Modern Wedding has been flooded with horror stories from brides-to-be. Hundreds of women have been scammed by unscrupulous online traders selling cheap copy dresses. Hidden costs, zero customer service and unsightly dresses have caused tears, tantrums and a barrage of complaints. Modern Wedding has created a checklist to guide your gown purchase and brings you all the facts. Brides, beware.
Most brides who have purchased an online wedding gown share a startlingly similar story.
It usually begins with the undeniable allure of a couture dress at a surprisingly affordable price. Payment is made, delivery details confirmed and she waits. She is charged hidden extras like customs tax and courier costs. She pays it. Anticipation grows and the box finally arrives. Her size 8 ivory silk gown is a flawed white polyester in a size 12 with a broken zipper and uneven hemline."¨The bride's world comes crashing down and yet the pitfalls continue."¨She then tries to contact the seller. Repeatedly. Rarely, if ever, are phone numbers provided. If she's lucky to get a responding email she is informed that she can return the address by courier (at her cost) and will receive the correct dress in the following weeks."¨The 'correct' dress arrives and there is nothing about it that makes her smile. It's her worst nightmare. She leaves the drama of online wedding dresses behind and visits a reputable bricks-and-mortar retailer. And she asks herself: "Why didn't I do this in the first place?""¨"¨In the midst of the global economic crisis a bargain gown is what many brides are searching for. Be warned that this has led to the ultimate wedding nightmare - only days before the wedding day, some brides don't have a dress to wear.
THE DRESS SAGA
Speaking from experience, Aileen Craig has only one thing to say to brides buying online: "Don't!"¨"I found a dress that I loved online. There were numerous 'dress makers' advertising the same gown. I was meticulous in reading all the reviews about the sellers and made sure they had all received positive feedback. "¨"Having settled on a dressmaker, I 'purchased' the dress and then had my measurements professionally taken and e-mailed them to the seller. The dress arrived and although it was well made it had none of the beading or embroidery that was featured in the original photo and it was yellow - definitely not the flattering shade of 'champagne' that I was expecting. Overall, I was disappointed.""¨Aileen confesses that she was one of those 'idiots that never learn." Hoping for the best and believing she had found a reputable dressmaker she did it all again. "¨"When I saw the dress I nearly cried! And they weren't tears of joy. The dress was beaded and embroidered but it looked like it had been made by me and that's not a recommendation.""¨"¨Her wedding day was getting closer, she had spent hundreds of dollars on two awful gowns and still had nothing to wear as a bride. "¨Her final attempts ended with a phone call to Cinderella Bridal in Adelaide. "¨"¨"I made an appointment to see her and took a photo of the dress that I fell in love with. She told me she could make me a dress in time for my wedding and I nearly hugged her right there and then," says Aileen."¨"¨Finally she had a gown that was exactly what she wanted - hand made, embroidered and beaded and made to measure. "¨"¨"It was absolutely stunning and was made in the most beautiful shade of off-white. It turns out that 'champagne' is most definitely not my colour. I felt like a million dollars on my wedding day and was so thankful to have a happy ending to my dress saga," she says."¨The dress saga disaster stories are plentiful. And while some brides achieve success when buying online, it is their stories, however few and far between, that are emboldening others to give it a go.
WHEN IT ALL FALLS APART
Geoff Makin from Wendy Makin Bridal Designs in Brisbane meets at least one bride every week that is frantically searching for her gown - with only days to spare."¨"Typically she has ordered a dress online and it's the wrong design, size and/or colour. Because these sites use the original photos from reputable designers the brides think they are buying the original design. Many don't realise that they are buying a poor quality copy," says Geoff."¨"¨The main problems with copy gowns include poor manufacturing, poor fit and cheap fabrics. Because the gown has been made from a picture and not a pattern the measurements are not accurate and often the back of the dress is an entirely different design. Often the fabrics on the gowns are of such bad quality that Australian dress makers refuse to alter them for fear of the fabric tearing and the dress literally falling apart at the seams. "¨"¨Cheap copy gowns available online also create a false pretence among brides-to-be. Because they believe the gowns are genuine and because they pay such a small price they therefore presume that the bricks-and-mortar bridal boutique is ripping off its clientele. Clearly this isn't the case.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
A bridal gown is the ultimate tactile purchase and it is the most significant fashion purchase a woman will ever make. It has to be perfect. Many bridal gowns, particularly those with a structured bodice or ball gown shape require meticulous handiwork. The detail of the gown - the internal corsetry - isn't visible when the bride wears her dress. However, it is integral to a good fit. Ask any bridal designer and they will all say, without hesitation, that the most important element of a wedding gown is that it flatters the natural silhouette of the bride. It is impossible to find the perfect fit if you don't try before you buy."¨"¨Colour is an essential aspect of your gown too. Be warned that white does not mean white. In fact bridal gowns come in a spectrum of shades: vanilla, ivory, cream, stark, natural, pure, bright white, ecru and champagne. Every designer's interpretation of colour is different too. "¨"¨When you are wearing your gown if you notice the colour draining from your skin then it's not the right dress for you. Ideally the colour of your gown should lift your complexion, almost giving the impression that you have a tan. If you can't see the fabric before you buy, you're taking a risk. "¨"¨The beauty of buying from a bridal retailer is the dedication of the staff. They know everything about a bridal gown - how it should fit, how it can be altered if necessary and what colour suits the bride best."¨"¨Suzanne Smith is one of the many passionate staff at Brides Desire. Having met numerous brides who have endured their own online saga, Suzanne explains the benefits of buying from a reputable bricks-and-mortar retailer."¨ "¨"All charges are 'on the table' before a bride commits to a purchase and there are no nasty or expensive surprises at the end. If there is anything that a bride is not happy with, we will do what we can to fix the problem, we would never leave a bride in the lurch! Our reputation is too important to us, and our brides are our best advertising," she says."¨"¨Australian bridal designers are aware and sympathetic of the financial constraints faced by many brides. Without sacrificing quality product or quality service, many retailers are offering gowns at competitive prices. There are options such as 'buying off the rack' or sample sales. "¨"¨"Brides may be quite surprised at the bargains that are out there. They should never be afraid to let us know if they have a 'budget.' We all love a challenge," says Suzanne.
BRIDES BEWARE - A MODERN WEDDING INITIATIVE
"Brides Beware" is an initiative created by Modern Wedding magazine. We are passionate about you, the bride, and your quest to find the perfect wedding dress. We also openly and proudly support the Australian Bridal Fashion Industry. Indeed, we know many of the retailer's personally and whole-heartedly advise you to buy from their reputable stores. "¨"¨We have created a checklist that outlines a list of questions you should ask yourself before you buy your wedding gown. If you answer 'No' to any of the questions listed you cannot be guaranteed that you are buying from a reputable bridal retailer. In fact if you are buying online you will probably find it difficult to answer 'Yes' to any of the questions asked."¨"¨Buying online? Is it worth the risk?