Category : The Costume

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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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selling an irish dancing dress
The Costume

Selling an Irish dancing dress online

Irish dancing solo dresses are a unique high ticket item with a niche market. With the Irish dancing community being worldwide, the best way to reach the right buyer for the dress you are selling is online, but selling such an expensive item via the internet can be very daunting. Am I giving the buyer the right information? Am I pricing my dress correctly? When is the best time to sell? What if the buyer pulls a swift one on me?! All legitimate questions, and all things to consider when you’re preparing for sale.

First things first, you’ll want to list your dress on a site that gets big traffic – more eyeballs means more chance of finding the right buyer and making a quicker sale. The two biggest websites are and Dance Again requires a small listing fee, while it is free to list on Feis Dresses. When you’re getting ready to list your dress online the biggest box you need to tick is photos. According to Lisa of, who has been running her site since 2001, “A photo of the dress on a dancer is great, but only if not covered by trophies and sashes, and only if the lighting is good.” Rhonda from adds to this, “Most buyers are not concerned with how well the dancer competed in the dress, but are more concerned with how the dress looks. If you cover up a large portion of the dress in the main photo, most people won’t bother to look at the listing.”

“The best photo to use is the one that makes the dress look its best, so if you don’t have a good one of it on a dancer, take one of the dress either lying flat or on a hanger, whichever looks best. Have a plain background and arrange the dress so that the skirt is sitting properly. If lying down, take the photo from directly above, and if on a hanger, from directly in front (taking the photo on an angle can make the dress look out of proportion). If possible use natural light, so the colours of the dress look right in the photo,” says Lisa. Rhonda continues, “You probably also want to have detailed photos on hand to email to anyone interested in the dress. Photos of the inside of the dress, showing how much let out room is available are also great in helping to sell a dress. Make sure your photos are clear and not blurry, and large enough to show detail and not just a small picture that is hard to see. The photo is the most important part of the listing, to draw buyers in to read about the dress. Take time to make sure your photos are done well.” Lisa’s final suggestion for getting the best photo, “Plan ahead! Next time you are at a feis, take several photos of your dancer in the dress, front and back, no trophy or sash, and in natural light, and save them for your future dress ad!”

Unfortunately, you can have the best photos on the internet of your dress, but if it isn’t priced to sell then it could sit there for months, or even years, without a single enquiry. Firstly, “Have a look at similar dresses that are already for sale and price your dress accordingly. You have a lot of competition, so pricing your dress the same as, or a little less than dresses already for sale will give you the best chance of attracting buyers,” says Lisa. “Be willing to negotiate with buyers. Taking a little off your price now is much better than still having the dress under your bed months later, unsold.” Rhonda adds to this, “The longer a dress remains for sale, the more the value drops. Consider if your dress sits for a year without selling. It is now a style that is yet another year older and worth significantly less.” But what about making your dress final sale? Lisa points out, “If you have listed your dress as “final sale”, consider changing this to returnable. Buyers are more likely to take a chance on a dress if they know they can return it.”

Is there a best time of the year for selling a dress quickly? With a global community it’s always feis season somewhere! Rhonda notes, “You want to get your dress listed as soon as you know you are selling it. Don’t let it sit under the bed waiting! The style will get older by the month and its value will drop over time.” Lisa adds, “Buyers are always looking, but if I had to choose [the busiest times] it would be September/October (North American Oireachtas season), followed closely by January (Australian and New Zealand dancing year begins) and May (Pre NAN’s).” That said, as Rhonda points out, “You don’t want to miss out on a buyer who might fit your dress just because you waited to post it for sale.”

So you have found a buyer, what comes next? The negotiation. Lisa very plainly states, “When negotiating a sale with a buyer, the seller should always be very clear about their return policy.” This means as a seller you should set a 48-72 hour window in which the buyer can try the dress on, show the teacher, and make a decision. “The buyer should let the seller know straight away if there are any problems with the dress and send it back immediately. Only when you receive the dress back in the same condition in which it was sent should you send a refund.” Rhonda firmly adds, “Make sure you are clear to the buyer that they may not wear the dress for a feis or performance — yes, this should be made clear. With package tracking available, you should be able to tell what day the dress arrived, and notify the buyer ahead of time that in order to return the dress, they must provide you the return tracking number within 3 days of receiving the dress.”

“Most buyers are happy to have a return period and are agreeable to terms like this. If you have good communication and a good agreement ahead of time, usually it goes well. If you find a buyer is quite difficult to work with before you even send the dress, that may be an indicator that they will be trouble after receiving it. If you feel uncomfortable with a buyer, you don’t have to sell to them. Both parties in the transaction take some risk, so both parties should feel comfortable with each other,” Rhonda states. And a final word from Lisa, “Once they wear the dress, they own it.”

Have you sold an Irish dancing dress online? Do you have any advice you can add? Share it in the comments below.

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