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It's no secret that weddings are expensive. From the flowers to the tux rentals every piece of a wedding has a fee, and the grander your vision - the higher the price tag. It can be tempting to find little ways to cut corners and save money, but don't fall prey to the scam that is "wholesale designer dresses."

You don't have to look far to find horror stories from brides who've made the mistake of buying a knockoff gown online. These sites promise designer replicas at wholesale prices (plus free shipping!) but they rarely, if ever, deliver. In fact, more often than not the dresses don't even resemble the picture you send, and even if they do they'll be made of cheap materials and it's highly unlikely they'll come anywhere close to fitting you out of the box.

Every year, we have bride after bride in our shop in tears because the beautiful designer gown they ordered turned out to be a cheap, poorly made knockoff that doesn’t even come close to fitting.  On one occasion, a bride received a gown so horrible that she chose to donate it and ordered a brand new custom designed gown from us.  Unfortunately, not every bride has the luxury of time to find a new gown and they are stuck with a disaster which I do my best to save. By the time the alterations and changes are made, often times including rush charges to meet the timeframe, the bride will have spent what she would have on a better quality gown had she ordered that from the beginning.

If you're still on the fence about whether or not this is a good choice, read on.

Color Catastrophes

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This dress actually might not have looked half bad on the bride to be, if it weren't bubble gum pink instead of champagne. Frequently dresses come back from these "wholesale retailers" in colors that are far from what was requested. This could be due in part to a language barrier and the inefficiency of online language translators, but is also likely a side effect of using cheap dye on cheap materials.

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It might be slightly easier to understand being off a shade or two, but how hard is it to get white right? Somehow this picture and request resulted in an ill fitting lime green on the other end. 

Size does Matter

As if getting the wrong color isn't bad enough, imagine your surprise when you pull out your gown and discover it's two sizes too large and 6 inches too short. Whether it's a language barrier or simply an issue of measuring incorrectly, poor sizing is one of the most common complaints when receiving one of these dresses. First of all, if you are looking to order a cheap wedding dress online you probably aren't a seamstress, and so you're already functioning at a disadvantage in measuring yourself. Then you add in the fact that these dresses are made of cheap fabrics in an incredibly short period of time and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster. Sure you can just get it taken in if it's a little too big or too long, but what if you wind up with a dress you can't get over your head?

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If you were working with a bridal salon, your alterations would likely be included and factored into your timeline, and if they were to get it wrong they'd bend over backwards to fix it for you. A website specializing in knock-off dresses will not only be unlikely to fix the issue for you, there may not even be a way to contact them.

Returns are a Joke

It's no laughing matter, when buying from one of these sites you're accepting the risk of not getting what you ordered. If you're willing to do that then by all means go right ahead, but beware - it won't be simple to undo the mess if it goes south.

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In addition to getting the color, size and materials wrong, these dressmakers often leave you on the edge of your seat hoping that it might actually arrive before your big day. There is usually no way to track your package or contact anyone at the "company" beyond emails and wishful thinking. Even if you do manage to work out some method of returning this gown, there's absolutely no guarantee that you'll get your money back and you can bet you'll get stuck with the bill for the return shipping.

A Waiting Game 

As you perch on the edge of your seat frantically checking the mail, you may begin to question your judgement in ordering this dress. Then there's a knock at the door and you jump up to sign for the package only to see this waiting on your doorstep.

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You may think to yourself, "Okay so the packaging isn't exactly glamorous. They probably just air sealed it to save space. A good steam and it'll be just like new, right?" Wrong. Your dress has essentially been pulled inside out and crammed into the smallest, cheapest possible package. Enjoying that free shipping? Oh well, they have to save you that money somehow right? Better that it be on the packaging than the dress itself.

The Dress Itself

The moment of the big reveal has finally arrived and you shrug off your doubts and eagerly open your dress up. At first glance you'll probably notice a few things. Assuming the color isn't way off the first thing you'll notice will be the quality of the fabric. This will be especially noticeable if you've been trying on dresses in a bridal salon. That Chantilly lace you've been dreaming of is probably closer to polyester, and the beautiful beaded embellishments are often just appliqués glued in place. At first glance you may also see whether or not the dress actually resembles the design you sent in. Frequently even a picture of the dress you want isn't enough to ensure they get the design right.

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In Summary

All things being equal, there are those instances in which you may not get exactly what you ordered, but you do end up with a dress that is wearable.

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If you go into it with the mindset that you're taking a big risk you are far less likely to end up disappointed by disaster. By starting early you will at least give yourself the benefit of having enough time for a plan B should the discount dress not work out for you.

For instance, this gown turned out beautifully, but only after the bride paid several hundred dollars to have the gown taken completely apart and re-built into a Vanya original. By re-building the dress the the the proper way; changing the shape, adding a new waistband and sash, and adding beautiful beaded lace to accentuate the polyester lace that was poorly appliquéd to the online original, it was completely transformed into a stunning one-of-a-kind gown. This poor bride could have saved herself so much money and stress if she had come to us in the first place instead of taking a chance on a wholesale dress.

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In the end, remember that this is your big day, and for a dress you'll remember for the rest of your life it may be better to save yourself some stress and heartache by saving some of the budget in another area.

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