The Do’s and Dont’s of Wedding Dress Fittings
(photography: The Girl with the Camera)
THE DO’S AND DONT’S OF WEDDING DRESS FITTINGS
– Lizette van Niekerk
Now that you are engaged – big warm congratulations – you are about to enter the most exciting time of your life! Now – how to find the one…. that dress you have been dreaming of?
We listed a few valuable DO’s and DON’TS that may assist you to get the best possible experience (and price) in your search for your dream gown. The recommendations are made ‘tongue in cheek’ and most of them are based on real life (some super bizarre and unreal) experiences not only in my boutique, but stories heard from friends in the industry. Take ONLY, and I repeat ONLY – what applies to you and feel free to picture those you cannot comprehend to be true – as we laugh about it in order to stay sane.
- Market research: make sure you choose suppliers who are credible, trustworthy suppliers offering good value for money. Make sure you end up with a supplier you will be comfortable with all the way to your wedding day. Poor service and alterations skill can easily spoil your entire experience. IF YOU FIT AT BRIDAL BOUTIQUES, OFFERING DRESSES THAT RESEMBLES YOUR TASTE AND WITHIN YOUR PRICE RANGE – YOU WILL FIT MORE DRESSES, HAVE MORE FUN, AVOID DISSAPOINTMENT AND FIND A DRESS YOU LOVE AND CAN AFFORD.
- The internet pictures you LIKE: use you Pinterest / Flip file pictures of your favourite dress as a guide in terms of what your taste is, what dress elements you love. There is nothing more uncomfortable to any bridal boutique assistant than having to look at a picture of a 6-foot model, edited and stretched to ensure a slim photograph and then be expected to make the dresses look like the model in the picture on a bride who are 1.48m tall.THE DRESS ELEMENTS YOU WANT; WILL CERTAINLY HELP BOUTIQUE STAFF SELECT THE BEST CHOICES FOR YOU.
- If you are a plus size bride: ensure with the bridal boutique that they have enough dresses in your size. Make sure you know your size and not guess a size eg. It’s really awkward when a size 42 bride insists she is a 34. Stay reasonable – we want every bride to look their absolute best on their wedding day. If you are size 42, for example, an illusion back is maybe not ideal.
- Your expectations have a massive influence on your choices: share your expectations with your parents, your friends, your bridesmaids – and be specific when you need help and where. Go to dress fittings with an open mind. Especially your first fitting. Do not expect a perfect fit from a readymade dress. Price is certainly not the only differentiator – if a price is high – ask the boutique staff about the cost drivers on a garment. Factors contributing to price are: quality, time to manufacture, details on dress, elements requiring hand work, cost of the fabrics, design acumen and famous brand names implying a guarantee of quality and design expertise. Do not let anyone tell you there is no difference between a designer label dress and a generic copy of a designer dress – if you have had the opportunity to have both dresses next to each other you will clearly know and see the difference. YOU CANNOT BUY CHAMPAGNE WITH A BEER BUDGET.
- Invite your closest and dearest – not people you feel obliged to invite: invite friends to the fitting who really truely care about you and know your personality well. They must really understand what you want and hope to find before you go to the fitting. Talk to them about the amount of money you are hoping to spend, minimum and maximum. Invite people who will enjoy the fittings with you, be honest without being super rude and personal. WE OFTEN SEE (UNBELIEVABLE BUT TRUE) A MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE MAKING COMMENTS TO A SIZE 8 BRIDE SUCH AS “YOU WILL HAVE TO LOOSE WEIGHT” OR “SHAPE UP YOUR ARMS” – THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF GETTING MARRIED – NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK SUBSTANDARD IN FRONT OF THE ALTAR – IF THE BRIDE IS MATURE ENOUGH TO GET MARRIED SHE IS MATURE ENOUGH TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT HER APPEARANCE.
- Be pleasant and happy – even if you do not find your dress at the specific boutique: be NICE to the bridal studio team. The biggest discounts I have ever given was because I absolutely adored the bride and wanted to surround myself with people like her. Should you buy a dress from the given shop you will be in each other’s company for several months – make sure the relationship starts well – the more pleasant you are, the easier it is to return the favour and even get more than was promised. BE NICE = SAVE MONEY
- On mom’s and stepmom’s: if you have a strong and healthy relationship with your mom, take her to every single fitting. No one has a better understanding of exactly who you are, and she will be able to give and honest opinion without hurting your feelings. If the relationship is distant or damaged, but you still want to include your mom – compile a shortlist of your favourite dresses and take your mom back to give her fewer options after you have had a discussion with her and outlined to her exactly what your idea for your special day is. If your mom and stepmom don’t get along – take them on two seperate occasions to dress fittings. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR MATERNAL RELATIONSHIP(S).
- Dress prices: in most credible bridal boutiques, dress prices are set before you enter the shop. By saying you only can pay R5 000 if your actual budget can be stretched to R20 000 you are simply limiting your own choices. Rather say what you HOPE to pay, but also up to what amount you are actually willing pay. Remember any credible bridal shop will never adjust prices higher to milk your given budget. Its unethical and in poor taste and you shouldn’t be in business with a company like that. STAY REASONABLE – YOU CANNOT EXPECT A DRESS MADE OF 6 METERS QUALITY LACE TO COST R5000. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT FABRICS COST – GO TO A FABRICS STORE WITH A BRIDAL DEPARTMENT, AND LOOK AT THE PRICE OF BRIDAL SATIN, SILK ORGANZA, RAW SILK, CHANTILLY LACE AND BEADED LACE WITH DOUBLE SIDED SCOLLOPS AND BE INFORMED WHEN YOU ESTABLISH YOUR BUDGET.
- Dress fittings: make sure you have leave or flexibility in your programme for alteration fittings. Dress designers and seamstresses are at work when you are there. We also want to go home before dark- like you do. We will need to see you during shop hours. Discuss your requirements before hand- people are much more willing to compromise when you are open and upfront beforehand. When you try to ignore the agreement and expect the studio to change the rules for you, it creates conflict – as we are all under pressure to be consistent towards our staff and all other customers who also work and have jobs. Arrange your dress fittings months ahead. Book dates and discuss with your boss well in advance. If you take a new job – declare this to the new boss knowing that you will not have annual leave accumulated. We cannot adjust our workshop schedule because you made a positive change in your personal life that will affect other brides and the boutique staff negatively. PLAN YOUR WEDDING AROUND YOUR DRESS FITTINGS – YOU ARE ULTIMATELY THE MAIN FOCUS OF THE DAY.
- Terms and conditions: make sure you read and understand the company’s terms and conditions. If it looks exceptionally strict ask the owner to explain. I promise you- there is a reason for each and every paragraph in a terms and conditions agreement – not everyone has the same sense of fair business as you may have. Therefore, the rules. IF YOU ARE MATURE ENOUGH TO SIGN A PRENUPTUAL CONTRACT, YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO READ THROUGH THIS AGREEMENT AND SIGN IT YOURSELF (NOT BY YOUR MOTHER).
- You are one of many: you are not the only bride – we work with hundreds of brides at a time – each one unique and treasuring her special time. WE HAVE MANY CLIENTS IN ORDER TO SUPPLY A CONTINUED AND PROFESSIONAL SERVICE – WE NEED TO HAVE RULES IN PLACE AS WE ALWAYS WORK ACCORDING TO DEADLINES AND NEED TO RETAIN PROFESSIONAL STAFF AND OUR OWN SANITY.
- Appointments: try to keep appointments and be on time for fittings. If you are running late – call. If you have a fitting appointment – please keep it. We are often stood up as we were committed and ready for your appointment and through that showed other brides away. This not only result in loss of business, but also you have wasted our time and in our business time is money. WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING LATE FOR A DINNER WITH FRIENDS OR SIMPLY DON’T PITCH – DO YOU THINK THEY WOULD WANT TO STAY FRIENDS WITH YOU?
- Don’t turn into a reality programme actor: fitting wedding dresses is not the same as the TV programmes you have watched – it’s a lot more exciting and certainly not an experience where people should be mean and rude – but rather supportive and behaving in the best interest of the bride.
- The audience at dress fittings: do not take everyone you know to your fittings. Especially if members of the family do not get along. It is impossible to sell a wedding dress to the bride and 7 other ladies. PLEASE – we all love children and babies – please arrange a baby sitter for them – we keep high value items in our boutiques – and we feel extremely uncomfortable when your toddler just had a packet of Cheesenacks and wants to touch our dresses – or peep into the fitting room of another bride. BIG AUDIENCES ARE CONFUSING AND OVERWHELMING, IT DISTRACTS THE BRIDE FROM HER OWN THOUGHTS AND IDEAS
- Your personal relationships: you cannot choose your family and even some friends. But you can choose how you manage them. Leave the jealous bridesmaid and unforgiving sister at home please. They don’t care what you look like because whatever you fit will be measured against their own set of standards. Especially if the amount spent on your dress is more than the amount spent on hers. We truely see this happening. THIS IS YOUR WEDDING DAY – BE TRUE TO ONLY ONE PERSON – YOURSELF. YOUR MOM or FRIEND HAD HER DAY – MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE A STYLE THAT YOU ARE COMFORTABLE TO WEAR AND FEEL RADIANT WHILST DOING SO.
- Do not abuse bridal boutiques to “see what fits your body type best”: we certainly do not expect to sell a dress to everyone entering the studio – however – we expect to, at the very least, when we apply our expertise, stand a chance to sell a dress. If you are planning to have your dress designed and made, your designer should be QUALIFIED ENOUGH to assist you with the best possible design for your body without needing to send you for dress fittings first. It’s a different story when you are open to both options and have true intention to buy a dress if you find the one. We often get enquiries of brides getting married in 2 years from the given date. You are certainly wasting your time. The shops’ stock will completely turn around in 2 years, fashion changes in 2 years. The fitting fee is not there for us to make money, it is there to ensure our studios’s doesn’t become a free entertainment area. PUT YOURSELF IN THE BRIDAL BOUTIQUE STAFF and OWNERS SHOES – WOULD YOU LIKE TO DRESS PEOPLE INTO 6-8 DRESSES WEIGHING BETWEEN 2 and 6KG EACH …. JUST TO ENTERTAIN PEOPLE, DAMAGE YOUR EXPENSIVE GARMENTS AND STAIN IT – KNOWING THAT YOU DON’T STAND A CHANCE TO SELL A DRESS? THIS IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS BRIDAL BOUTIQUES ASK FITTING FEES.
- The “tannie” who wants to copy the dress: do not drag the person who wants to copy the dress you saw on the boutiques website with to the fitting with her wide angle Canon camera. It takes years of experience, money spent on research, trial and error, fabric sourcing, design acumen and experience to get the right dresses in our boutiques – we know immediately when we have the quasi designer in our midst. This is the reason why bridal boutiques do not allow brides (unfair to most brides) to take pictures during fittings and ask money for fittings. We do value our intellectual property and even if dresses are imported, we paid for the ownership of intellectual property of every dress we offer for sale – and in some instances we often did the design for the specific imported dress. IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE TO THINK YOU CAN SIMPLY COPY A DRESS THAT YOU HAD NO ARTISTIC INPUT IN. IN SHORT ITS CALLED BLATANT STEALING.
- Alterations: be honest if you are not happy with any alterations or changes to a dress. DO NOT TAKE THE DRESS IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY. NO BRIDAL BOUTIQUE WILL ACCEPT CRITICISM AFTER YOUR WEDDING DAY – OUR INTENTIONS WILL ALWAYS BE TO SUPPLY PERFECTION – IF YOU AGREE WITH US THAT THE DRESS IS PERFECT – WE CANNOT FAULT IT ON YOUR BEHALF.
- Don’t make rude remarks about a dress – the designer might be standing next to you: off course you can say if you don’t like a dress, or if a dress doesn’t suit a bride’s personality or figure. Remarks like – ‘this lace looks like curtaining fabric” (normally French Chantilly Lace) or ‘this (R25 000) dress is just not meeeee…” makes you look uninformed and /or vein. Taste differs. Accept it. YOU DO NOT WALK INTO YOUR FRIENDS HOUSE AND MAKE RUDE COMMENTS ABOUT HER TASTE. FOR THE SAME REASON YOU DON’T WALK INTO A BRIDAL BOUTIQUE AND MAKE RUDE REMARKS. ANY DESIGNERS WORK IS EXTEMELY PERSONAL. THEY ALL SPENT WEEKS AND NIGHTS TO SUPPLY THE COLLECTION THEY REGARDED AS SUFFICIENT AND ON PAR. WOULD YOU WALK UP TO JUSTIN BIEBER AND TELL HIM HIS LAST SONG SUCKED? NO…. THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE A BIEBER FAN DOES IT?
- Be entertained and don’t take over: ask your mother and sister not to take over the Boutiques Assistants duties unless off course you don’t get any service. Let them rather enjoy the experience. Different boutiques have different levels of service. Upmarket boutiques offering a personal service with expensive quality garments, would prefer to handle their dresses themselves. If you are still unsure about the style of dress you are looking for, allow the assistants to fit different styles on you. WHEN INVITED TO HAVE A SEAT – PLEASE TAKE THE SEAT. OTHERWISE YOU BECOME A DISTRACTION TO THE STAFF WHO REALLY WANTS TO OFFER THE BEST SERVICE POSSIBLE. HANDLE THE DRESSES WITH CARE.OR BEST LET SOMEONE HANDLE IT FOR YOU.
- Don’t redesign a ready made dress: rather go to a qualified fashion designer if you want to create your own design. BE CAREFUL TO BECOME A DESIGNER WHEN IN ACTUAL FACT YOU ARE BETTER WITH FOR EXAMPLE NUMBERS. WEDDING DRESS DESIGN IS A SCIENCE IN ITS OWN RIGHT.
- Do not take photos without permission: and please inform your entourage. Just don’t do it unless you are invited to do it. You don’t walk into a friend’s house and take pictures of her creative inputs and then copy it at home or use it to decide how you want to decorate your home? SOME BRIDAL BOUTIQUES ALLOW PHOTOS, OTHERS DON’T. THOSE WO DON’T HAVE HAD REALLY BAD EXPERIENCES WITH PEOPLE WITH LONG LENSE CAMERAS DELIBERATELY FITTING THEIR DRESSES TO COPY IT. SHOULD THEY NOT ALLOW PHOTOS’ REQUEST AN ADDITIONAL FITTING AT NO EXTRA COST TO VIEW A DRESS YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS YOUR CHOICE.
- Vehicles into a boutique: do not take a shopping trolley and pram into a bridal shop unless you can see it is as big as Supermarket on the inside. We need to move around with the garments in the open space available. Babies and Toddlers really do not enjoy these fittings. YOUR AUDIENCE MEMBERS WITH BABIES AND TODDLERS ARE ALWAYS DISTRACTED….IT WILL IRRITATE YOU. YOU WILL BE REQUESTED TO PAY FOR DRESS CLEANING OF STAINS ON DRESSES BY YOUR TODDLER OR BABY (BASED ON A TRUE STORY).
- It’s not easy to sell a pre-loved wedding dress: “Do not allow anyone to tell you that it is easy to resell a wedding dress if you only have a buying option. Believe us, we sell them every day. Unless you are happy to invite strangers into your home, your alternative is to make use of businesses specialising in resale of wedding gowns, bearing in mind that lots of people may want to fit your dress, the relevant business will take care of your gown and that you will only receive a portion of the price offered to the next bride. BUY YOUR GOWN FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS AND AS A KEEPSAKE FROM A DAY IN YOUR LIFE WITH ETERNAL VALUE. OR HIRE THE DRESS IF YOU ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY.
Without a doubt is
the most important thing
that every bride should hold on to
with both hands”
- – Unknown