So I'm a gown designer-manufacturer. I'll share that disclaimer right up front, but this fact only serves to explain how I know what I'm about to tell you.
I offer two services, on two ends of a spectrum. On one end, the way that's done locally, with a ton of fittings, a mockup dress, and an appropriate luxury price point.
On the other end... a budget-friendly option made at our factories overseas.
If I can do it, you can, too! Right? Well...
Wrong, I'm sorry to tell you, because what happens if YOU order from them is not the same as when we do. You'll submit a picture (probably front view only) and a couple measurements and they'll exert the least energy possible to make something that passes as an effort at copying your reference. YOU don't have a production manager or quality control inspector on your side. Nor a technical illustrator, fashion designer, body type expert, or even a phone number.
In contrast, I submit around 30 measurements with my orders, more for some styles. I take measurements for not just sizing purposes, but also length proportion* and design proportion*. I like to keep a full-length photo on file to reference body type when necessary.
*Length proportion: Correcting for a long or short torso or legs, strap length, making sure sleeves are long enough for at least an average American.
*Design proportion: Specifying details like how wide you want your cap sleeve, how wide you want your bateau neckline, how wide your waistband, where skirt flare should start, etc.
Even more importantly, we create a full tech pack. What's a tech pack? You won't hear that term outside the fashion industry. But I'll show you! This is why my budget gowns aren't chinese disasters and is where my education, experience, and knowledge become valuable. This example is from a bride who actually BEAUTIFULLY illustrated her gown herself, on the right! And she thought she had the design pretty much ready. I laugh. Lovingly. After discussing the feel she wanted to capture, she actually decided to change color at our consultation (from a swatch, another bonus). Let's look at her amazing illustration. Can you tell, definitively, the shape she wants for her top layers? Should it be rounded or square toward the hem? Would that have occurred to you? Because if you don't specify, the factory will decide for you. They will decide EVERYTHING. FOR. YOU. And friends, that's not good news. The recipe for success? Submit so many details that there's no room for them to cut corners. And even then...[continued below]
Front view, back view, details...
You're still not a brand. Sorry! My factories love that I come back and order more. and more. They care about me. How many gowns are you going to order from them?
Are you sitting? Hard truth warning: Chinese manufacturers don't care about you unless you are a source of continuing revenue. Harsh? Maybe, but that's the business of Chinese knockoffs. Your potential negative review means practically nothing, and many sites control their own reviews anyway.
But I'll even play devil's advocate for you. You see brides who make the gamble, and they're happy. Of course! Statistically, that's bound to happen sometimes! haha. There's a false equivalency at play here, though. The real question is - how discerning are YOU? Personally, I tend to see proportion flaws and cheap laces on posts where people are like "Love my $200 dress!" Maybe you don't, though.
Look away; I'm about to ruin, er, I mean, educate you. haha
On the top row:, a beaded French chantilly (lightweight draping lace, good for swish and twirl), $350/yd in a local fabric store and so delicate that the background disappears
Middle row: A lovely unbeaded mid-range priced chantilly, $80-150 retail
Bottom: Machined lace (I can call this neither a chantilly nor alencon. It is what it is.), Under $10 at craft store
Cheap laces tend to have really obvious patterns rather than nice, organic repeats. I think I'll save that visual aid for another blog post on another day.
If that red lace looks PERFECT to you...roll the dice, and maybe you're fine. Nobody else's experience or taste level is your own. So take that knowledge and do as you will! That's why I launched the budget option; most brides truthfully don't need couture-level finishing (though I offer that! See "Haute Custom"), but they still want QUALITY. The dress isn't a priority for everyone, but every bride deserves to have the people making your gown care about whether it looks like trash or not.
If you want to "roll the dice", know this:
1) Return policy, if there is one, and how much it ACTUALLY costs to return ship to China. It could be as much as your purchase.
2) Do they have a sizing "variable allowance"? In other words, are they allowed to be off by a size or 2 on the size, still leaving you with a need for alterations that you probably thought could be avoided? If the size is wrong, will they blame you and your measurements?
3) You can't sue China. Not easily or for less than what you paid.
Bottom line: Yes, there are great, quality gowns manufactured in China. But for every success, there was a quality control person. That, in addition to style expertise, is the value we bring to our "No Frills" budget brides.
You're either an "it's only one day" bride or an "I only get ONE day" bride. If you're someone with an eye for quality and the gown matters to you - but you're still on a budget - then we're a great fit! Awesome! My Renegade team would love to see if we can help you. No, you don't have to be local; contact us! If only we could rescue every bride who falls for the chinese factory trap! Share this and educate an engaged friend!