Should I Order My Wedding Dress from China?


It’s in my budget, but is it ethical?

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Q: I’m currently wedding dress shopping, and finding myself wrestling with the idea of ordering a wedding dress from China. I don’t have a giant budget to begin with, and every dress I love is falling hundreds of dollars over my max budget. I spent a few hours down a wedding dress rabbit hole, and realized that there’s a whole world of wedding gowns that I haven’t considered out there, and I can totally afford them. The problem? The gowns are made in China, and I can’t decide how this makes me feel.

On one hand, the wedding dresses from China look gorgeous, the reviews are more positive than negative, and I can afford everything. On the other, I feel like there are serious ethical considerations to make, and I don’t know if I can fully get behind buying a dress from someone who is forced to work in terrible conditions, or who might have ripped off the design from an artist or dressmaker. Plus, there’s no way to REALLY know if the quality is as good as it looks.

I have six months until my wedding, which is enough time to order a dress or two, receive them, and figure out if they’ll work—but if they don’t, I don’t know if I’ll have time (or cash) to get another dress. Help!

Have you ordered a wedding dress from China? What tips do you have? What should someone keep in mind when they’re shopping around the internet for a dress from overseas?

If you want the APW community’s two cents, send it to QUESTIONS AT APRACTICALWEDDING DOT COM, and we’ll do our best to crowdsource you some answers!

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  • Amy March

    No. Not because of any ethical consideration (whether you order directly from China or through a US retailer, it’s quite probably being made in China) but because you have no guarantee of quality and no recourse if it’s a disaster. Especially if you are seeing styles for significantly less than through Davids Bridal, you aren’t getting what you see on the website. If it looks to good to be true it usually is.

    • AmandaBee

      This. My seamstress (not affiliated with any particular company) said the dresses she altered from China were often horribly made and sometimes unsalvageable. In many cases, they cost more to alter than buying a decently-made dress and altering it would have. There are better options.

    • Julie

      Several friends have ordered dresses from China, and all have been disappointed. One arrived way too late, one was very poorly constructed, and one the fit was way off. One got a different dress last minute, and the other two needed to pay for extensive alterations that ultimately made the dress not the great savings it appeared.

    • Shelbs113

      Yes to the “if it looks too good to be true it usually is”

  • CMT

    There are so many pictures out there of people who ordered wedding and prom dresses cheap from China and got absolutely atrocious products delivered, that I would never, ever do this. I wouldn’t even get far enough along in the thinking about it to worry about ethical issues. But I’m also very risk-averse.

    • sofar

      YES. Before anyone orders a dress from China, those “China-dress-disaster” websites should be required viewing. Also … any good reviews you’ve seen are very likely FAKE. And even if some people did have a good experience, the actual dressmaker that makes your dress may not do as good a job.

      There are so many ways to get beautiful white dresses at an affordable price (Modcloth, buying a white/cream evening gown, shopping sample sales). But I wonder if the reason LW is looking at Chinese sites is because she wants something extravagant at a low price point — and those dirt-cheap out-of-this-world ball gowns those sites advertise are very tempting. But that’s all the more reason to NOT BUY a dress from those sites. Extravagant ballgowns with fancy beading are very complex garments that you should not trust to a Chinese dress-maker, especially when you can’t see the progress in person.

    • MC

      Yeah, my friend ordered a dress from China for less than $200, but when it arrived the skirt didn’t even cover her crotch.

  • If ethical matters are your main concern here, I’d avoid—or be prepared to dedicate some serious research time to make sure you’re getting something from a company that you respect. I have heard of brides getting fantastic quality dresses this way and being super happy with their gown, but it sounds like you’re more torn on the ethical considerations (and rightfully so).

    And let’s just say you did decide to go this route…I think it *could* end up costing you more than expected. If it arrives and it’s poor quality, it means you’re a few hundred down the hole and will have to scramble for a backup that’s even less than what you’re looking at now. So if you did decide to buy one (or a couple) of these dresses, have a plan b in mind.

    I don’t know what kind of dress you’re dreaming of for your big day, but places like LindyBop and ModCloth have wedding lines for significantly cheaper than a designer dress from a boutique wedding store. I hope this helps!

    • Henri

      A little late, but wanted to add that depending on what your ethical concerns are, ModCloth was purchased by Walmart a couple months ago. In case that’s a deal-breaker for you.

  • Beth P

    This is so tough! My sister is a seamstress and has shared her experience with a number of Chinese direct-order dresses. The quality is often hit or miss, so that may explain part of the mixed reviews. A number of the companies also use pictures of dresses from other companies, but they don’t have access to the same patterns or materials, which means you’ll never get what’s in the picture. I share this to emphasize the quality issues inherent to anything like that. A friend got a custom wedding dress from Eastern Europe (I forget which country) on Etsy and it looked great after some tailoring. After struggling with the decision myself (ethical and out of budget? In budget and feel sorry for those who made it? Risk Etsy, even though there’s nothing I love?), I decided to go with a used dress and found one that I love. For me, it is better than a new dress from a country with questionable labor practices, and also helps cut down on waste more generally. At the same time, it’s certainly hard and I wouldn’t judge anyone on which way they went here – I don’t routinely check my clothes labels for country of origin before purchasing them, and wedding dress decisions are stressful enough!

  • Alynae

    May I strongly recommend preownedweddingdresses.com as an alternative on the ethical and financial sides? I was able to get a Vera Wang in phenomenal condition from preowned for about the cost of a higher priced Davids Bridal Dress. BUT I then turned around and sold it again after my wedding and made all that money back. So I loved that I could get a dress I loved, wear a dress that had already been worn so it wasn’t living in a closet forever, move it along after my wedding and trust that the quality would be good. There are also some great wedding gown rental sites (magnolia is one that comes to mind). I have seen too many horror stories of dresses from china that look NOTHING like advertised.

    • Liz

      +1. I sold mine on preownedweddingdresses and had a nice exchange with the buyer ahead of time, sending requested pictures, etc. You can get a lot better info.

      • Mary Mallard

        Also +1 to preownedweddingdresses.com. I sold my original dress after I found The Dress to a bride-to-be who was newly engaged and just out of grad school. It was nice to know I was helping someone get their dream dress without spending an arm and a leg.

    • gipsygrrl

      I just want to throw a caution out on the idea of “I’ll turn around and sell it right back to recoup my money!”. It’s a great idea and awesome if you can do it, but that was my plan and I ended up getting a snag that couldn’t be repaired on the front of my dress, as well as a red wine stain on the back, rendering it unsellable. Hopefully this won’t happen to any of you! But don’t buy a dress for more than you can afford with the idea that you’ll for sure be able to sell it and make some $ back. Sometimes that doesn’t work out.

      • Lisa

        From what I understand from others who have resold gowns, there are also certain brands and gown styles that are in higher demand than others. If your dress isn’t among those, it can be more difficult or take longer to sell.

    • Leah

      +1 to preownedweddingsdresses.com.
      That’s where I bought my dress. Found a dress in a store that I loved but was way over budget, found it used in pristine condition for about 25% of the retail price (seriously, depreciation on once-worn wedding dresses is insane). Had great communication with the seller, and she gave me the option to return within a couple days if I didn’t want it. Basically I ended up with a $4k dress for $1k + shipping (and another couple hundred in alterations) that was made by the designer and exactly what I wanted. Plus, recycling FTW.

    • Mandi P

      Yep – I got mine (used) for less than half the retail price, got it altered for $200. It was beautiful and ethical.

    • +1 on used wedding dresses, I got my DREAM dress which I saw on pinterest before I got engaged but figured I’d never afford on stillwhite.ca for half of what anything I liked from David’s Bridal costs. I was lucky enough to resell mine at the same cost, but I didn’t count on it in my budget.

      also +1 on not buying from China. I live in Hong Kong, so I can take the metro and cross the border to China and see a seamstress in person for a dress for any occasion, but locals say that even doing that still often ends in disaster

    • LisaG

      I bought my dream dress for 60% of the retail cost by buying it through a site called Last Minute Bride. They sell sample dresses. (Buying sample dresses can be a bit risky as they sometimes have more wear and tear than pre-owned bridal dresses, but mine was in excellent condition). I knew I would probably sell afterwards at some point. But then an acquaintance from college saw my photos on Facebook and contacted me to ask about the brand/style number of the dress. Turns out we were the same size so I sold it to her for about half of what I paid. Selling to someone I knew was much easier than listing it online and it was fun to then see her photos in the dress.

  • Anna

    I will say, a beloved friend of mine (for whom I was a bridesmaid) ordered her dress for something like $120 from China, and was perfectly happy with what she got*. She had six weeks to plan her wedding (timeline got suddenly moved up from two years to IMMEDIATELY when it turned out her now-husband’s employers had failed to get him a visa) and effectively no money to spend on it; this was pretty much her only option for getting a sparkly, flouncy, princessy dress, which in light of all the corners they had to cut to get married on that schedule was pretty important to her. But she went into it knowing it was something of a gamble and expecting to just sort of… work with what she got. Her dress was not super high-quality (fabric looked a little costume-y and felt weird), but she was VERY clearly the bride, it felt like a wedding, and that was what she was going for. (I mean, she looked beautiful and happy and surprisingly serene given the rushed timeline, nobody was thinking about the fabric quality of her dress at the time, but it was definitely not what you’d expect the fabric to feel like if you saw something that looked like the picture in a wedding boutique or at David’s Bridal.)

    If almost-certain reduced fabric quality and some chance of an actually unwearable dress in exchange for a much wider variety of styles in your budget is the right tradeoff for your wedding, like it was for my friend, then like… it is a thing you can do. But this friend grew up with basically no resources whatsoever and is very used to making do with the least worst option; if your scenario is more “wedding dresses are expensive and I’d like something pretty for cheap” then you’re probably not going to be happy with what you get this way.

    *She may have done some minor alterations (e.g., removing straps, fixing a missing seam) by hand herself, I’m not sure. But nothing super major, I know, because there just wasn’t time.

  • zero

    From an ethical perspective, I don’t really understand what’s worse about buying a wedding dress from China as opposed to other clothes or electronics or whatever else is imported from there. As some people have mentioned already, probably many wedding dress manufacturers have stuff produced in Asia anyway, and China might not be the worst place (compared to Burma, for example).

  • louise danger

    cheap/inexpensive
    beautiful and elaborate
    ethically made

    pick two

    • Violet

      Yep, with the maybe one exception if you buy pre-owned.

    • Nora

      I found one that was all three, but only after a year of scouring every vintage seller on Etsy. The amount of time/stress you’re willing to invest might be the secret extra variable.

  • Greta

    If on the off-chance you happen to live in/near the Seattle area, there’s a great store called blueskybridal.com that has rocking used wedding dresses. They treat everything super carefully, the only keep dresses for 6 months, so they’re constantly getting new styles and inventory, and prices are very reasonable. And pictures on the website are updated daily with the sizes of the dresses too! If you’re not in the Seattle area, there may be another similar store in your own region. Good luck!

  • Alex K

    I wouldn’t do it. My bff ordered her dress from an Etsy retailer. It’s gorgeous. She ordered it sight unseen but had some recourse (through etsy) if it didn’t work out. You also pretty much guaranteeing that you know where your dress is coming from with etsy (if ethical is the big concern)

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Related: Paying for things through PayPal also comes with some great recourse if what you order isn’t what you receive.

      • Alex K

        Yes! And some credit cards will actually help you out if what you ordered was nothing like what shows up at your house.

    • louise danger

      so long as you’re not buying from one of the overseas wholesalers there. i’ve noticed a lot of them in my search for rings on etsy.

      • Alex K

        Yeah I’ve noticed this with other things too. I’ve been using the filter for US only. I’m hoping that eliminates the issue but I’m still not 100% sure.

      • tilbury

        Etsy recently shut down a lot of overseas wedding dress shops, including some that were seemingly legit, so it seems like Etsy is trying to crack down on the overseas wholesalers.

  • Katharine Parker

    I wouldn’t do this for the same reasons other people have mentioned–unreliable quality, lack of recourse, too much potential for disaster. I’d say China is often better for working conditions than other places at this point, so ethically I’d be less concerned, but I wouldn’t trust ordering a $100 ballgown from anywhere.

    Depending on your budget, have you looked at Bhldn? Bridesmaids’ dresses in white? White evening gowns? David’s bridal? A local wedding dress boutique, including their samples?

    • ssha

      I got an ivory bridesmaid’s dress from BHLDN and I loved it! Inexpensive, elegant, and simple/comfortable. And well made.

    • BSM

      Another upvote for white evening gowns! Mine was from BCBG, and I think I ended up paying about $500 for it. And it was perfect!

    • Kelly

      White evening gowns or bridesmaids gowns are a great option! My wedding dress is an ivory evening/bridesmaid’s dress from Nordstrom, was under $300, and is way more appropriate for my beach wedding than the more elaborate (and expensive) bridal gowns I was looking at.

  • jem

    If they’re stealing someone else’s design, then no, it’s not ethical.

    • Agreed. There actually is a difference than something made in a factory in China!

  • Angela’s Back

    My aunt had her dress made in China and was very happy with it, but she also lives in Australia so if it had been a disaster (as she was fully prepared for it possibly being), she would have had a lot more time to find something new since she’s that much closer. To me, if you’re working on a budget–and I was too so I totally get where you’re coming from–it makes more sense to invest the time in serious Googling for a dress you can afford from a trusted source that you feel confident will arrive looking and fitting more or less like it should, instead of throwing that time away waiting on a dress from China that may or may not be any good.

  • Lisa

    Don’t do it. There is a reason these dresses are so cheap; it’s because they are made with different materials that cannot duplicate the original gown concepts. All you have to do is look at a few different articles to see that there are many instances where the purchases don’t work out. I’d look at it as: you’re gambling with your wedding budget. Yes, the dress may come out fine or usable, but if it (or its one or two followers) don’t work, then you will be out several hundred dollars and will end up with a much smaller amount to buy a dress domestically.

    If you’re looking for discounted designer dresses, your time would be better spent looking through eBay or other on-line sites, or contacting shops that sell gown samples a couple of seasons old. You’ll be able to get more bang for your buck that way, and you’re guaranteed to get a dress that’s worth your money instead of gambling it on a risk.

  • Cellistec

    Ok, so I did this. Kind of. I didn’t wear white, meaning my wedding dress was just a formal gown (red, as it happens), but I did order it online from a Chinese site after a fruitless day running around town and finding nothing I liked. The dress arrived in less than a month and the fit was terrible–too long, too big in the bodice, etc. Fortunately there was a very skilled tailor down the street who came up with a simple solutions for the whole mess (hem it and take up the straps). It fit fine in the end, and total cost (dress + shipping + alterations) came to all of $200.

    That said, the dress was never that important to me, and I did feel like an ass for most likely contributing to child labor practices. If I could do it again, I’d start shopping earlier to give myself time to find an off-the-rack dress and get proper alterations. YMMV.

  • Laura C

    Is there reason to believe that generic no-name wedding dresses from China have worse labor practices than Gap or Banana Republic or basically any other major US-brand clothes made in China — or Bangladesh or wherever else? Supply chains are terrible for a lot of the biggest brands, too.

    • Angela’s Back

      Nope, it’s just that when you buy from China like that you know you’re doing wrong, but with Gap, etc., you can pretend like you aren’t.

    • AmandaBee

      Actually, I would argue that there are benefits to buying from established brands versus sketchy no-name labels. Places like Gap/BR aren’t perfect, but many of them have publicly-available info on the factories they use or the standards they require, which allows them to be held accountable. They *definitely* still have supply chain/labor abuse problems, but at the very least you’re able to do your research with large retailers to determine what kinds of labor standards they have, what kinds of problems they have, and whether you’re comfortable with them given that information. There are organizations and apps that do the research for you and help keep companies accountable, which they’re able to do because corporations have images to protect so they can be pressured.

      With many of these no-name brands, there is zero information or accountability to any standards. They have no image to protect, so no impetus to treat their employees well. While some of those companies may be equivalent to Gap/BR or similar large brands in their practices, others represent the worst of the worst with really illegal and abusive practices, and consumers really have no way of knowing which their money is going toward.

      So, not saying that large American companies that source from China are without their problems, but I would not necessarily call them equivalent to the type of companies that LW is referring to.

      • Laura C

        Fair point that knowing who they are enables you to keep up pressure — though sadly that’s only relevant to the small fraction of the population that actually does so. But on knowing what their practices are … most of the big companies, American ones at least, are deceptive enough that knowing what they claim their practices are won’t get you very far. Like Walmart, which denied having anything made at the Tazreen factory and the lo and behold, Walmart brands turned up in the wreckage after the fire. Practically takes an advanced degree to figure out how they’re lying to you about their safety standards, but they mostly are. But I do think you’re right that if one is inclined to push for better standards, it’s helpful to know who you’re buying from, and I hadn’t considered that angle.

        • zero

          Plus the American brands all buy from local manufacturers no? They do not run the factories themselves. I have a hard time believing there can be much accountability with that type of subcontracting system.

        • I hate to do this, but in defense of Walmart, their items ended up there because the supplier they had vetted then used another supplier to actually make the garments. This is pretty common sadly, and companies are trying to crack down on this kind of thing in light of the Tazreen factory fire and other incidents. A lot of brands are trying to do the right thing regarding supplier safety/training/pay/etc but it’s still a really hard industry to police.

    • AP

      This. When I read this article I got curious and googled around for where BCBG dresses (my wedding dress brand) are made, as well as BHLDN. I couldn’t find info for either, which doesn’t bode well for fair, transparent labor practices. Granted, I didn’t spend a ton of time on this, but I don’t see a ton of difference in buying fast-fashion brands or direct from China, in terms of labor standards.

  • Liz

    A question about the ethical consideration. I agree with everyone below that just being manufactured in China is not an indicator of anyone being exploited. BUT a lot of the pictures in the “China wedding dress disaster sites” show photos of women in dressing rooms wearing a designer gown, which they sent to a Chinese seamstress to copy. Which: HELL NO. Intellectual property is intellectual property, whether it’s a photo or a song or a dress design. If this is the question, don’t do it.

  • Allison

    I basically just did this. Caveats: I can’t find the dress in white anywhere else, Amazon doesn’t tell me where the maker is so I’m just assuming China because it’s most likely, it’s only $65 including shipping and there are a bunch of really good reviews raving about how this seller modified the dress for their measurements specially. I’m not thrilled about the ethics of outsourcing but on the other hand any dress I buy off the rack in a regular store at the mall is also going to be made in a developing country, I’m not ripping off a designer who is losing money to dishonest competitors and it’s the only dress I’ve found in this style. Also I can afford to eat $65 and find another dress if it turns out not to fit.

  • AmandaBee

    If you look on ebay, Tradesy, or preownedweddingdresses.com, you might actually be able to find a brand-new dress that just happens to be a discontinued style. My dress was $450 from Ebay, and it was a discontinued Jcrew dress (that would have been $1,200 new).

    Other options would of course be gently used dresses or, depending on your budget and preferences, having an American seamstress make one from scratch which I’ve heard can be cheaper than you think. Or J.Crew, BHLDN, etc. actually have decent clearance sections where you might find something. Or try Modcloth and other non-wedding stores, which have lots of pretty white/bridal-y dresses. There are so many affordable wedding dress options these days.

    • Lisa

      Using an American seamstress/designer will really depend on the person and the type of dress the bride wants. A basic gown can end up costing a lot because of the materials and the time involved. One of my friends was able to get a simple lace dress made by a Portland (OR) designer for around $1000-1500, and I know my mother, a professional seamstress, has said she would usually charge materials plus $40-50/hour, which would equal out to the same rate.

      Something that can be done pretty cheaply is altering a blank canvas of a dress to be closer to what you want. I had a friend who wanted an open, scoop-back dress with sleeves and after much searching bought two of something that was close enough at a David’s sale. The seamstress used the second gown to make sleeves for the first at a low cost since the bride provided the materials.

      Without knowing exactly what she wants, my concern for this LW trying to go down this route is that she will quickly be priced out of the market. I think she’d do better to focus on your other suggestions of finding a similar, lower-priced dress from non-traditional bridal retailers or by looking at resale/sample sale options.

      • AmandaBee

        Thanks for chiming in with details about having a dress made! It’s not something I did research on, but I heard it recommended from folks who were in a “normal” wedding dress $$ range but just looking for something hard to find in that range (often, sleeves). Definitely not a super-low-budget option, but I thought it might be worth considering if LW’s problem is more pickiness than budget.

        Adding: With my dress, my Ebay seller actually took returns with a restocking fee, so I was able to have my seamstress come over to look at it and quote me for the work it needed. The dress did end up working out, but knowing I could return it if I needed to was a big relief for me, since I wasn’t able to try it on. Something to consider since many of the direct-from-China options either don’t allow returns or aren’t reliable with actually giving the money back, from what I’ve heard.

        • Lisa

          Yes, you’re right! Having a dress made can be an effective option if you’re looking for a simpler dress but can’t find a specific feature (sleeves, neckline). When the LW said that she was loving gowns that were “hundreds of dollars over [her] max budget,” I was thinking she was looking to those Chinese sites that make big label designer knock-offs for a couple hundred dollars. If she’s looking for a grander, sparklier dress on a smaller budget, then custom is probably not going to be the route for her, but if it’s the issue you mentioned, it could be worth considering.

          • AmandaBee

            Yeah I think your hunch is probably right, and custom won’t make up for wanting something that’s a little grander (size/materials wise) than your budget allows. Sounds like secondhand or looking for sample/clearance/discontinued dresses might be more feasible if that’s the case.

  • tilbury

    Yep, don’t do it. I was determined to not spend a lot on a wedding dress – you wear it once! – and researched every cheap option. Yes, there are some pretty good reviews out there for dresses from China, but there are an overwhelming amount of negative reviews. I would say if you’re fine losing $200 (some people are, I was not), try it. You can always get another dress and in the scheme of things, $200 isn’t crazy. But if you don’t want to waste money, try elsewhere. Look on Etsy. Try Azazie Bridal – cheap dresses, based in California (https://www.azazie.com/). ASOS has some pretty dresses. And check out David’s Bridal too (and they have a strict ethical sourcing policy!). I found my dress there and was amazed at the selection at reasonable prices. I went to a second hand bridal store and a regular bridal boutique and everything looked the same and was more expensive than my DB dress. This subreddit was also a great resource when I was researching –
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Weddingsunder10k/

  • ART

    I totally went down the same rabbit hole – it can be hard to avoid. Eventually I made my dress (whole ‘nother story), but sometimes I wish I had just gone for a white or silver evening gown, would have been a lot simpler.

    • ART
      • Lawyerette510

        I love dreaming of my do-over/ alternate universe version of my wedding…

        • AmandaBee

          I’m glad I’m not the only one that does this. Like, I loved my wedding but I kinda feel like alter-ego me would’ve rented out a chic restaurant and had a cool short designer dress. But alter-ego me also sometimes wishes I’d rented out a BnB and had a flowy princess dress. Alter-ego me also has an unlimited budget, tons of great taste, and a family that isn’t prone to random public fighting. #dreambig

          • NotMotherTheresa

            Not the only one at all! My late summer wedding was lovely, but I have a wonderful alternate universe wedding where it’s close to Christmas time, and the whole church is decked out in Christmas decorations, and the groomsmen wear tartan pants with their tuxedo jackets.
            Like your alternate universe, this universe also involves a larger budget, an agreeable groom, a family that doesn’t forget how to function the second that there’s a mention of possible snow flurries, and, in general, a life full of people who AREN’T total shitshows. So you know, basically the opposite of all of the realities that actual me was dealing with when planning my actual wedding.

          • Alli

            Alter ego me had a brunch wedding with swing dancing. Alter ego me also knows how to swing dance.

      • Katharine Parker

        I’m wearing a short dress that’s close to this by halston as a reception dress at my wedding! The back is stunning.

  • Jan

    Might I suggest looking at Etsy designers, or even in the bridesmaid section at local bridal shops? I’m not sure what sort of style you’ve got in mind, but I was able to get my (fairly simple but IMO beautiful and timeless) dress for under $200 by buying a bridesmaid’s dress. When I was considering more intricate styles I saw lots of reasonably priced ($800 and under– some way under) on Etsy. I personally wouldn’t chance ordering something from a random label on China, for reasons many people have already stated.

    • Em

      Agreed – I’ve been eyeing off a particular Etsy store for MONTHS and they have literally thousands of great reviews (and a lot of pictures of their dresses posted by the people who bought them (clearly noted models, etc). So that makes me feel a lot better about the prospect of buying a dress there than I would buying it from a random third party site based overseas.

      • Jan

        I also noticed several designers would construt the dress to your measurements, rather than just offering basic sizes. And many had really solid return policies, which made me feel a lot more confident in going that route! Though with a six month timeline that doesn’t leave a ton of time to find a back-up plan if a dress doesn’t work out.

    • Lorri Lewis

      Etsy dresses have gotten so dreamy that it would be the first place I looked, whether or not I was on a budget. You can see the designer’s track record by looking at reviews. I would rather support an independent designer. You get more for your money in design and materials since there’s no middleman. You also get more customization than in most bridal shops.

    • A lot of Chinese dress makers who offer the recreated designer wedding dresses also sell them through etsy. It’s sort of a nicer way to buy than from a random label – it’s more reassuring to order through a website you’re familiar with, and you can correspond with the dressmaker more easily – but if the ethics of a chinese dress concern you, buying it through etsy doesn’t really make a difference.

      • Jan

        Yes, of course. Buyers should still do their due dilligence if ethics are a concern.

  • ssha

    Consignment stores if there is one in your area! Wonderful used dresses and accessories for like half the price you would pay new. I got all my wedding jewelry at one and my sister got her BM dress for $60.

  • Stephanie S.

    May I recommend a consignment store as an option for a more reasonably-priced dress? That’s where I found my wedding dress, which I adored, for $200, a couple hundred bucks less than a new version at David’s Bridal. Fit my budget and it was perfect, and I didn’t have to worry about whether it was cheaply made or anything since I got to try it on.

  • rebecca

    No, because it makes you uncomfortable enough to write this letter 🙂. It might be an ok choice for somebody else, but if you’re thinking about it this much, I don’t think you’ll feel great wearing it.

    • Eenie

      This.

  • honeycomehome

    I had a friend who ordered her dress from China and had a positive experience, though I think the color ended up being more “pink” than she wanted the blush color to be. But the dress was gorgeous. She put in lots of hours on research and communicating. So, just one anecdote to say that it won’t necessarily be a disaster.

    Personally, it’s more of a risk than I’d be comfortable with. Even the high-rated options that research suggests are safe bets are almost always ripping off designs and that’s where the ethics trouble me. I had my dress made by a local seamstress, which was THE BEST. But my dress was also really simple, so it wasn’t expensive. (I wouldn’t classify it as a “gown” in any sense, which is where custom dresses would get outrageous.)

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  • Rose

    I wouldn’t. I did one time order something from a Chinese clothing site (a big poofy petticoat for a costume, sold as a bridal petticoat). It was a site that someone I knew had successfully ordered from before, and it was only $20 or so, so I was willing to try it. It never came, and when I went looking I couldn’t find any record of the transaction anywhere. In that case, it was little enough money that I just let it go, but if it were hundreds of dollars and the money for your dress, I imagine it would be a huge headache to try to get it back.

    “Official” wedding dresses aren’t expensive for no reason–many of them are high quality design, materials, and construction. Even if a company steals the designs, the other two components won’t be cheap either. If you want a dress that looks fancy but don’t care too much about the quality (which is fine! you don’t have to, this isn’t judging you), maybe look for a prom dress or a Quinceanera dress? You could probably find somewhere where you could try them on in person, and know what you were buying.

  • Alli

    Does anyone know how often Davids Bridal has their $99 sales? This could be an option for LW

    • I feel like they do it every 3-4 months, so another sale should be coming up soon.

  • LydiaRose

    I don’t know where you are located but in the Washington DC area there are two- three non-profits that sell used/sample dresses for a very reasonable price. St. Anthony’s Bridal dresses are mainly around the $195 mark and go up to $250. Cherie Amour have some stunning dresses featured on their Facebook page, though I’m not sure about their pricing, and there’s also Fairytale Bride on a Shoestring in Rockville. I sometimes volunteer for St Anthony’s so happy to share any info. Good luck!

    • LydiaRose

      I also agree that renting a dress if a fab idea-try Borrowing Magnolia and also Rent the Runway has a small bridal section as well! And I’ve seen some lovely dresses on CL (though beware the typical scammers, always buy from someone local).

  • NotMotherTheresa

    In terms of ethics, honestly, 90% of the things you’d buy in a boutique are made in similar sweatshop-y conditions (particularly when we’re talking about lower-end dresses), so I don’t think that’s a huge reason not to do it.

    As for quality….that’s just super hit or miss! I’ve heard of people getting awesome dresses that way, and I’ve heard some horror stories. There’s also a vast middle ground between those two extremes–without being able to try it on beforehand, and without being able to know EXACTLY how high the quality is, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll end up with something that’s decent-ish and wearable, but not really the dress of your dreams, either.

    Personally, I considered it, but ended up buying a dress on clearance for about $400 (it had been $2,000). If I hadn’t found something in my price range that I liked as much as I did, I would have probably gambled and ordered from China, but since I found something lovely and within budget (albeit at the very top of my budget), I was happy to cough up the extra $100 or so for the peace of mind. So, I guess my advice is to shop around first to see if you can find anything on clearance/consignment/etc. first, and then, if all else fails, look at the Chinese options.

    Also, another thing to think about is white bridesmaid dresses/white prom dresses. There are plenty of options out there that look very wedding-y without the wedding price tag (and, as a bonus, alterations are often cheaper on them, too).

  • Karen

    I will very much be the anomaly here and say that I did exactly what you’re considering…and it worked beautifully. The ethics thing didn’t bother me as much (if I’m honest, I just tried not to think about it…and like other posters have said, I can’t guarantee my dress was any more or less ethically made than other products from China imported to the US regularly). But it was $250, including shipping, and it a) was exactly what I ordered, b) fit like a glove, and c) arrived in less than 3 weeks.

    I found the dressmaker through Etsy, emailed her back and forth a few times, ordered lace swatches, and then had a coworker take my measurements at work one day. I literally sent her 4 numbers – bust, waist, hips, and length. And the dress arrived fitting me perfectly. I did have some minor alterations (length since I had ordered it long because I didn’t yet have shoes till later, getting a different sash/belt that I preferred, and some work around the neckline that was due to my not specifying exactly what I wanted…but not one change to how it fit my body). The person who did my alterations was astounded at both the quality of the dress and the price that I paid…she said she would have charged at least $800 to custom-make what I got.

    At the time, I really didn’t want to spend more than $500 on a dress. I also decided that I was willing to risk the $250 in case it didn’t work AND I had the time to do so.

    I know that my decision may not be a popular choice, but it worked for me. The dress itself was relatively simple (lace v-neck, satin sash, buttons down the back, small train) and I have a very straight up-and-down figure so maybe easier to fit? But I agree with 99% of other posters – it IS a gamble! Mine just happened to pay off.

    Lastly (sorry for the novel), another +1 for preownedweddingdresses.com! I had a dress before I took the gamble on the dress from China. I sold that one, recouping everything I paid (I had previously bought it on consignment but it was JCrew with tags still attached). So that can be a great option for finding dresses, especially if you happen to find one locally! The person I sold mine to actually came and tried it on and left with it in hand.

  • Alexa

    As someone who has purchased a wedding dress from China and has had multiple family members do the same, the answer is a BIG NO. This subject a bit touchy for me because I know so many people who got burnt buying wedding dresses from China. Just recently my new sister in law to be showed up to my house with a disaster of a wedding dress from China.
    Luckily we were able to find a great U.S online store that sells really cheap wedding dresses called Simply Fab Dress. Their web address is https://simplyfabdress.com

    Just in time too, we are only two months away from the wedding day. We got a beautiful a-line ball gown dress that looked exactly like the picture and the quality was great too.

  • SUZY

    No please do not do that. I made the mistake of ordering from tbdress and it was terrible. It looked nothing like the picture in the advertisement. It looked like a jr high teaching students how to sew project. And they will not let me return it. It’ll cost more to push the issue. It’s a costly mistake I wish I had never made. Very sad, so I have now give to David’s Bridal to get a different dress that way I know what I’m getting and I can have it altered if need be.
    Please save yourself the heartache and headache.

  • I think there’s a difference between ordering a dress from China, and ordering from a dressmaker in China, that often get conflated, and I suspect some of the difference in experiences comes from which the bride went for (and, of course, it’s not always obvious – companies that churn out knock offs often masquerade as solo dressmakers on sites like etsy).

  • Sara Schleske

    Having lived in China for awhile, I’d be suuuper careful about ordering from there as sometimes what they send you isnt even close to what you actually ordered (color, style, size, etc). Could work out great but you have to be willing to take that risk

  • Laura

    I’m just going to say that my friend ordered her dress from DH Gate, one of those websites. I did her measurements for custom measurements. She just got he dress and although it is slightly different than in the pictures, it is beautiful. It was cheap and turned out great. Ethics aside, some places really do work!

  • Kirsten Stevenson

    Not worth it. Ordered mine from China, sent pictures exactly of what I wanted, got professional measurements, paid for “designer material.” Dress wasn’t what I ordered at all – I said no train and there was a train – I wanted a-line and it was an enormous ballgown – fitting was completely off – I wanted non-shiny and it was very shiny. They never responded to my request for a refund. I ended up getting a great dress last minute from JCrew, but it was super stressful. I never cared about finding the “perfect” dress, and it ended up taking so much of my time.

  • Cate

    My best friend ordered her dress from one of the cheap Chinese websites and loved it. First, she bought one that while it looked good, she ended up wanting to go in a different direction. Since it was so cheap, she bought a second dress from the same website. The second one looked fantastic on her and she was very happy. In person, the fabric was definitely cheaper than your average David’s Bridal gown, but not to the point where anyone noticed. It really was a very beautiful dress – lots of lace, long train, low back.
    A couple of things to note:
    1) She ordered both dresses larger than her size in case she had to alter them. You can always remove fabric, you can’t add it on.
    2) She is very in shape and works hard to have an amazing figure, so she could pull off pretty much any style of dress. I think buying a gown without trying it on first would be a lot harder if you have insecurities or problem areas that you want covered.
    3) I think for the price she ended up paying for both dresses, she probably could have bought a lower end dress from David’s Bridal of better quality – but this is speculation.
    Ultimately, if you are on a very tight budget and your wedding dress is not your top concern/priority – and you don’t care as much about the ethics of it – sometimes it can work out. But is it worth the stress?

  • Ella

    I’m disappointed to see so many people say “well ethically it’s probably not worse than most of what is sold in department stores etc so therefore it’s fine,” instead of “ethically most of what’s sold in department stores etc is just as bad so let’s not buy from there either.” I know money is limited and not everyone has the time to buy second-hand, but that logic is really not fair when you could afford / have the time to shop more ethically.

  • ERE

    I’m In the minority here, but I think it’s fine to order a dress from China, especially if the budget is a big concern. Two points though, 1. You should know the website. There are some scam sites, but there are some really great sites too. I used lightinthebox.com and they were phenomenal. You can see reviews and pictures of real people wearing the dress, most dresses you can get custom tailored so they fit you to a T, and it won’t break the bank. Yes, it takes some time to get to you (like every other wedding dress in the world), but I’ve had a really great experience with them. 2. KNOW YOUR BODY TYPE. People think I’m joking but I’m really not. It’s super important, especially when ordering online, to know what silhouette works with your body type. I CANNOT wear a mermaid style dress, but there are other body types out there who rock em. So just be realistic about what type of dress will look best on you and fit your personal style. And no one has to know where you got your dress from as long as you’re happy with it.

  • MissFinch

    I did it, and it worked out absolutely perfectly. I got my dream dress for under $200, made to my exact measurements with special alterations like a colored sash and petticoat. I knew it was a gamble going in, but it was so cheap that I was prepared to lose the money if it turned out awful. I also went to several bridal stores that told me that I would need 9+ months notice to order a custom made dress through them (which I didn’t have), so it was such a relief to get something made and delivered in a month. The dress has a gorgeous weight to it, and while it’s not made of silk or anything (which was never in my budget anyway), the materials are very good quality. The lace applique is very well done, the petticoat was so substantial that I didn’t need anything else under the dress and I really couldn’t fault anything about it.

    The ethical considerations do irk me, but frankly, I know that all the dresses that were in my price range in bridal stores would probably be made in those very same factories. And although I do try to make ethical choices, this was my wedding – my (hopefully) ONE wedding in my whole life. If there was ever a time to choose selfishly rather than trying to be virtuous all the time… are you more interested in having the dress of your dreams, or proving a point? Especially when, if you look at the whole process of making any dress, there will be unethical practices in anything you could possibly get. And even if you got an independent designer through etsy, are you going to get them to trawl through the entire supply chain for every bit of fabric and thread that was probably manufactured in China anyway? And although I buy almost all my clothes secondhand and am not directly supporting fast fashion in that way, I can’t deny that I’m not benefiting from somebody’s sweatshop labour in a lot of the clothes I wear… even if you bought your dress secondhand, you can’t escape the fact that it was still likely made in those circumstances.

    As for the ethics of copying designs, this wasn’t even an issue for me. The dress I received was obviously inspired by the photos, but in aspects that were the same on any number of dresses I had looked at. The cut was the same, the lace was obviously different, and it was made of different materials. I changed certain design elements and colors too. There are only so many ways to make a wedding dress and nobody owns things like ruching or illusion necklines, and unless they are purchasing the original dress, pulling it apart and making direct copies of the original pattern.. I feel like what you end up with is less a copy of the original, but more a dress that happens to be inspired by another one.

  • Shelbs113

    OMG I ordered a dress from China. They used a photo of a beautiful dress from Pinterest and were only asking for $100. I thought, “what the heck” and ordered it. When it got here it was NOT the dress in the picture. Completely different fabric, didn’t fit, different sleeves. The dress in the picture was lace.. the dress the mailed me did not have a single piece of lace on it. After three months of battling back and forth I finally got a refund. Take it from me…. don’t waste your time!
    If you want to be budget friendly, try second hand. I know a ton of brides who want to sell their beautiful dresses for a fraction of what they spent!

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