You found a wedding dress that has every single item on your checklist. Now, you just can’t wait to show your parents and maid of honor pictures of it online! After a quick Google search, you find a link to the designer’s website. You start looking around at other links too, and you finally come across one promising the exact same gown at less than 10% what your local bridal salon will charge you. You’re intrigued, to say the least. Should you bite the bullet and buy from your local salon, or should you take a chance and purchase this gown, saving yourself thousands in the process?
A number of newly engaged ladies come across this dilemma each year, and the number of completely dissatisfied brides who bought into the gown counterfeit scheme racks up with each season. The Pink Bride even featured an article in previous issues of the Pink Bride Magazine about a bride who’d mistakenly bought into the suggestion that she could get her designer wedding dress at a fraction of the cost from China, with devastating results. As a former bride with some experience in the matter myself, it’s important to go over what you really need to know before you exchange your money for something that may ultimately crush your dreams and cause a mass amount of stress around your wedding day. While it’s true that you can get a gown for really cheap from China, you’d be surprised at what actually ends up on your doorstep. Read on for five things you must know before you click “Buy!” on that website!
You will not receive the same designer wedding dress you see in the picture.
Regardless of the fact that many Chinese “wholesalers” will claim they use the same design patterns and materials as the designer who actually makes the dress you want, you will not receive the same dress as the one you see in a bridal salon. The variations in design range from kinda looks like it to the dreaded this is nothing like what I ordered. None, however, will look exactly like the dress you want…except the designer dress.
The materials and embellishments actual designers use are expensive – so expensive, in fact, that the gown simply can’t be sold to you at a tenth of its retail price. If that’s not the case, then the work that goes into making the gown costs more money than what you’re paying for it. Either way, you won’t get the same gown when you pay so little. (That’s not even accounting for the fact that designers do not sell or give away their patterns to these companies – so they really can’t make the exact same dress anyway.)
Shipping conditions can be quite crazy.
Shipment from China to the States is a little pricey. These companies make it cheap by turning your wedding dress inside out and then jam-packing it into a soft package that’s no bigger than two feet long, one foot wide, and normally about three inches tall. And that’s the general packaging that “big” dresses come in! While I’m not privy to how designer gowns are transported, I somehow doubt that they’re folded like origami and compressed into such a small package. That kind of shipment means you’ll have some serious steaming to do once you unroll it.
Oh, and tracking? Forget about it. You likely won’t know where your gown is at all in between the time it leaves the warehouse in China and reaches your door step. So prepare yourself for the ensuing anxiety.
Online sellers often miraculously disappear from the Internet after a sell.
Many brides purchase gowns from companies who seem to be in business one day and shut down their website (and only means of communication) the next. This actually happens all the time, so don’t think it’s a rare occurrence. Once they have your “order” – meaning, your credit card or bank account information – they have all they need. And you may or may not receive a dress.
As a general rule for any purchase, never give your credit card information online unless the site is verified with a secure connection and you trust it, and never give your bank account information unless you’re going through a secure payment service like PayPal.
Details get lost in translation…literally.
You know how bad most online translator services are. When you send your orders in via email or form, and your order is supposedly being processed in China, you can reasonably believe that your requests are translated into a different language, using one of those online services. This is so that the person on the receiving end understands you. Words will get substituted for other words. Your request for silk on the train might turn into a request that looks closer to ruching with silk trim. Most commonly, brides receive gowns in totally different colors from what they ordered via Chinese wholesalers.
The online translator issue is just one theory, though. The biggest reason orders likely get processed incorrectly may be due to the fact that you’re one of many, many orders. The dress of your dreams becomes just another number they must fulfill within as little time as possible. That’s where a big difference comes in between online sellers and local bridal shops: personal attentiveness. You’re a bride-to-be to the people in your local bridal shop, and they genuinely care about your order. You sincerely will not get the same level of service from someone thousands of miles away, and you likely won’t get what you asked for from them, either.
Are you a seamstress who can send in perfect measurements? I’m not.
They ask you to send in your measurements for the gown, since they make each one custom size. Although they all provide you with a nice, standard measurement graph that shows you “where” to place your measuring tape for the most accurate measurements, it’s totally easy to screw up. And if you don’t screw up, you’ll likely still end up needing alterations done to the dress in the end anyway because the measurements often get confused. Don’t ask me how.
You can believe what you hear from the horror stories about ordering wedding dresses from China.
You’ve likely heard the horror stories of brides who thought they’d found a loophole to the system by ordering “straight from the manufacturer at wholesale cost” online. Let me be clear when I say that you actually can’t do this and get a legitimate designer gown. Only a bridal salon who is an authorized dealer for the designer’s line can order gowns at wholesale. As brides, we don’t have access to that line, simply put. That company based in China who has the picture of your gown on the listing and claims they produce the exact one at under $300, with free shipping? Yeah, it won’t look that way, and you’re taking your chances that it’ll even arrive in time for your wedding or be something you’d even consider wearing on the biggest day of your life.
I know all of this from experience!
I purchased my actual wedding dress from an authorized dealer because there was no way I wanted the most important dress I’d ever wear to be a knock-off or be less than perfect. I wanted the real deal – because, after all, your wedding dress is that important of an investment.
Three months before my wedding, however, I decided to get another, shorter gown for my “getaway” at the end of my reception. I already had a gown lined up for this that I’d purchased a year and a half earlier (Remember: I had a very long engagement!), but I decided to go a different style route at the last minute.
I got online and found an absolutely adorable and short Maggie Sottero wedding dress. I found it online via a “wholesale” dealer for $120 too, with free shipping, direct from China. Granted, I already knew the stories behind Chinese replica gowns. I already knew the gown would not look exactly like the one in the picture (If it seems too good to be true, it generally is!). I figured I’d at least learn some valuable information from the experience, if nothing else. That’s why I didn’t plan to spend much money on it or to have extremely high hopes for it.
I also made sure the purchase would be backed by a money-back guarantee if the gown never shipped, read the seller’s bio and skimmed the numerous seller reviews, and also checked up on the return policy if something horrible happened.
So, that being said, I didn’t get too disappointed when it came back looking like a very loose translation of what the description claimed it would look like.
But, if I had done that for my actual wedding dress? I would have been totally and completely devastated. The little dress I received was technically two different shades of white between the bust and the skirt, the lace was frayed, there were no cute buttons on the back or fabulous, sparkly embellishments on the front, and the flower design at the waist and on the skirt looked like a bit of a craft project. I suppose I got lucky because it was still a cute dress, but it was nothing like the gorgeous dress the description claimed it would be.
Yes, you can purchase your wedding dress from China. You may even get somewhat lucky in that the gown you receive does in fact resemble the gown you wanted when you placed the order. Trust me though, brides – you won’t receive your dream wedding dress. The only way you’ll get that is if you go through a local bridal shop! And guess what? It’s a lot less stressful to do so, anyway. 😉
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Questions or comments? Feel free to let me know them in the comments below!
Image credits as follows (click image for link):
Image 1 and 3: Actual screen shots from browser
Image 2 obtained via video by shiddoburrito on YouTube.
Image 4 obtained via Stuntack on engrishfunny.com.
Image 5 obtained via Google image search (multiple sources)
Image 6 obtained via the Maggie Sottero website
Images 7 & 8: Left image obtained via Maggie Sottero webside. Right image courtesy of Andrea McKee.