Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trial by Taffeta

What do I sell? Is it beautiful dresses? No - you can get those at any mall in America. I sell DREAMS. It is a fantasy of the perfect day, where you get everything you want, and everything that surrounds you is splendid, and everyone behaves exactly the way you want them to. In my store, everywhere you look you will see through rose colored glasses, and there will be a soft haze over everything and violin music in your head. Because weddings and wedding gowns are about fantasies.

So imagine my surprise when I strayed from my world of rainbows and dove releases to find myself empaneled on a jury for a trial this week. I cannot speak of it, suffice it to say that it is a criminal trial, and the defendant is accused of behaving in such a fashion as would not be appropriate for my fantasyworld.

So I serve as is my duty as a citizen. America is wonderful and has given us so many wonderful things, including an open market in which different people with differing visions of a white dress can produce their product and make it available to you and me. And that is why we have choices. And that is why, even though it is disruptive to both my work and family life, I march into the courthouse ready to play my part. Perhaps I should wear my best Swarovsky crystal tiara to court to keep the fantasy alive?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Rant or How Wedding Gowns are like Cars

It is the week of Thanksgiving folks, and those of us in the bridal retail business are not immune to the thrill of "black Friday." Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year in wedding gown stores, mostly because Brides consider it an opportunity to shop for their dress while surrounded by all the family and friends that have come home for the holidays. So not only is the store full with appointments, but each appointment will likely be accompanied by a bevy of bridesmaids, grandmas, moms and more. What this leads to is an atmosphere of overstimulation and mass confusion.

It is just this confusion that leads me to find an explanation for the views expressed by one particular bride of mine, let's call her Dharma. Dharma came shopping on a holiday weekend, we were her first stop of the morning, with 3 more appointments scheduled later in the day at different stores. She was accompanied by a posse of "helpers" and the appointment went very well. A lovely girl, very petite, so I made a style recommendation for her after seeing her taste, hearing about her wedding, and seeing her in a few dresses. She loved it, and at the end of the appointment, it was her favorite. She left for the rest of her fun day with the crew.

On Monday I got a call from her - she decided that the dress I had recommended for her was THE ONE! The complicating factor was that she lived out of state and had been home for the holidays, and wasn't planning on being back for months, so she gave me a credit card over the phone and I ordered it for her.

Months later, her dress arrived, just beautiful! I called her, she paid the balance and asked me to ship it to her. I did, and patted myself on the back for another happy bride!

Wait! Not so fast...!

I receive a concerned call a few days later... there's been a mistake! This is not the dress I ordered! I tried to reassure her that, indeed, this was the same dress she had ordered - what makes her think it is not? She says that it doesn't look like the same beading on it. She is very insistent, and since we cannot see the dress while speaking with her, our only option is to have her ship it back to us at our expense to examine her area of concern.

So I receive the dress back in the store and hang it up next to the sample. They look almost identical to me, other than the sample being a size 10 and hers a size 4, and that the sample is grungy and hers is new and pristine. So I call her and share what I see. She insists that the dress is a different dress than the one she ordered.

Now I'm in a difficult spot. I desperately want ALL of my brides to be thrilled with their gown and to be ecstatic with their relationship with me and the store. But I KNOW that this is the same dress she ordered, and her area of concern stems from the fact that her dress is smaller than the sample, so the appliqued details are, likewise, proportionately smaller in areas. For example, there are five appliqued flowers across the bust, and in order to fit five appliqued flowers across the bust of a size 4 dress, the flowers are slightly smaller. Makes, sense, right? Not to her.

The real nightmare begins when she sends her Dad to the store (remember, she's out of state!) to "set me straight". He arrives in a whirlwind, and demands to see his daughter's dress and the original sample to compare. I oblige and hang them both in good light so he can compare. He whips out a measuring tape and begins to examine both garments closely, measuring the size of appliques and the distances between them. (I'd like to remind you that I, and my colleagues, work with the very popular dress every day, sell it frequently, and not only have we never had a problem, but also failed to see the differences between the two hanging gowns.) I even receive a call from the office asking me what the man with the measuring tape is doing in the middle of the sales floor. "Dharma," I reply, which is enough for my boss to understand the situation. At the end of his examination, he gives me a list of discrepancies between the two dresses, which, for an ornately beaded and appliqued dress that is hand worked, is surprisingly few, and explains his theory. "It's like with cars," he says, "you sold my daughter the 2009 model, but are giving her the 2010 model. She doesn't want this model, she wants the one she tried on in the store in the first place."

Interesting theory. But completely wrong. I explain to him that dresses do not change over time, they are designed and produced, some will be discontinued, and others will be added to the line. But never does a designer decide midstream to start making a particular dress differently. It just doesn't work that way; the dresses are designed domestically, but produced in China, and once the factory has set up the cutting for a particular style, it runs the same way until discontinued.

I believe he was either impressed with how much knowledge I had of the process, or he realized that his out-of-state daughter was overreacting, because when I walked away to confer on a possible solution with my boss, I heard him say into his cell phone that there were "no differences, really, between the two dresses". Vindication!

In the end, we agreed to send the dress back to the manufacturer and replace it quickly with another one they had in the same color and size. We received the new dress back, shipped it to the bride (again, it looked exactly the same as the first to me!) and she was satisfied.

Wish me luck this year, and let's hope the curse of Turkey Day does not strike!...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful Bride? DEPENDS...

Okay, Ladies. I thought I had heard it all. That was, until yesterday. Yesterday, when someone mentioned Bridal Diapers.

I didn't believe it. I came home and Googled it, and sure enough, the internet is filled with discussions of this lastest trend. Got a wedding gown that is especially big, or too complicated to use the bathroom gracefully? Forget bringing your Maid of Honor to the restroom with you to perform her best-friend duty of holding your skirt up while you pee, forget trying to reach around the multitudinous folds of luxurious fabric you loved in the bridal salon, holding the wad of toilet paper for proper cleaning. No, some clever, outside-the-box thinking Bride decided that this indignity was not worthy of her big day... and decided that diapers were the solution.

Really? Doesn't this sound faintly reminiscent of the astronaut who crossed from Texas to Florida to confront her romantic rival and wished not to make any pit stops on the way, and wore her NASA-designed Depends on the road? That woman was kooky, and this trend is not that far off the kook-train...

If you think Bridal Diapers sound like a good idea, a smart solution to the desire to not leave your dance floor for even a moment to orchestrate a feat of physics whenever nature calls, I ask you this: you may have succeeded in not needing to visit the loo throughout your event, but if the problem is the complicated nature of your dress, doesn't that mean, by definition, that you may need some assistance in removing it at the end of the day? And when your new husband, bright and shiny with the promise of a rosy future married life with you, does romantically lower your zipper (can you hear the Barry White in the background?), don't you think it'll be a mood killer to find a soggy diaper where he may have expected satin and lace? Dunno - I'm just sayin'... trust me, a 10-years married woman - you have YEARS of undignified moments ahead of you - don't let your wedding night be the start of the end of the mystery...!