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The Costume

What you need to know about buying a used Irish dancing dress online

Buying a solo dress online can be a wonderful and exciting experience – new dress! so pretty! – but it can also be stressful when you can’t try it on beforehand, you’re sending money to a stranger, it has to go through customs, and you don’t really know whether it is going to look (or smell) as described. We consulted the experts so that you can be armed with the information you need to put your mind at ease and make your next purchase a little easier.

Sorting payment…

In the buying and selling of dresses, it is at the seller’s discretion how they would like to get paid. According to Lisa from, “If buyer and seller are in the same country, a personal cheque can be sent in the mail (the seller should wait for the cheque to clear before sending the dress). However, for both domestic and international sales, I prefer direct bank deposit. I have used this method myself several times without any problems. The buyer can either transfer the money via internet banking, or by going into their bank and having the bank staff do it for them. Depending on the bank, I have had money appear in my account anything from the same day to 3-4 days later. The dress can then be shipping as soon as the money comes through which is much faster than waiting for a cheque to arrive in the mail and then waiting for it to clear before shipping. Transfers from international banks do have fees, but usually a lot lower than PayPal, check with your bank before proceeding.”

Speaking of PayPal, there are definitely pros and cons to using the online service. Lisa says, “From a buyer’s perspective, PayPal is probably the safest way to pay for a dress. PayPal will always side with the buyer if there is a dispute such as non delivery or goods not as described. For this reason, many sellers prefer to not use PayPal as a buyer can claim, for example, that the dress wasn’t as described, and PayPal will refund their money and ask questions later. It is then up to the seller to prove otherwise. PayPal also charges the seller a percentage of the sale price in fees, which can add up for a higher priced dress.” Unfortunately, while it may be safe, many sellers choose not to offer PayPal because of the risk of disputes.

One important thing to remember as a buyer is that you are sending money, sometimes large amounts of it, to a stranger somewhere else in the world. For this reason, Rhonda from recommends making sure you are comfortable with the seller and have easy communication with them. She points out, “If they are already hard to get a hold of with just getting dress information, consider how they will be if there is an issue. The more you can communicate together before the payment, the better. Perhaps ask what school they dance for and their teachers name, and offer your information up as well. Then each party will feel more comfortable that they could reach out to the other teacher for help if there is a huge issue such as paying with no dress arriving.” One final piece of advice from Rhonda is to make sure that the seller will cover the full cost of the dress with shipping insurance. “That way you are both covered in case of a lost or ruined dress.”

The dreaded customs…

If you have ever read the voy message boards you might have seen tales of dresses being stuck in customs for weeks, and buyers being send exorbitant bills for the release of their dress. Unfortunately, these stories are true. As Lisa points out, “If you have purchased a dress from overseas, there is a chance it will get picked up by customs. If this happens, you will be contacted and told how much duty must be paid to release the dress. Unfortunately the only way to get your dress is to pay the duty. ”

First thing you should do is get in touch with the company who shipped the dress. “You should be able to find out from the seller what shipping company they used and contact that company for help with customs issues. Tracking numbers should let you know the location of the dress, so you may have to google to find a phone number for the customs office at that location”, says Rhonda.
How much will the bill be? That depends on where you’re located. Lisa tells us, “The amount of duty depends on what country you are in and the declared value of the dress. Your duty will be a percentage of the declared value. Some countries have free trade agreements where goods under a certain amount are not charged duty. For example a dress received into Australia from the USA valued at under $AUD1,000 will not be charged duty, but over $1,000 will be charged around 25% duty on the full amount. Australian duty is very high, other countries are much lower, so just be aware of what your country charges and be prepared for the shock if a bill arrives!” While it may be tempting to declare a value lower than the dress is worth, if a dress is lost or damaged and an insurance claim needs to be filed, as a buyer you will be disadvantaged. Honesty is always key!

Something’s not right…

After weeks of negotiation, excitement and anticipation, the dress finally turns up…and it’s a dud. It might be damaged, it might smell, or it might look very different in person to what it did in photographs online. What are your options? According to Lisa, you should be very well prepared before the dress arrives. “Before committing to buy a dress, ask the seller if they will accept a return; buy a ‘final sale’ dress at your own risk. Ask questions before buying, don’t be afraid to ask if the dress has any smells or damage, and ask for close up photos of the dress, especially high wear areas like where sleeves might rub the skirt, around the neckline, back of skirt and also the inside lining of the dress. Get as much information about the dress as possible so there are no surprises when it arrives. Rhonda also points out that you should ask for current photos, not photos from when they first bought the dress. It’s important to remember that you’re buying a used item sight unseen. As Rhonda explains, “Don’t expect a dress in perfect condition no matter what the seller tells you. Base your price and expectation on a used item, and in most cases there won’t be an issue.”

Have you successfully bought a used Irish dancing dress online? Did you have a good experience? Can you share what worked for you?

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