A wedding gown for less than 50 bucks? This sounds like a job for SoraNews24’s fashion expert.

Japan has a robust wedding industry. Couples spend months scouting out venues, and the reception is often a lavish affair with multiple toasts from family, friend, and coworkers, video retrospectives of the bride and groom’s childhoods days and courtship, and often even musical performances by talented attendees. Oh, and there’s almost always a pre-planned after-party too, at a separate location from the first reception’s.

But despite all that wedding planning passion, it’s almost unheard of for a Japanese bride to buy her wedding dress. Quite pragmatically, Japanese women generally feel it’d be a waste to spend so much money on an item of clothing they’ll only wear one time, especially when it’s the custom in Japan for the bride to change out of her wedding gown and into a different dress between the ceremony and reception.

But this got us wondering: What’s the most affordable wedding dress you can buy in Japan? While there’s no official ranking, our search turned up an offering here through online marketplace Rakuten that’s cheaper then any other option we could find, costing just 5,280 yen (US$49)!

We were still a little worried, though. Granted, Rakuten is a well-respected company, but this dress is offered through an independent seller, clothing brand Huayu, that we’d never heard of before. Could we trust that the dress we received would look anything like the ones on the product’s webpage?

But hey, we had an extra 5,000 yen lying about, and if we didn’t use it on this we’d probably just end up blowing it on super-fancy toilet paper again. So we placed an order for a wedding dress, which our Japanese-language reporter Natsuki Gojo, fresh off her fake-out non-pantyhose and Japanese ‘80s pop idol photo shoots, agreed to model for us once it arrived.

▼ The many faces of Natsuki

We’ve got to give credit to Huayu right off the bat. We placed our order at around 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and roughly an hour later they’d emailed Natsuki to confirm her height and other measurements, in order to determine which size of dress would fit her best. 30 minutes after Natsuki sent her response, Huayu sent another email, informing us that her dress would ship the following Wednesday, and sure enough, on Thursday it arrived at SoraNews24 headquarters.

Taking it out of the box, it did indeed match the design shown on Huayu’s website. The lacework was legitimately beautiful, and the subtly shiny skirt sequins and lace-up back provide extra maidenly romantic flair.

Of course, what good is a wedding dress without an aspiring bride-to-be, right? So Natsuki slipped into her gown, and we’ve got to say, the results are quite stunning for something so inexpensive.

▼ If the hem looks a bit long, it’s because Natsuki wasn’t wearing heels for these photos.

However, we’re not sure Huayu is going to be putting premium-priced dressmakers out of business. As Natsuki took an increasingly close look, she noticed that, for instance, some of the stitching was a bit rough. The tulle fabric netting could also have had a smoother connection to the lace in certain spots.

Also, while the dress fit her reasonably well, it didn’t have the perfect match to her contours that an in-person fitting might have achieved.

▼ Unneeded width in the cut of the gown’s shoulders sometimes caused the top of the fabric at the back to flip part-way over.

So while it’s an undeniably stylish dress, it might not be the most viable option if your goal is to radiate luxurious perfection at your wedding. However, Natsuki says it’d be especially good for cosplay or outdoor events/photo shoots where you wouldn’t want to get a full-priced wedding dress dirty.

And as long as you’re not staring intensely at close-ups of every bit of fine detailing work, Huayu’s dress does an amazing job looking like it easily cost 20 times more than it actually does.

Top image SoraNews24
Insert images: Huayu Rakten shop, SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]