Tue 13 Nov 2012
It’s been just over 7 weeks since my wedding day, and I’m finally ready to talk about it.
By it, I mean the dress.
Though everything worked out in the end – thanks to an insanely talented, Dublin-based dress designer named Sarah Foy – it almost didn’t. In fact, the story of the dress is one that almost ended very badly, with me frantically searching the wedding sales racks at Monsoon (which I did) and had my best friend from America sending me her own dress (which she did) in a last-ditch effort to find me something to wear on the big day.
It started out innocently enough. Back in late March, I started the search for my wedding dress and found what I thought was the perfect dress within 40 minutes of walking into the first shop – Berketex Bride in the Jervis Centre. I went with my friend Sinead, and a very helpful saleswoman named Claire chose a few dresses based on what I said I wanted and my body shape. I fell in love with the third one I tried on and decided to buy it straight away. I paid for it in full (big mistake), and Claire advised that I write down my wedding date as August 3rd, well over a month before my actual wedding date, just so I could be sure to have plenty of time to get alterations if I needed it. “It’ll be our little secret,” she said.
She also stated that the dress would be ready “around July 20th” and that someone from the shop would ring when it was in the shop. Done and dusted!
I had almost forgotten about the dress when I noticed the date on my calendar – July 30th. I rang the shop, and kindly asked if my dress had arrived. I was told by the woman on the other end of the phone that it was not there yet. When I mentioned that my wedding was only three days away, she said, “Aw well it’s not really on the 3rd now, is it?” I don’t really understand why Claire would offer to put down the August 3rd date if she was going to turn right around and order my dress for the actual date. In any case, the saleswoman said it would be in the shop the following week. Fair enough.
I got a call the following week saying the dress had arrived and was asked if I’d like to schedule an in-shop fitting with their seamstress. Sure, why not? I made my appointment for the following Wednesday. The night before, I got a phone call from another woman at the shop. She said their seamstress’ 12-year-old daughter had been rushed to the hospital and that she needed to reschedule the following week. Of course I said yes, and gave her my condolences. We made my appointment for the following Saturday.
The following Friday, around 4 pm, I got a phone call. Apparently the seamstress’ daughter was still not better, so they had to reschedule again. But as I’d just been given a recommendation of a local dressmaker who does alterations, I told the saleswoman on the phone that I’d collect my dress regardless and would be taking it to my own seamstress. It wasn’t a bother at all; I just wanted to get the dress as my wedding dress was fast approaching. Suddenly there was panic in her voice. “But you really should use our seamstress,” she said, stammering. I told her I found a perfectly suitable person and that I’d see her tomorrow morning, as I was coming in to get my dress. She was still trying to talk me out of it when I finally hung up the phone (I was at work and had to go!).
About 30 minutes later, I received a call from the Berketex London office. “Our Dublin shop wanted us to ring you, because they were steaming your dress and noticed a flaw in the fabric. They’ve now re-packed the dress and shipped it back to London, so you cannot collect your dress tomorrow as it’s not there any longer.” It was nearly 5 PM, on a Friday. Though I cannot prove it, I’m pretty sure the shop never had the dress in the first place; this latest story was just too far-fetched to be true. “You mean to tell me that in the last half-hour, the dress has been repackaged and sent back to London? It’s 5 o’clock on a FRIDAY?!!” I was angry at this point. “Well I’m just relaying the message, I am not in the Dublin shop….”How convenient.
I then wrote an email to customer service, saying how upset I was and that I suspected all of the previous excuses were lies – pretty low to use a sick child as an excuse. They simply responded that my replacement dress would be there shortly. A few days later, I received an email from a woman at the London office, gleefully stating that my dress, “by designer Emily Fox, ivory colour, sized xx,” was in the Dublin shop and ready for pick-up. “Well that’s great,” I wrote back. “But that’s the wrong size. The dress I ordered is one size larger than the one you just emailed me about.” Within minutes I received a response, saying it was her typo and that yes, the size I ordered was in the shop.
The next day I went into Berketex and tried on the dress. As the saleswoman struggled to close the back, I asked her what size this dress was. “Well it’s the one you ordered,” she said. The dress was definitely too tight, and there was no way I could get into it. The lacing stretched all the way across the back – about 8 inches wide. She then suggested she re-measure me, and went about with her measuring tape. “Well, you’ve gained three inches in your waist – that’s why the dress doesn’t fit,” she said.
Now before I go on any further, let me be clear: I’m not so vain that I’d lie about gaining weight. I’ve never been thin, and I’m OK with that. But in this case, it simply wasn’t true. In fact, I’d lost about a half a stone (7 lbs.) since the day I purchased the dress, and my doctor’s records can prove that beyond any doubt (I get weighed at most of my appointments and there had been a drop in weight as, like most brides, I had been working at it!). Most people at work, my friends and even Mountaineering Man had been commenting (unsolicited) on my weight loss over the previous months. I told the salesgirl that I had not gained any weight, and that saying I’d gained three inches was a bit odd considering I was still wearing the same clothes/pants as I had worn for the last year. Three inches? Seriously?
“Well, you may have lost weight but your dimensions have changed,” she said, with a big, stupid smile on her face. She kept repeating this after I’d gotten dressed and was now standing in the main room of the store, still trying to understand her reasoning. Of course other shoppers in the store could now hear her, and I got pitiful looks from all of them. I came off like a bride in denial – a case of the lady doth protest too much. I looked inside the dress for a size tag, but there was none. While I could not prove it was the wrong size, it certainly seemed like a major coincidence considering the email I received earlier.
After much arguing with customer service via email, they agreed to send “the bigger size,” which according to them was one size larger than the one I ordered. I felt they just didn’t want to admit their mistake, so they were going to insist on sending the size up from what I ordered – not a size up from the one in the shop, which was clearly not the right size! I got the dress a week later, and it was massive. This time I was able to lace the back until both sides closed entirely, and I still had to hold it up with both hands. I’m no dress designer but I know the difference between a size medium and an extra-large – and this dress was two sizes bigger than the one that was previously in the shop.
At this point I was too humiliated by my previous visit to go back to Berketex. A girl at work told me about Sarah Foy, a dress designer in Clontarf who’d made her wedding dress. Though I was utterly defeated when I first met with Sarah, by the time I left her studio I felt hopeful and excited about the dress I’d almost come to hate. She worked her magic and not only made the dress fit properly but made it look better than it ever had. She also designed and made a beautiful lace bolero jacket to go with the dress. She made me feel the way a bride is supposed to feel, excited for her big day. I regret not doing any research prior to dress shopping, because if I had, I would have seen the hundreds of online complaints lodged against Berketex Bride. My other regret is that I didn’t meet Sarah first, because her dresses are absolutely gorgeous.
As I won’t ever need to go into Berketex Bride again, all I can do is put up this blog post to warn other would-be brides. The company’s tagline is, “50 years of making your bridal dreams come true.” I have to respectfully disagree.