Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brides: Made in the USA

There is an overwhelming and pervasive sense of patriotism in our country - our economy has been affected by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and regional floods, our coastline is the victim of an oil spill and a war rages on on the other side of the world. We all want to support our brothers and sisters by spending our dollars locally, and if not locally, then at least in the United States.

It is with this in mind that I will often have brides arrive in my dressing room and start asking questions about the gown they like, "Is this made in the USA?"

Now I don't purport to be an expert on every manufacturer and design house available, particularly the ones that are very pricey. But I can tell you this: the dresses that fall into the $1000 range, plus or minus a few hundred are all made in China. To my knowledge, there are no exceptions to this rule, unless you are talking about a seamstress making a dress custom for a bride, but I'll discuss that in a minute.

Why is it that these garments are made in China? Let's do the math. On a thousand dollar dress at least $500 to $600 goes to the store where it was purchased, to pay for their costs (rent, utilities, cost of samples, commission to salespeople, shipping, labor to have it pressed and prepped, etc.) leaving $400 to $500 to cover the manufacturer's costs (designers, administration and distribution, advertising, materials and factory expenses and, of course, hours of hand labor for the assembly and beading of these garments). Since the Chinese will work for pennies on the dollar that an American will be paid, the same exact dress, were it to be made in the USA, would be hundreds if not thousands more, depending on the number of hours required to make each one.

In an ideal world, we would have all our manufacturing needs, including wedding gowns, manufactured domestically. Unfortunately, since the 85% of brides are going to spend between $500 and $1500 for their dress (most of the rest will spend less), that puts American-made dresses out of the running. If you have the money to spend, and country of origin is important to you, I applaud you for making America and our fellow citizens your priority. If you are trying on dresses and you ask the salesperson where the dress was manufactured, and you think you might be getting a runaround, check the label. It is the law to keep these two tags inside every garment: the country of manufacture and cleaning instructions. So you should be able to find this information out just by looking in the seam of your dress. If this tag is not there, ask about it, because it is illegal for the bridal store to remove it on both on the sample and on your actual dress.

If you fall into this price point, and spending your money locally is important to you, I can offer two suggestions. The first is that you can opt to try for an independent seamstress to make one for you custom. They will not have all the overhead of the design house. The downside for some brides is the leap of faith required for having a dress made that has not been tried on. Even if you bring the seamstress a picture of a dress you love and ask her to copy it, she certainly does not have the pattern and her creation will fit differently than the sample you may have tried on. Another downside is that if the dress has a lot of expensive fabric or beadwork, the materials and labor cost may end up pricing you out of your budget anyway.

The other option for spending locally is what most of my well-intentioned brides end up doing: resign yourself to the fact that the dress will be made in china, but choose to purchase your dress from a longstanding member of your community. So when a bride elects to purchase her dress from me, she is supporting me and my family, my co-workers and their families, as well as the many charities and community causes that my store supports.

My admiration goes to those of you who think of the bigger picture and how you can affect change. America has thrived because of brides like you!

1 comment:

Madison said...

Very interesting post and I like the way you resolve the buy locally issue. We forget that by purchasing locally we are still supporting the sales person, store owner and all the vendors involved with that store (electric company, water company, trucking etc.) Thanks for the reminder.