'I wear $300 dresses to weddings and then return them. This is how I do it.'

Ladies, you know the drill.

A formal event is coming up – like a wedding – and the pressure is on to buy a brand new dress. And no, we can’t wear one we already own, because those photos have been all over Instagram and Facebook. So we inevitably fork out $100 to $300 for a dress that we will, probably, only wear once, maybe twice.

Which is why it might not be so surprising that a lot of us – actually, 2.3 million – are buying clothes only to wear and return them later.

And if you are planning to buy a and return a dress to wear to a wedding, can it be white? Not everyone thinks so.

According to research from Finder, one in eight shoppers have bought clothes with the intention of wearing the item then returning it, with millennials the biggest offenders.

So is it a brilliant life-hack or a little bit dodgy? Can it be… both?

One such millennial whose made buying and returning outfits a regular routine is NSW mum-of-two Chelsea.

The 25-year-old told Mamamia that over the past nine years she’s worn and returned about 15 dresses ranging in cost from $150 to $300 plus.

“I first did it when I was about 16. I was still in school and we had some big party that we were going to and, being 16, I had no money,” she explained.

“So with the little money that I did have I bought a dress, and brought it back and got my money back.”

Chelsea said despite feeling “guilty” the tactic was easy enough to justify, especially since she never tries it with online retailers, where shipping fees are involved.

“I kind of felt bad about it, but it was still in really good nick and I kind of justified it in my head as, as long as there’s no damage to it, why not?”


“The way I see it, they’re not losing money. As long as that item is in really good nick then they can sell it.

“It’s kind of a win-win situation for everyone, so I don’t really feel as guilty. I still feel a tiny bit guilty, but not as much as I did.”

Since then she’s continued to wear and return dresses or jumpsuits for events such as weddings, engagement parties, hens nights and other formal occasions.

The trick, she says, is making sure the dress is completely clean when she returns it – retail workers can tell if something has been washed.

“If it’s dirty I won’t wash it and send it back. I’ll keep it,” she said.

As for the tags, she just hides them inside the outfit, or, if they’re obvious, will sometimes remove the paper tag but keep the plastic attachment, claiming it broke off as she tried it on.

And so far, she’s been able to get a refund for every dress she’s attempted to return.

Chelsea says she won’t continue doing this forever, but in the short-term its a measure too good to pass up – especially when the expectation is that women will wear new formal dresses to each occasion.

“You wear that dress once and then that’s it, it’s done. And spending $300 for one night, I just can’t justify it.

“It’s just wasting that money that could be going towards the kids or a family holiday or something.”

Retailers cracking down on serial returners

But Chelsea could be forced to abandon her method sooner than later.

We know she’s not the only one guilty of this sneaky tactic, and now retailers are catching on.

The results of Finder’s survey of more than 2000 shoppers is backed up by recently revealed plans from online retail giant Asos to crackdown of the practice by banning serial returners.

Asos says it has resorted to checking customers’ social media accounts if they notice a suspicious pattern of returns – and they’ll start blacklisting more customers they discover are returning worn items, the Independent reports.

Have you ever worn something and returned it?