-- Sarah Weber bought her wedding dress online in order to save time and money -- but she says the dream dress she hoped for turned to a nightmare.
Weber paid about $200 for a beautiful lace gown, but when her purchase arrived just two weeks before her January wedding, the Belcamp, Maryland, woman told “GMA” Investigates that the dress looked nothing like it did in the picture.
“The measurements weren’t right, there’s black dirt on the bottom of the dress, there’s strings hanging out the bottom," she said, adding: "The buttons were falling off … It's heartbreaking when you want something to look beautiful and it's a hot mess.”
“I was crying, I was hysterical," she said.
There are numerous websites that sell wedding dresses and bridal party attire some customers have found to subpar. Many of the websites are based in China.
On SiteJabber.com, a website that allows consumers to rate online businesses, there are thousands of complaints about situations like Weber’s, and Facebook also has pages devoted to dress disasters.
To see what would happen, “GMA” Investigates ordered three dresses from Chinese-based websites that have received poor reviews. We sent exact measurements for one of our producers standing in for a bride and bridesmaid.
Two of the dresses we received had real problems. For the bridesmaid's dress, the zipper wouldn't close and the proportions were off. The wedding dress arrived dirty and with unfinished edges and puckering in the bust.
Brides aren’t the only one feeling as though they got a bad deal. Some sites reportedly outright steal designs, making it look like they offer designer dresses at a fraction of the price. Some sites even take photos from designers’ websites, but what brides-to-be get is often far from the real deal.
In a public service announcement, Jim Verraros, vice president of Bridal Expo Chicago and member of the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association, cautioned brides about the potential cost of purchasing a knockoff designer gown online.
“Look, weddings can be a little expensive but buying a designer gown from unauthorized online websites is a huge mistake,” he said in the video. “It’s not a good way to save money because you will be receiving counterfeit goods. It’s nearly always a bait and switch scam.”
“GMA” Investigates visited Martin Thornburg, the head designer for David Tutera wedding gowns, to see just how different the fakes are from the real thing.
Asked how it felt to see a counterfeit of his design, Thornburg replied: “It's very upsetting … You would almost call it a Halloween costume, compared to a very fine garment,” he said.
Thornburg ordered ripoffs of his own designs from one of 1,100 counterfeit dress websites that a federal court has since ordered be shut down. On one of the counterfeit dresses, Thornburg said, “you can see they’ve used all plastic stones, that’s why these look black, none of the seams are covered.“
The fakes cost less than $320. His designs are nearly $1,000 more.
Luckily for Weber, she found a new dress at David’s Bridal and got rush alternations. She offered the following advice: “Spend a little extra money because in the long run, it will be worth it."