit your body?
It was tulle, and had an accordion fold to it that I thought would wrinkle in my suitcase, so I brought it on the plane with me in a garment bag. And the sizing of the dress matched up well with my measurements: I messaged the company to ask about this — the Amazon listing had an option to contact the seller — and they also said they could do custom sizing for an additional cost, but then it wouldn’t be returnable, so I ended up just ordering my size. The only alteration I ended up making was to tighten the straps — I have a small bust, so the neckline was falling a little too low. But otherwise it was very well made; the tulle work, the built-in cups — it all seemed to be hand sewn.

Did it feel sufficiently beachy during the ceremony?
Yes, the open back and the ruching detail below the bust: it all felt simple and comfortable and not too girly. We got married at sunset under a little canopy — this was back in 2016 and I just finally sold the dress to someone on Facebook Marketplace who loved it, too.

Irenwedding Spaghetti Ruched Empire Waist Open Back Beach Wedding Dress

“A lot of people at the wedding thought my mom had hand-made this dress.”

Photo: Classic Photography

Juliana McMillan-Wilhoit
Wore: The Abaowedding Floral Lace Short Wedding Dress

How many wedding dresses did you try on before you landed on this one?
I ordered seven dresses in total, from both Amazon and Modcloth. I was only looking online because my future husband and I were in the process of moving across the country when we got engaged, and we only had four months to plan the wedding. I wanted the dress part to be easy.

And was it? Easy?
Yes, I purposely went for a short style, so I wouldn’t have to alter the hem. I did end up having to make one alteration: The petticoat was longer than the front of the dress, so we just cut it. Otherwise the dress, which I ordered in my normal size, fit me better than any of the other seven dresses I tried.

Is that why it was the ultimate winner?
Yeah, there was another dress from Modcloth that was incredibly similar — it cost about $200 rather than the $75 I paid for this dress, but it wasn’t about the price difference. What was better about this one was the construction of the lace with the bodice; the other one there was a piece of lace that kept flapping by my breast. It was probably a nicer quality of lace, but it just didn’t fit my body as well. But my mom makes dresses and is a quilt teacher and was impressed by the quality for the price — it didn’t have that sheen to it, like some cheap lace that’s primarily made with nylon. It was soft but structured, with the sleeves and the higher neck. Actually, a lot of people at the wedding thought my mom had hand-made this dress — which was very much a compliment.

ABaowedding Women’s Floral Lace Knee-Length Short Wedding Dress

“The supplier got in touch and asked for some specific measurements… so that it could be tailored properly for me in Hong Kong.”

Photo: Dreams-Wedding-Creation

Alisha Lawrance
Wore the: SIQINZHENG Mermaid Lace Bridal Gown

How did your gown search begin?
First I did research on what kind of dress would flatter my shape. I narrowed it down to a mermaid style and then went searching on Amazon. I wasn’t going to have time to shop in bridal boutiques: Six months of the year, I manage the beverage operations team on a cruise ship. I was planning my wedding — which was going to be at a beach resort in India, where I’m originally from — while sailing in Alaska. After I decided on mermaid, I went through each and every review for the dresses I liked — seeing if they had at least 4.5 stars, and if the majority of people were saying good things about them.

Mermaid is a pretty broad category; how did you narrow it down?
Well, I also knew I wanted it to be lacy — classic, not over the top — and off white rather than bright white. So then there were really only a few options, and I liked this one the best. It was the only one I ordered.

Were you worried about the sizing — and about it, you know, arriving to you on a cruise ship?
When I initially placed the order, I just selected my normal size, but then the supplier got in touch with me and asked for some specific measurements — for my bust, waist, and hip size — so that it could be tailored properly for me in Hong Kong.

Did you have any idea that this hundred-dollar dress was, in fact, made to measure?
That was pretty amazing; they even asked me my height and how high the heels were I was planning to wear. And Amazon customer care was great, too: I contacted them to let them know that I had to receive my shipment when the cruise ship was in a particular spot; there are only certain ports where the port agent can receive it and deliver it to you. But it all fell into place. The dress came in July, and the wedding was in October, about a month after I got off the ship.

Did you try it on for the crew when it arrived?
Yes, I tried it on for one of my team members. It took the shape of my body straight away; the corset and the tie-up lace back helped it align perfectly to my silhouette. But what stood out most was the quality of the lace: It was very soft and intricate; delicate. The night of the wedding I almost ruined it with my heels, dancing in it. I guess I wish it had a bustle, but my husband ended up using safety pins, and then I could really move.

SIQUINZHENG Sweetheart Full Lace Beach Wedding Dress

“My husband and I are a little campy and weird, and I knew I wanted to get pictures diving into the ocean.”

Photo: Kelly Martin Photography/© Kelly Martin Photography

Adrianna Julianna Pritchett
Wore: The Abaowedding Vintage-style Short Dress

What were you looking for in a wedding dress?
I was looking for a little 1950s-style dress, something shorter. Our venue was a tea room around the corner from our home in Florida. I had gone to many a thrift store before my friend suggested I search on Amazon. First I found one that I loved, but it wasn’t going to arrive in time for my wedding, which my husband and I had planned very quickly, to happen in six weeks. So I ended up getting a customer service rep to help me find the right style.

So the Amazon customer service rep … helped you dress shop?
Yeah; we legit spent 45 minutes on the phone together and I ended up ordering a few different ones to try on — they were all Prime shipping. I knew they weren’t going to be the same quality as a $2,000 dress I found at a boutique, but ultimately, I wanted to put that money toward a kick-butt honeymoon.

What made you like this dress best?
In a couple of cases, the dress either had too many little buttons or difficult zippers that I didn’t want to be dealing with. Especially because I’m a bigger girl, I wanted it to be easy to get on. Which was why I loved the corseted bodice of this one. I also liked how the fabric was light; it didn’t weigh me down. My husband and I are a little campy and weird, and I knew I wanted to get pictures diving into the ocean in my wedding dress; we did that the next day, at the beach in Tampa.

You wore your wedding dress in the water?!
Well, it’s not like I plan to wear it again or pass it on to the daughter I might have one day. Although, it did actually hold up fine in the water; none of the fabric ripped or frayed, it just got water-logged. I mean, the dress is gorgeous, but I wanted to have fun with it. And it’s not like it was custom made; I just ordered it in my regular size.

You ordered your regular size and it fit just like that?
Like a glove. I actually wore another corset underneath the built-in corset, so I was very tiny that day. The only extra money I spent was having it dry cleaned, because when the dress first arrived, it did have a little funky smell, maybe from sitting in the plastic.

Abaowedding Sheer Vintage Short Lace Wedding Dress

“What ended up inspiring me on Pinterest was a sort of princess-in-the-country look.”

Photo: Courtesy of Jorj-Ann

Jorj-Ann Valdez
Wore: The Beautyprom Ball Gown

What was your wedding dress inspiration?
I’ve always loved the dress Hilary Duff wears in A Cinderella Story. And we were having a rustic wedding, in our backyard outside Seattle. So what ended up inspiring me on Pinterest was a sort of princess-in-the-country look. I was looking around everywhere — bridal shops, Asos — when I saw this ball gown with what looked like glitter on it; it had a shimmer that reminded me of peach and golden colors we were going to have decorating the wooden deck at the wedding.

Did you feel like you were taking a risk with this dress?
Yes, I had closely read the reviews, including about the quality of the sequins and beading, but I still hesitated for months before finally I just went with my gut; I didn’t even have a backup. Of course, I had my doubts — I knew that in person it could look very different from the photos. In that case I decided I would just wear any white dress I could find.

How did it look in person?
Heavy! The skirt had at least five layers of tulle. The beads and sequins looked beautiful, and none of them fell off; plus there was no visible threading on the dress. It laced up the back and had a built-in corset bra, which was helpful for me because I have a bigger chest. When I placed the order, I saw how my measurements matched up with the size chart, and then I went a size lower, because I knew I wanted the corset to be extra snug — I guess that was a risk. But it worked out, and I didn’t have to go around finding undergarments for the dress. I did wear an A-line petticoat underneath but it wasn’t actually necessary; the skirt already had plenty of volume without it.

Beautyprom Women’s Ball Gown

“It’s hard to find dresses with pockets.”

Photo: Ellen Favale

Natasha Den Bleyker
Wore: The Viishow Long-sleeve Maxi Dress

This dress isn’t listed as a wedding dress — is that what you wanted?
Yes, I just wanted a simple white dress. We originally were going to have a larger wedding, but then the planning got to be too much and we decided, you know what, let’s just do it at the courthouse. So I wanted to find something I could wear again.

And something that had pockets?
Yes! It’s hard to find dresses with pockets. I also liked that it was cotton and looked comfortable, which it is; it’s soft and breathable. But the fabric also ended up having a nice weight to it: We got married in November, in Washington, and when I was taking pictures outside the courthouse with our families and a few friends, it was warm enough that I didn’t need to wear a coat over it. I had my something borrowed, my something blue, and my white dress. It still felt like a wedding dress, even though it’s the kind of style you can easily dress down with a denim jacket. And I wore a belt with it for the wedding to accentuate my waist.

So have you worn it again?
I’m actually wearing it right now.

Viishow Long Sleeve Maxi Dress with Pockets

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Can You Buy (Actually Nice) $70 Wedding Dresses on Amazon?