It is fair to say that 99.9% of brides turn to the internet for bridal inspiration. Its fast, easy and they can find just about anything. Or can they?
The internet is full of bridal inspiration and hundreds of pictures of gown styles. A simple search will yield hundreds of options. Brides are constantly on the look out for that design that will catch their eye. All of the sudden there it is. That's the one. Where can I get it?
What happens next can be frustrating and disheartening. Many do not realize that the internet can also be very misleading. For instance, the picture of "the one". Well that many times is an old picture of a gown that is not even available from the original manufacturer. Why is it coming up on searches? Well, it shows up because often those old pictures are pirated. Yes! Pirated pictures, stolen from the original manufacturer and now posted by websites claiming to be able to provide that very same gown for a couple of hundred dollars. Buy one and your lucky if you get anything at all. Those companies are usually in China. They will go through great lengths to appear to be American or western companies but they are not.
Another scenario,... lets say you found "the one" on an internet search and low and behold its available at XYZ boutique. You call, make your appointment to try "the one" on. The expectations are overwhelming. There you are standing in that particular gown, as the attendant tells you it is $10,000.00 plus alteration charges! What? Did you hear her correctly? Well, that is because internet searches have no filter, it will show you what ever it pleases, price is not an issue right? But wait, remember that Chinese website they have it for $300.00 it's your lucky day!
I guess the internet does not always deliver now does it? Unfortunately it can deliver false expectations and cruel disappointment. So how do you search wisely? Here are some tips to help avoid the internet pitfalls.
First, you should determine your budget and remember to include funds for the alterations. Do some research on what the average bride spends for a dress. Then do some research on the median income in your area. That will give you and idea on how you compare to the average bride. For instance if the average bride is spending $1,500.0 and the median income for your area is $65,000 then you can at least get a rough idea of what people in your budget are spending.
Now that you know what you can afford, here is how to identify what dress manufacturer and how much certain styles cost. Lets say you want a lace mermaid dress with a sweetheart neckline. When you find an image of a similar dress to what your envisioning do a search for the manufacturer. Now, make sure that you are avoiding websites that are not only foreign but post pirated pictures. I did an internet search and found a page called "Brides Beware" it had a nice little list of the usual suspects that seem like a deal but in the end not so much.
To try to find the original manufacturer simply right click on the image and select "search google for this image". That way you can find many instances of the picture and many times the original manufacturer shows up. Once you find the manufacturer you can search the price of the dress. One easy way is to go to "The Knot" website and look up the price by the manufacturer. The Knot website shows you the price range for a particular dress by manufacturer . You don't have to be a member to search dress prices there. Now that you know the price range of that particular dress you can decide whether that dress is in your budget or not. Remember, add at least $300.00 o $600.00 for alterations.
Now you wonder? Is it safe to buy a gown on the internet at all? Yes, it is possible to buy a gown on the internet. But you have to do your homework and find reputable places. One big red flag is that they do not have a local phone number for you to call or an address. If an online bridal gown seller does all their business online by email or chats only, beware and dig further. Another place to look is The Knot or Wedding Wire and other bridal service websites that are reputable. These websites provide retailer information, retailers usually have to provide credentials in order to do business with them. See if that retail seller is listed with any of them. Check to see if they are registered with the Federal Trade Commission and have an RN number. It is required that manufacturers have an RN number in the US. If you know what state a bridal website is doing business in. Check to see if they are a registered business there.
Another good way to know whether the business is legitimate. Is checking reviews. You can do an internet search for reviews of that business and see what all shows up. While there is no guaranteed way to make sure you get the perfect gown from the perfect online retailer, it does help to find out as much as you can and see what other's experience has been in order to weed the not so reputable ones out. Being aware that most likely a bridal gown from a reputable source will not cost $150.00 and that goes for bridesmaid dresses too! There are many custom bridal shops online and custom retail stores. Many of these shops are reputable and many will have options in your price range. Make sure you include them in your consideration. Custom dresses often offer better fabrics, unique styles, great fit, and can be very reasonable as well.
Stay tuned for our next publication "WHERE DO BRIDAL GOWNS COME FROM?" There we will take a look at how the manufacturing of bridal gowns has changed and also identifying some key differences in the manufacturing process.
Celeste Herdeman is owner and designer of Krustallos Couture Bridal, retail and online bridal boutique. Celeste has kept up with the bridal industry for more than 30 years.