I am posting this blog in hopes that it helps future brides avoid having the same experience I did. This was difficult to write but if it helps even one bride-to-be, it was worth posting 🙂
Brides – I hope you can learn from my experience and not wind up in the same position I found myself in as a result of the service provided to me when shopping for my wedding dress.
I ignored the bad reviews because Le Spose di Milano was the only place I could try on the two dresses I was interested in purchasing, and as a result I ended up with a dress that cost more than 5000 Euros, was covered in dirt, full of holes, and had plastic boning cutting through the fabric. While our guests say they loved having the opportunity to attend our wedding in Switzerland, unfortunately for me, my wedding day wasn’t everything I had hoped. I had an ill fitting, unflattering dress and when you don’t feel good, you can’t enjoy yourself.
Part 1 – Finding a dress
It all started early in 2017 when I called Le Spose di Milano ahead and was told I could visit the shop despite the fact that there was a trunk show on. I gathered my friends in the car and drove the 4 hours from Zurich (where I live) to Milan, where I was met at the door with surprise.
The staff at the store couldn’t believe I had been told over the phone that seeing dresses from one designer was completely fine during the trunk show of another designer. I was told it was an embarrassment to the store that one of the girls had to help me rather than tending to the designer who was present. I only made the trip because I had been invited to do so, but I was made to feel like I was a burden. I left disappointed that I’d brought my friends all the way from Switzerland and we were no closer to finding my wedding dress.
A few months later, after struggling to find something I liked, I ended up falling in love with Caroline Castigliano’s “Lyla” and “Everlasting” gowns that I came upon online. Unfortunately after extensive searching, I learned that Le Spose di Milano was the ONLY place that I could try on both dresses within driving distance from Zurich. After much debate and apprehension, I decided to give them one more try.
Again, I crossed the border to Milan to try on the dresses and after much consideration and debate I decided on the “Everlasting” gown, which had a price tag of 3500 Euros. Oh well, I thought, I love the dress and you only get married once.
A few weeks later, I began to have second thoughts about the way the gown would fit me when manufactured in my size, so I called the Castigliano flagship store in London for some advice. They advised me that for my body type the Lyla gown would be a much better fit. I asked them to get in touch with production on my behalf to see if it was still possible to change gowns. They never wrote me back.
Shortly after, I followed up with Le Spose di Milano to ask them if it was still possible to change the gown. They informed me that my dress hadn’t started being worked on and it was still possible to change it but it would cost an additional 20%. I explained that I had initially called a few weeks before and the late fee was reduced to 10%. I also paid a surcharge to change the material the dress was made of. At this point I accepted that my dress would cost me 4300 Euros.
I understood and accepted that as long as I received a dress I absolutely loved, I could live with this high cost. It was, after all, partly my fault for changing my mind.
Part 2 – The tailoring process
In July it was time for my first fitting. My fiancee Jason and I took time off work and arranged with Le Spose di Milano to expedite the tailoring process by spending two days in Milan since I was coming from out of town. I arrived at Le Spose di Milano bright and early Monday morning excited to finally see my dress! I was brought up to a fitting room where I waited for over 20 minutes. The team eventually brought my dress into the room and I tried it on. It was SEVERAL sizes too big. It seemed very clear to me that the wrong size had been ordered from London despite measurements having been taken when I ordered the gown. I hadn’t lost weight for the sake of the wedding and the shop would not admit that a mistake had been made, but from the look on the seamstress’s face I was worried that the tailoring process was going to be a problem.
In addition to that, the belt that was meant to be included with the Lyla gown was missing. Either Castigliano hadn’t sent it, or it had been lost upon delivery to Le Spose di Milano, this was never explained to me. My entire body was then covered with pins and I was told to come back the next morning for my second fitting.
I left the shop in tears.
Jason and I stayed in Milan for another night which cost another 200+ Euros.
I arrived back at the shop the next morning and at that point the dress had been completely opened up and severely altered. There were still imperfections everywhere but the dress fit relatively well at that point. The main problems were that the seams weren’t straight, and the silk on the back of the dress was pulling in all directions. With that said, I was confident that with a little bit more tailoring it would be OK and so before I left the shop I suggested that I pay the remaining 3300 Euros I owed on the dress. Paying for something that was not yet finished was the biggest mistake I made in this process.
I was told the dress would be ready at 5:30pm. Jason and I arrived back promptly at that time and I was escorted up a fitting room where I waited for an additional 30 minutes. When the staff eventually arrived with my dress, the back of the dress had been tailored even further and its condition was significantly worse than it had been in the morning. They had literally over-tailored the dress to the point that the bodice had been ruined. The ladies in the shop all agreed, this wasn’t a dress I could leave with.
At that point they told me to go wait at the pub across the street while they attempted to fix the pulling on the back of the bodice one last time. They bought Jason and I dinner. We waited for hours. We both had to work in Zurich the next morning, yet we were still in Milan at 11pm.
Eventually, they called me back into the shop. I put the dress back on – it was as though nothing had been changed. It was established that the bodice was beyond repair and needed to be remade.
Despite the situation, I was assured that the dress maker was the best in the world. I, of course, found this hard to believe given the state of affairs I was in. In short, the dress had been ordered too large and then over-tailored to the detriment of the integrity of the garment. My soon-to-be husband had been waiting in the car for more than 3 hours. I was at my wits end.
I hate confrontation. Surprisingly, I was completely calm during this entire ordeal. Unfortunately, we had reached an impasse. I was told I had no choice but to return to Zurich empty handed and I would need to return to Milan to collect my dress the following weekend. This meant another 9 hours of driving, just a few weeks before my wedding, as well as additional unforeseen costs.
We arrived home at 4am that night and were up for work three hours later.
Part 3 – Requesting compensation for lost time and money
During the time my dress was being fixed, I emailed Le Spose di Milano to request compensation for everything I’d been through. I was told they were unwilling to do anything to rectify the situation financially, and it was suggested that what had happened was my fault as a result of changing the material the dress was made of.
Jason and I returned to Milan the following Saturday. I was informed that over the course of the week, they had ordered more silk from London in order to fix the dress. I tried it on again, and it looked OK. The seams weren’t straight and the dress was by no means perfect, but at this point the wedding was only a few weeks away so there was nothing I could do but take the flawed gown home.
Before I left the shop I asked them to please clean the dress, fix the remaining imperfections and iron it. Jason and I waited another hour and then when I was given the final product it was zipped tightly inside a garment bag. I took the dress, said goodbye and drove back to Zurich for the last time.
The next morning I removed the dress from the garment bag. It was still dirty from the tailoring process. This led me to examine it much more closely than I’d had the opportunity to in the store. I discovered that the dress was covered in dirt in various places and it had been ironed so that the lining of the dress was over the outside of the silk. The fabric was frayed around the arm holes and none of the seams lined up. The sewing was haphazard, and you could see that the buttons had been moved by tiny pulls all throughout the silk next to each button’s new location. The boning in the bodice was jaggedly cut and actually pushing through the lining, and there was watermelon-sized hole in the inside of the dress. At that point I took as many photos as I could (see below).
I was crushed. I had not received the dress that I had fallen in love with a few months before and at that point there were only two weeks remaining before our wedding. The dress was a wedding gift from my mom that ended up being significantly over budget. I was so embarrassed having made a very bad, very expensive mistake. I had to accept the fact that the product of such a negative experience would have to be worn in hundreds of photos in front of everyone I love on my wedding day.
I am a fixer and to my dismay, at that point there was literally nothing that could be done. I took the dress to the seamstress down the street and she did what she could snip the loose threads and tidy it up a bit. I then took it to a special cleaner where it took the remaining 10 days and cost an additional 250 Francs to clean the dress and iron it for the wedding.
In a last ditch effort to salvage the situation I sent one last plea for help to both Le Spose di Milano and Caroline Castigliano clearly outlining everything that had happened from a customer service perspective. They both ignored my email for over a week. The following week I called the Caroline Castigliano shop. To my surprise, Caroline Castigliano herself was put on the phone and explained that she thought they’d already gotten back to me. This was not the case. She then told me that she was in agreement that the whole situation was incredibly unfair to me and that Le Spose di Milano should absolutely be giving me my money back. She said she was going to call them on my behalf. She also told me that she could send me a whole new wedding dress on a rush order, but for regular price (around another 5000 Euros). I never heard back from her or anyone from her team again. I have followed up numerous times and they’ve continued to ignore me.
I then followed up with Le Spose di Milano. They once again insinuated that the downfall of the dress was my fault for changing the fabric and that they had created an amazing custom made item for me. They said under no circumstances would they reimburse me as they felt I was happy with my purchase when I left their shop. This was, of course, not the case. They also threatened legal action against me because I had directly spoken to the designer about the pitfalls of the situation. They ignored all of the photo evidence I sent them and said they couldn’t take it seriously as the photos weren’t taken in their shop.
Here is an actual excerpt from the email response they sent me:
On my wedding day I put on the dress not because I loved it, but because I had nothing else to wear. It was ill fitting and uncomfortable and I felt awful in it. It’s impossible to enjoy any situation when you don’t feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, especially on your wedding day when you want everything to be perfect.
Because I had to rush it to the cleaner and pick the dress up the day before the wedding, I didn’t have time to try it on at home. When I put it on for the wedding I realized that the straps were completely different from the original dress. The photos below show you the difference between the sample dress in the shop, my dress once the seamstress made it too small so that it was pulling, and then the ill fitting dress that she completely recreated worn on my wedding day. (Photos are clickable)
I changed out of the dress as soon as humanly possible.
Part 4 – Moving Forward.
I have worked in communications in Canada for the past 13 years. I have worked with designers, set up gifting lounges, worked with stylists, dealt with countless fittings and I’ve never been treated this poorly in a customer service scenario in my life.
I never would have guessed that my experience in buying a wedding dress would have ended up this way. I have been so disrespected that I am at a loss. All I was hoping for was to look pretty and wear a beautiful dress for one day to marry someone I love. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Instead I have spent an unimaginable amount of time focused on something that certainly doesn’t deserve the time that has been invested.
I am forever grateful to my family, friends and now husband for being by my side on such a special day, but it’s hard not to feel that the experience wasn’t tainted, just a little.
I’m sure that both of these organizations will try and defend themselves somewhere, somehow but throughout this process I have been faced with nothing but a lack of honesty and accountability so I wouldn’t take anything they say too seriously. Please learn from my experience and I hope you have better luck in finding the dress of your dreams than I did. XO
Thanks so much for reading this and for all your kind and encouraging messages ❤