Experts say beware knock-off designer bridal wear

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's no secret that weddings are expensive, so the search for the perfect dress at the perfect price is sending some women online - and overseas.

That's where some retailers claim to offer designer wedding dresses for a fraction of the cost but what you see isn't always what you get - a lesson some Valley brides learned only after the dresses arrived.

From the traditional to the fairy-tale, today's bridal styles offer something for every bride, but not every bride can afford them.

Take a dress by Maggie Sottero called sabelle. It retails for about $1700, so when one Valley bride saw it offered online at half the cost, she took a chance.

"It was not what she ended up getting at all. She came in here crying, 'I wanted sabelle and this is what I ordered,' and was just so upset because you know she paid half the price but it's half the dress," Tracey Barnes of Premier Bride said.

Tracy Barnes is the co-owner of premier bride in Northwest Fresno. She helped the bride find another gown, barely in time for the wedding.

The real Maggie Sottero has more intricate details, including its beading.

"You can see all the beading that goes all the way up. All the away across, and around up and the front," Barnes said.

Now -the other dress.

"This is a different lace, there's hardly any beading, do you see how iridescent this fabric is? That's not even the material on the other dress," Barnes said.

The real dress also has more built in support - support that's necessary, because of its weight. The knock off, not so much.

It's also missing a privacy panel on the back corset, exposing the bride's skin.

Barnes isn't the only bridal salon owner who's battling designer knock-offs.

At Madeleine's Bridal Boutique in Old Town Clovis, they've seen a couple.

Katie Wills just got married a month ago. While in planning mode, she found her dream dress by Priscilla of Boston, then, had her eyes set on another dress for the reception.

The cost of that gown: $2400, but her mother found it online for around $200.

"So she sent it to me and I opened it up to work and I was like, 'what is this?! What is this?' It's see through, the bottom is unevenly cut. and it was supposed to have another layer of lace at the bottom which is doesn't have," Willis said.

The online retailers are even using actual photos from the designer on their sites but then sending dresses that look like this.

This $900 Blue by Enzoani dress features a full skirt with a tulle bottom, but a $300 knock off showed up with a jagged hem.

The professionals' advice? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"You know, if you're going to spend that kind of money on a wedding dress you want the inside and outside to be exactly what you're paying for, otherwise the dress isn't going to look good, it isn't going to fit right, you're not going to be happy that day," Gianna Aguirre of Madeleine's Bridal Boutique said.

If you do want a designer gown for less than half the cost, shop sample dresses - discontinued, designer gowns offered at deep discounts.

As for Katie Wills, she ended up with a simple cocktail dress for her reception. Now, as a newlywed she also has advice for other women: "I would warn any bride that's getting married, please don't do this."

A bride-to-be beware, saving you wasted money - and a bridal headache.

Designer knock-offs are nothing new and of course aren't exclusive to wedding dresses.

One local bridal shop owner says she just wants brides to realize if you fall in love with a designer dress you can only expect designer quality from an authorized retailer.

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consumer, amanda perez
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