Many companies overseas are willing to make a custom-made dress for women in the U.S. who want a certain style, but are unable to afford a high quality designer wedding or prom dress. If you decide to purchase your dress from an overseas factory, you need to be aware of the many important issues that will come up regarding the quality, size and color of your dress. You will also be faced with all sorts of shipping issues which are out of your control and out of the control of the vendor.
Lately, there has been whole slew of defunct factories that have re-purposed themselves to address the needs of American women seeking affordable formal wear. Often, these factories have no other experience in fashion except how to run the machines and how to convince the public to buy from them. They own none of the beautiful gowns you see in the pictures and they have made no money selling their gowns to knowing customers.
The actual photos of the real gowns are owned by the real designers of the dress, who overlook the production of each and every gown at each and every aspect of the production cycle.This is called Quality Control and at many overseas factories, you will have none of that. For instance, the picture will only be the suggested look of the dress. The vendor will use a photo of a dress to copy it in your preferred color and size. But keep in mind, the dresses are only replicas of the picture, they do not own the actual dress you are seeing in the picture. The copy will be made so it looks like the same dress even though the material, quality or details won't be the same, for the price you are willing to pay.
Most likely you will not even get a dress that looks like the picture, so beware. One dressmaker from Hong Kong told me, "even though the dress will be almost similar in shape, we cannot be 100% sure, that this dress is exactly as the picture or that the quality will match the original one". She went on to state: "if the quality was the same as the real dress, believe me, the price would also be much higher."
Nevertheless, even if you were happy with a dress that looked almost like the picture, you might be surprised if the details of your dress were of a less expensive version. For example, one customer expressed regret that her wedding dress looked cheap because her foreign dressmaker used sequins instead of beading. Sequins on a wedding dress! From far away, you couldn't tell the difference, but she was too embarrassed to wear it to her own wedding, so she had to purchase another dress that was of the quality she felt she deserved. To make matters worse, since it looked like the photo, she was not given one dime of her purchase price back, even though she shipped the dress back at her own expense!
Your custom made dress will be made-to-order, using your own measurements. If you receive your dress and it needs to be tailored, you be prepared for the additional cost and time to make it fit your body perfectly!
Nowadays, good tailors charge $45.00 - $55.00 per hour. Extra turnaround time could be up to a week, or more, if the tailor is not overbooked!
Other common design problems include:
cheap fabric that wrinkles or shows permanent water spotting from steam irons
plastic beads and crystals
large pearls in place of seed pearls
garish thread color
poor or non-existent foundation / boning features
While it's true that many of the authentic design companies use manufacturers in Asia and beyond, not all factories are created equal, we know. The really good ones are contracted by the major design houses around the world and are constantly monitored for quality.
If you are buying online, you will obviously be viewing the color choices for your dress on a computer screen. Since computer screens have chromatic aberration, especially between CRT screens and LCD screens, you cannot be guaranteed that the color of the dress will be exactly the same with the photographs you saw. Don't take a chance on being shocked at the outcome. Always ask for fabric samples (swatches) to be sent to you by mail before you order! Any reputable distributor is more than happy to send you samples of various colors and the various fabrics they incorporate into their gowns.
Uncertain Shipping Time
Shipping time can also pose a problem, especially if you are up against a deadline and did not allow enough time for the dress to be transported across the ocean. You might not get your dress for up to 30 days after you place your order. Because you bought the item from opposite side of the earth, it needs time to ship and the duration on its way to you is out of your control. Once the item leaves the hands of the dressmaker, it is out of their control as well. So if the shipper has to add a few days here and there to their travel time based on unforseen circumstances, you may be without a dress for your next special occasion. The shipping times for overseas packages have a lot more leeway than what we are used to in the U.S. Keep in mind that you won't get your money back, if the vendor sent your dress on time, but the shipper held its arrival up for some reason.
While we are on the topic of shipping, you need to be aware that you, the buyer is responsible for all import duties, taxes and charges are not included in the item price or shipping charges. Your dress will sit in a crate at the dock until these expenses are paid and the box is released to the overland transportation company. This could take up to 2 additional weeks if Customs waits for your check to clear, before it ships.
Oh, and in the event you are so dissatisfied with your dress, you do want to send it back for a refund, be prepared to pay the return shipping as well.
Are you willing to gamble that your next special occasion dress will be just what you want in all ways: fit, color, quality? If you don't want to take a chance, then be sure to purchase from an authorized dealer of authentic formal wear. Be patient and mindful, and watch for semi-annual sales of last season's dresses and you will be rewarded with the best, not the second best.