Wedding Dress Shopping 101: what the other sites do not tell you…

*Warning: this post may or may not reveal just how naive and uninformed I was when I started dress shopping. We all make mistakes. But mine was costly. Don’t be like me.*

Be sure to click through to read the whole story and how everything turned out.

I love all things wedding. A year before I was even engaged I was constantly on wedding websites blogs, planning my future wedding. There are a lot of helpful wedding dress articles out there about what silhouettes fit each body type the best, what type of fabric is best for different types of weddings, etc.

This is not one of those.

I was burned. Badly. I was stupid, naive, and had no idea what I was doing. FYI: that’s BAD when you’re looking at dropping a ton of money on a dress. My ridiculously long (and still unfinished) story in one sentence is that I was burned by a bridal shop (in NEBRASKA, not online!) that sold me a counterfeit dress, and had to shell out money for an emergency replacement. And now I’m stuck in an ugly battle to get my money back. Through this process, though, I’ve learned a lot about the wedding dress industry, and it’s my personal goal to make sure EVERY bride knows how to protect herself from the awful creatures trying to pull one over on us.

  1. SHOPS SELLING AUTHENTIC DESIGNER GOWNS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DESIGNER’S WEBSITE. Every time. I never knew this. Never thought to check. Each designer has a section on his or her website that says something like “Where to Buy,” “Authorized Retailers,” “Find a Retailer,” etc. USE THIS before you drop a huge deposit on a gown. Every designer website has a warning against purchasing from unauthorized sources. Why I didn’t ever see those, I am not sure. Here are a few:Maggie Sottero: “Only Maggie Sottero products purchased directly from authorized Maggie Sottero retailers are certain to be genuine Maggie Sottero products. Purchasing Maggie Sottero products from unauthorized sources, either on the web or in unauthorized retail locations can involve certain risks. Please refer to our Store Locator for important information regarding these risks.”Mori Lee: “Please be aware that purchasing gowns on the Internet through a non-authorized Mori Lee retailer IS NOT recommended by Mori Lee. As a buyer, you will be doing so at the risk of receiving a counterfeit gown of lesser quality.”Alfred Angelo: “The gowns that unauthorized stores and websites sell are not authentic. If you receive anything at all from them, the quality and sizing will not be the same as the gowns you find in your local store. It may have been previously worn by someone else. We hear horror stories all the time from girls who think they found a great deal only to find they were duped. Don’t risk it! Our suggestion is to buy only from stores listed on our store locator. We stand behind these stores and the Alfred Angelo merchandise they offer. If there is anything wrong with the dress you receive from them, we will fix it or replace it.”
  2. AN AUTHENTIC DESIGNER GOWN WILL HAVE THE DESIGNER’S TAG. Duh, right? Mine didn’t, and we didn’t think anything of it. I guess my mom and I just assumed that wedding dresses were a different ball game and designers played differently. THEY DON’T. One designer’s representative did tell me that some bridal shops will cut the tags out of the store samples to help brides focus on the dress and not the name, but there’s no reason a dress ordered for a bride wouldn’t have a tag. Some designers even send a Certificate of Authenticity.
  3. KNOCK-OFFS AND COUNTERFEITS USUALLY LOOK SIMILAR TO THE DESIGNER WEBSITE BUT HAVE CERTAIN MAJOR DIFFERENCES. In my counterfeit, the stitching was awful, the fabric was a cheaper version, and instead of tons of beads on the bodess, it had SEQUINS. Yep, classy. The biggest thing we noticed, however, was that the skirt of the dress looked nothing like it was supposed to. We kept being reassured that it would be fine after it was steamed, but it wasn’t. If something doesn’t look right when the dress comes in, DON’T pay for it and SPEAK UP!
  4. AUTHENTIC DESIGNER GOWNS TAKE A LONG TIME TO COME IN AFTER BEING ORDERED. Counterfeits don’t. The reason is that designer gowns are generally sewn by hand and go through strict quality control checks, and are usually only made once an order is placed. Counterfeits are often made with machines and mass produced. My counterfeit came in within 6 weeks of placing the order. Looking back, that should have been a red flag, but we had no idea as I’m the first in the family to get married.
  5. GENERALLY, COUNTERFEITS ARE SOLD AT A SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER PRICE TO LURE BRIDES INTO BUYING THEM. Mine wasn’t, but most are, especially online. Think about it – all those vendors in the mall and at carnivals selling “Rolexes” and “Coach” purses “for a bargain!” Yea, no. Designer gowns are expensive. Because they’re designer.

That’s me. In my real dress, and the counterfeit. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have to label them… the difference is pretty obvious.

Don’t be like me. Please. Do your homework. I know it’s so emotional when you find “the dress.” But seriously, unless you’ve researched the shop beforehand, sleep on it. Go home, make sure everything’s legit, and then go get your happily-ever-after dress.

If you have your own counterfeit story, we’d love to hear it. Brides need to know what’s really going on out there. Also, spread the word. Let’s make an effort to end this counterfeit crap. The more people know, the better! Click the “like” button below, leave a comment, or best of all, click “share” and save your friends and family from potentially losing a ton of money.

**A couple edits to add. I’ve found a couple good videos and articles to read about this horrible stuff.

  1. A news clip from Kansas City on buying counterfeits online AND in a store. (Remember, mine was bought in a store! I thought I was safe!)
  2. A list of known counterfeit dress sites put together by Allure Bridal.
  3. An example of a counterfeit dress next to the authentic by Allure Bridal!
  4. A video explaining the differences between an authentic Bonny Bridal gown and a counterfeit. This video also explains the differences in design, fabric, and how counterfeit sites use DESIGNER IMAGES to sell their knock-offs.

UPDATE, JANUARY 2014: Much has happened in the two years since I wrote this post. Read the whole story about what happened and how everything turned out: How I Was Sold a Counterfeit Wedding Dress

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