Monday, March 12, 2012

made to measure vs. made to order (IS MY BRIDAL SALON RIPPING ME OFF??)

Dear ESB,

I would love to hear your opinion on my made-to-measure dress saga.

A few months ago I fell in love with a dress that cost over $4000. A lot of money, I know, but the lady in the boutique told me the dress would be made to measure, apart from length, which would be altered later, to suit my shoes.

In my naiveté, I paid a hefty deposit, thinking at least my pear shaped figure would be well fitted. But then I got the loveliest shoes and decided to ask for the dress to be cut to length too, since I'm petite. The boutique lady was strangely opposed to this, so I did some research and found that the dress will, in fact, be a standard size all over. In other words the sales person lied to me.

Should I:

1) suck it up, get the dress and say no more.
2) demand my deposit back.
3) contact the dressmaker to see if they can help me (for even more $)

It is only 4 months until my wedding, so my options may be limited and I don't know if I have any rights re the deposit.

Kind regards,
Duped Bride


Are they planning to do fittings with you when the dress is delivered?


I will be measured for the dress in May, it will arrive in the boutique in July and then will be altered, at further expense to me. I was told it would be cut to my bust, waist and hip measurements, but it will just be a standard size. Ho hum. Perhaps I'm making too much of this? I look forward to hearing your views.


Mkay. This one's way over my head. (I've never even been inside a bridal salon, if you can believe.) So I emailed Lanie, the proprietress of the Lovely Bridal Shop, to get her expert opinion.

Here's what she had to say:

Dear Duped Bride,

It seems like this dress was "the one" so I think there will be a workable solution for you. As a salon owner, I learned quickly and the hard way, the customer is always right. The wrath of an angry bride is not a pretty sight, so I imagine this shop is going to want to work it out for you.

This is by far one of the biggest sources of confusion and frustration for brides, so at least know you have company. Especially because the jargon is so foreign…made to measure, made to order, cut to size, what??? At Lovely, we try to be extremely clear (like, repeating our selves an insane number of times) to let a bride know her gown will be ordered in a standard size and 99 percent of the time, will still need alterations that do cost extra. Even then, we often have brides come back for their first try on and are shocked to see the gown is too large.

So future brides listen up: most dresses at bridal salons are MADE TO ORDER. That means it is ordered especially for you, but it is NOT custom to your measurements. It is ordered off of a vendor's standard size chart. And to do that, we must use the LARGEST measurement (I know, cruel) from either the bust, waist, or hip to determine your numeric size. This means the rest of gown will be too big and need to be altered to fit you perfectly.

Having that said, if this salon did say MADE TO MEASURE (meaning just that…the dress is cut to your exact measurements) then you should definitely be vocal about that to the shop manager. Call the salon and let them know you were told your gown would be made to measure, and that you don't feel you should have to pay the cost for alterations on the bust, waist and hips. Hopefully they will agree to at least offset the cost for you.

Since you will not be measured until May, I would ask the shop gal who measures you to see the vendor's size chart. That way, you can help make the decision on what size to order. Sometimes a bride is just an inch bigger in the hips, but if she wants a body hugging gown, it might be ok to go down a size. Either way, the point is, be a partner in the decision so when your dress arrives, you know how it should fit and where it will need work. But be forewarned…some designers have what is called "bridal sizing" (which is pretty much whack sizing from like 1872) so a size 6 in street clothes is a bridal size 10. Try not to focus on the number you are ordering, just focus on a size that works best with your measurements.

Would love to hear how it all works out for you. If you end up dress-less, you can always come into Lovely! We stock several designers so you can buy a dress right off the rack, and others can deliver in a few months. [Editor's Note: Lovely just opened a shop in LA, to better serve both east and west side brides.]

Either way, just focus on the end product, you looking amazing at your wedding, so that this little hiccup doesn't spoil the fun of your wedding planning.


Kenji Kawasumi by Alessandro Viero via Claire Cottrell via Ensuite via Vogue


  1. DB,
    The lady at the place is either an idiot or thinks her customers are idiots. Tell the place they have a choice, either refund the deposit or pay for the alterations, no compromises.
    Sounds like you like the dress so be nice. Say you'd rather continue to work with them rather than go elsewhere.

  2. wedding salons are shit, though maybe not Lovely? i ran into similar issues when purchasing my dress. so if they balk at the request for free alterations i say pick up your dress and go elsewhere. i did ... and managed to have everything done for about $45.

  3. Maybe I am dense, but if made to order is just a regular size dress what is the advantage of ordering a dress vs. buying a sample dress for around half of the cost? I bought a sample dress, but was given the impression that I was missing out on some perk by not getting a made to order dress.

  4. Yeah, the terminology is confusing, but it sounds like the woman at the salon explained that the dress would be cut to fit you... Best of luck straightening this out. It's difficult to walk the line between standing your ground yet being polite, but I'd say it's worth talking to the people at the salon to see if there is something that can be done. At the very least I would tell them they need to be clear about how they choose their words to avoid future problems - maybe you can save other women from being misled and confused.

  5. It sounds like they haven't properly informed you of their processes.
    I went in to a rather exxy store and they explained to me that they would measure me up, determine what size I fit into, make that size and then do any simple alterations.
    So I guess in a sense what they did could be considered made according to my measurements, but the terminology is terribly misleading if they haven't explained that they're just using the measurements to slot you into a size.

  6. I ran into the Made to Measure, Made to Order conumdrum while buying my wedding dress, and paid over $400 to alter my "made to order" dress, which was, literally, made when I ordered it. It was super annoying because in no other industry could it be expected that when you make a dress upon purchase (and given that exact measurements are taken upon purchase) that you cannot, at the same time and for minimal expense, have those measurements taken into consideration into the dress. So you have the RIGHT measurements and you have a gown you are MAKING and you can't do the two at the same time? I asked this about 100 times while buying my dress. The Wedding Dress Industry / Wedding Dress Designers thrives on one time only shopping, not return customers. Sorry to bridal salon owners - I'm sure you salons are nice and you are honest and good salespeople - it's the industry's whole set up that I find asinine.

    I mean, I bought a dress and loved it, even after all the money, but this girl knows when she's getting ripped off. But I'm never planning to buy another wedding dress, so what do I care?

  7. I had the same problem when buying my dress. As near as I can tell "made to measure" should mean made to your measurements (as in custom). "Made to order" means they measure you, determine what size you fall into, cut and make it for you and then you have to have it altered to fit you perfectly. It seems like it depends on which one of these you were told. I ended up taking my dress to a seamstress who charged me MUCH less than the bridal salon would have for alterations. (Also, look at the measurement chart for the dress manufacturer while they are measuring you. I was a half inch off the smaller size and 2 inches off the larger size and if I hadn't looked they would have ordered the larger size and I would have had much more extensive alterations. A half inch isn't very much and I fit into the dress by my wedding day.)

  8. Thanks for the advice ladies. I will at least ask to see the manufacturer's size chart, to get as close a fit as possible. Who knew this getting married malarkey would be so complex?!

    Duped Bride