Online Wedding Dress Woes
“We make fast.” That was the response Ashley Kelley received to her frantic emails to EastBridal.com, the website she had purchased her bridal dress from, when it didn’t arrive on the date promised. With her wedding just weeks away, these cursory replies in broken English offered little reassurance. “I began to think it would never show up,” and when it finally did arrive, wrinkled and crammed into a big FedEx envelope, Kelley was not relieved: Her dress only vaguely resembled the one in the photo shown in the listing online, and it was poorly constructed with cheap materials. “There was tacky lace netting haphazardly stitched on with string sticking out all over the place,” she says. “They had used red thread in some areas and the tie at the back of the dress wasn’t hemmed on the edges.” And the fit…it was completely off, despite having paid extra for ‘custom measurements’. “There was no way I could wear it!” Kelley laments. When she contacted the site to return it and get a refund, she was asked to send pictures of ‘what was wrong’ and was told they’d have to keep 30% of the $250 she paid for fabric costs. It’s been months since Kelley sent the photos and she hasn’t heard back. “I have a feeling I’ll never see that money again,” she says.
The allure of a low price tag online
Kelley is one of a growing number of brides getting scammed by websites selling replica and counterfeit wedding gowns. As budgets get tighter and the cost of materials like silk goes up, these sites are capitalising on brides’ desires to find their dream dress for less.
Be aware that some companies are relying on internet advertising to lure women to buy from their sites. They’re paying big dollars to get prime ad placement on popular search engines, and using keyword optimisation to ensure they appear every time someone searches for, say, “cheap *insert your dream wedding dress designer* bridal gowns.”
The people behind the replica dresses
Just who is making all these gowns and how are these websites operating? The majority of the factories are located in China and are often owned by subcontractors who have hired scores of labourers to produce the dresses extremely fast. Apparently one factory in Suzhou with close to three hundred workers can produce almost four hundred dresses in one day. Over the past few years, the number of sites that sell these dresses has multiplied exponentially, from twenty to thirty to over three hundred. They display stolen photos of designers’ dresses and use their brand names and style numbers to lead buyers to believe they’re purchasing a particular gown they’ve seen in stores for drastically less. The consumer doesn’t see the difference until they get the dress delivered to their front door.
Getting even less than what you pay for
And what a difference it makes. The majority of replica dresses barely resemble what was advertised, and are made so fast and with such inferior materials that they quite literally fall apart. In the end, in hope of a solution, the bride to be often brings these shoddy replicas to professional dressmakers in the hope that they can fix them. What’s more, it often costs more to fix the dress than what it actually cost. A persistent skepticism about the price of wedding dresses seems to feed into brides’ decisions to buy from these sites. Understanding why the real deal costs as much as it does might help dissuade someone from thinking she could purchase that Maggie Sottero dress for just $200. It can take up to two hundred hours to craft a dress so one can expect the cost of labour to play a significant role in the final price.
The sizing of the replica dresses complicates matters more: if you don’t have a good fit, you don’t have a flattering gown!
Little recourse for scammed brides
The customer service for these sites is limited to non-existent. Despite promises of a ‘100% guarantee,’ many brides are refused refunds for their botched dresses or can never reach a representative to make a complaint or to return the dress—many of the sites list false addresses for their factories. The bride is stuck with a dress she can’t wear, sometimes just weeks before her wedding, with little funds left to buy a new gown.
We believe no bride deserves this kind of pressure in the upcoming weeks to her nuptials, so our advice is to always go with a reputable wedding dress maker and if the gown seems unrealistically cheap – it probably is!