Why I’m Not Buying My Wedding Dress From China

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I didn't know about all the hidden costs when buying your wedding dress from China!

There’s been a rise in the last few years of websites and companies based in China selling wedding dresses to those of us in the Western world.  It seems like every dress I like on Pinterest comes from one of them.  The apparent great thing about them is that they’re far cheaper than buying from most bridal boutiques, even though a lot of their dresses are made in China, too.

I imagine the reason behind this is that you’re not paying the middle man—boutiques have to pay to get dresses shipped to them, a storefront to display them to the public, and commissions to sales associates.  Websites don’t have to do any of that.

Despite the cost difference, I don’t plan on ordering my dress from one of these companies.  Here’s why:

1.  I want to make sure I look good in it before I buy it.  Call me crazy, but I’d like to try something on before I drop hundreds of dollars on it.  I’ve heard horror stories of dresses not fitting, and then being really hard to return because of…

2.  …poor customer service.  If the dress arrives in the right color, the right size, and at the right time, ordering from these businesses would be amazing for my pocketbook.  But I understand that a lot of these companies are very hard to get in touch with if you need to return the garment, or, heaven forbid, you need a refund because they don’t get it to you in time.

If you’re determined to buy online, I’d check out The Dessy Group’s selection.  They have a great return/exchange policy and great customer service.  Plus they’re an American company originating in New York.  They’re offering 10% off and free shipping on orders over $100 now through December 31, 2016 when you use code Newdg15.

3.  They have different holidays than we do.  My friend ordered her dress from one of these online vendors.  She actually still highly recommends the website.  But there was also a hold up in dress production because of Spring Festivals or something like that.  (Please forgive my lack of knowledge about the specific holiday.)  I guess it would be akin to most people having abbreviated work schedules in the US around Christmas and New Years.  But I don’t know what other holidays they have and what weight they hold as far as worker or postal vacation days.

4.  You still have to pay for shipping.  And shipping from China isn’t cheap.  The price difference starts to become more neutralized when you take this into account.

5.  Sometimes dresses get held up in customs.  Because the dress is getting shipped from across the world, it makes many stops along the way.  I read one story in particular of a bride-to-be’s gown getting held up in Ireland, where they wanted hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get it to pass through customs.  The bride didn’t have hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  She tried to get in touch with customer service.  For the rest of the story, refer to reason number 2.

What I’ll Do Instead

1.  I won’t turn my nose up at “as-is” racks.  I don’t have to have a custom ordered dress.  If I can find one that fits and I fall in love with that’s a former display model or has a minor defect, I won’t be too proud to take it home with me at those marked-down prices.

2.  I’ll get it tailored.  If it doesn’t fit right off the rack, I’ll just get it tailored.  I’d probably have to do that if I ordered from China, anyways.

3.  I plan to go shopping in the winter.  Because December-January tends to be the cheapest time of year to purchase.

4.  I’ll only go into boutiques I know I can afford.  There’s no point in going to a store where I know I can’t afford the merchandise “just to look.”  If I fall in love with something there, it’s going to ruin my outlook on other, more affordable dresses.  There’s no reason to depress myself when I could be perfectly happy with something that doesn’t costs thousands and thousands of dollars.

5.  Anna taught me that it’s okay to negotiate. Yes, even on wedding dresses.  Read about her experience.

I’m going to nip this in the bud before all the personal finance bloggers can suggest it:  I’m not going to get one used.  I did that last time I got married.  I used a divorced girl’s dress because it was free and pretty enough.  It was actually a really expensive dress originally.  But I’m a total believer in bad mojo if I wasn’t before.

Besides that, I really was bummed that I didn’t get to do the traditional dress shopping with my mom.  Turns out it was a good thing that marriage didn’t work out, or I wouldn’t be getting married to the love of my life now.  So thank you, cursed dress.  Thank you.

Pssst! I’ve gotten married since this post went live. Want to see how shopping actually went for me? Read this post.

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32 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Buying My Wedding Dress From China

  1. studentdebtsurvivor

    I’m not sure if it’s true, or just hype, but I’ve also heard that the dresses made in china are sometimes dipped in chemicals to make the fabric stiffer (or whatever the word is) so they stay looking pristine and don’t wrinkle or get out out of shape. I wouldn’t want that fabric up against my skin. Shopping the “as is” racks seems like a better idea to me.

    Reply
  2. Ms. S

    And who KNOWS what will show up in that box. I’ve heard horror stories about the cheapest looking dresses vacuum packed in a small bag and not looking like what the bride expected. And you can forget exchanges or refunds. I think you’ve made a smart decision.

    I am all about vintage and re-using but I no longer think that way when it comes to weddings/marriage. I no longer want a vintage ring but would still prefer recycled metals and handmade by an independent jewelry designer as opposed to bought from a jewelry mill.

    But heck, don’t get me wrong, I’d take that jewelry store mass produced from a mold ring too. LOL. Since I’m not buying it…

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Oh, I love the recycled metal idea! And getting it done by an independent designer would be so special!

      Reply
  3. lisavstheloans

    I know of people getting their wedding dresses and/or bridesmaids’ dresses from the Philippines. Same reason – it’s a lot cheaper. I would never do it though, I need to try on the dress before committing to buying it.

    Reply
  4. donebyforty

    It sounds like a pretty solid reason to go the local, try-it-first route, and you’ve got some great strategies to keep costs down. You might be able to negotiate the price, too. (My wife’s dress was made by her cousin, but she sicked me on the boutique who sold the bridesmaid dresses and we were able to get a pretty decent discount).

    Reply
  5. Shannon Ryan (@TheHeavyPurse)

    It would be hard for me to order a wedding dress online too – regardless of where it was coming from. What looks good on someone else, doesn’t mean it will look good on you. And I would hate to think I have my dress and realize I hate it when it arrives. I think your plan is spot-on and I have no doubt you will find yourself a beautiful dress!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      EXACTLY. I’m already pretty sure that the style I want isn’t going to look good on me, but I still want to try it on! And I have no idea which style will look good….so in person is the way to go for that reason alone. Thanks so much!

      Reply
  6. Janine (@apenny4athought)

    I think you’re wise not ordering from a website in china. I would even suggest finding a seamstress and getting a quote for a custom made dress. It might be more expensive, but depending on what you want… it might not be. Worth a try. David’s bridal was pretty reasonable in terms of pricing when I was in there last.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’m definitely going to try out David’s Bridal. I’m not too specific in my wants, so I’m not sure if a seamstress (that isn’t related to me like Done by Forty’s wife!) would be the best route for me. We’ll see though…it’s a great tip and my opinion may change after I try on a few!

      Reply
  7. E.M.

    I wouldn’t order a dress online, either. While it may be cheaper, there are just too many things that can go wrong, and you may end up wasting money in the end. I always like to try things on before I buy, so typically I don’t do any clothes or shoe shopping online. I like your point about going dress shopping with your mom, too. That would be a nice experience to have, along with the memories.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Yeah, like I was depressed the other day and saw some earrings on Amazon for $.97+free shipping. I had some swagbucks gift cards, so I “bought” them. I figure if I hate them what’s the worst that can happen? I lost $.97. Maybe if I could find a $.97 wedding gown + free shipping I’d order from China.

      Reply
  8. anna

    I agree about trying a dress on before spending a lot of money on it. One of my biggest concerns, as well, was being able to stay in touch with a person if it was overseas – it just seemed too risky and I work too hard for my money. So excited for you with your dress shopping – I know you’ll find something beautiful! 🙂

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Kind of unrelated, but I can’t believe I forgot to link to your negotiation post! I need to rectify that right now!

      Reply
  9. debtfreeoneday

    I totally get why you want to buy your dress ‘locally’, where you can try it on and be able to contact the supplier easily. The dress is important! And it’s a very personal choice. 🙂 Will we get a sneaky glimpse of your chosen dress at some point in the future?

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Unfortunately the fiance is on here too often for me to post a picture before the wedding, but I promise to after!

      Reply
  10. MonicaOnMoney

    I completely agree with #1! I would absolutely NEED to see the dress BEORE I buy it. There have been so many times that I buy something because I know my size and then it looks different than I wanted.

    Have you tried a local boutique in your area? I seem to always find those around here. Or maybe you could take a day trip with some friends and find some little dress shops. Make it an adventure and a story to tell your kids later 🙂

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Those are great ideas! I think we have enough local boutiques around the city to keep me sated without even needing a road trip!

      Reply
  11. Christine at More Than Mommies

    The dress that I ended up with was nothing like the styles I chose for myself from magazines (about 11 1/2 years ago I wasn’t shopping online) I just didn’t look as good as I thought I would in them. Trying on the dress and feeling that it was “the one” was a big and wonderful part of the experience for me!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      This is one situation where I think the magazines may be better than the internet! At least with the magazines there’s no question who the designer is, so you could ask your boutique if they sell it. There’s so many rip offs and scams online it’s hard to figure out what’s what.

      Reply
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  13. Laurie

    Sounds like you’ve got a great plan to me, FF. I would definitely be weary about buying from overseas like that. A wedding is too big of a deal to take that kind of a risk with. Great choice!

    Reply
  14. Millennial Boss

    I didn’t even realize you could buy a dress straight from China. I just bought mine and the biggest tip I can give is only try dresses on in your price range. I tried one dress on in a higher price range and bought it. Ugh! I love it though.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’m glad you love it! My biggest win was letting my sales rep know I was TOTALLY COOL with hitting up the clearance rack. Got a decently expensive gown for $200…plus alterations.

      Reply

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