After struggling to find the perfect pre-owned dress for her wedding, Jacqueline Sheller Courtney resolved to make the process easier for future brides-to-be. Her new website, Nearly Newlywed, is teeming with gently worn -- or "nearly new" -- bridal looks from the likes of Marchesa, Vera Wang, and Rodarte, all discounted up to 60 percent off the original price. Better still? You can "sell back" the designer duds once your Big Day has come and gone, making the process quite a bit different than other sites like Rent the Runway that place the focus on just renting the goods for a short while.
Thread NY: How does Nearly Newlywed work, exactly?
Jacqueline Sheller Courtney: It's a space for 'nearly-new' gowns as well as women who are nearly newlyweds themselves. If you're getting married, it's a place to browse bridal dresses, and if you're just thinking about getting married -- or maybe going to a lot of weddings -- we offer a great selection of party dresses, too. Because most of the gowns are pre-owned, they're more competitively priced between 40 and 60 percent off. But what really sets us apart is the selection. I'm curating all the gowns, and there's a very fashion-forward mix on the site. We try to incorporate the best of classic bridal designers with more avant grade or contemporary designers like Phillip Lim and Rodarte.
How did you come up with the idea?
I'd been thinking about the concept for some time, but it was while I was working on my own wedding that it really came into focus. There were a few gowns I fell in love with online, but they were a few seasons past, and the brides that were selling them online usually lived across the country, so I had no way to try them on or gauge how they would fit prior to purchase.
That was a something I really wanted to address with Nearly Newlywed. I looked at the 'rental' model, but it wasn't the right fit for bridal. So we came up with the idea of the Nearly Newlywed guarantee. Most of the dresses we carry on the site can be sold back within eight months of purchase for 30 percent of what you originally paid, so long as it's still in good condition. It's more like borrowing than renting. It's a unique middle ground.
How did you go about sourcing the dresses?
Predominantly from other women who were in the same camp as me! I just started talking to girls, and traveled all over the country to get feedback. I ended up having so many conversations with girls who were passionate about the idea. So most of the dresses on the site were sold to us from other women. A few pieces are from stylists or people in the industry.
How does the Pinterest personal shopping service work?
Pinterest is a visual mood board tool, and a lot of women, especially brides, often use it to create digital inspiration boards for their weddings the way a designer would plot out inspiration for a collection. You can grab photos of food, art, clothes -- you name it. So for the personal shopping service, we'll have all of our dresses represented on a Pinterest board, as well as a board of dresses we love or hope to get into the store. If someone is interested in the service, all she needs to do is pin comments to our board. I'll pin her back with a few dress options that I think would work for her. if you get into Pinterest, it's all kind of addictive, I have to say!