This was the dress I should have worn on my wedding day and what it should have looked like.
This is the disaster that I ended up with!!
Our shocking story
When people prepare for their big day they spend some time ensuring that you find the best possible people to do those important things. You look very hard to make sure that everything for your day is perfect. We as with anyone else were very budget savvy and we made sure that we had picked the right people. When it came to dress alterations we were even more careful…. When I was looking for my dress for the big day I looked high and low. I had always dreamed of being married in black and white so when I finally found a dress named Vincenza by Maggie Sottero I was blown away it was perfect, this dress was years of dreams in front of me. My heart literally missed a beat when Iooked at it, I was so thrilled when I found out that it was stocked at Abbey Bridal in Melbourne; I rushed to the store and tried it on. Immediately I was in love, I wanted the dress, then I looked down at the price, there was no way I could ever afford this dress, it was almost $3000, it was just an impossibility for our budget really. I then began the long search to find my dream dress I looked everywhere, what I didn’t want was a poor made knock off that is often sold on eBay, I wanted the genuine dress, after all it is what I fell in love with!! Bill and I were going to Europe so I extended my search to there too. I could not believe my luck when I found on eBay the dress. I spoke with the seller, I found out that the dress had never been worn and was in fact still in the shop. The bride to be had changed her wedding plans and was selling the dress, so I asked if I could pick it up in a few months time if I won the auction. The seller was more than happy for me to pick it up then, after all it was in the shop so it was not in the way. The auction time approached and I lost the auction, I was pretty gutted but I knew I had found one so another will pop up before the day. *sigh* A couple of days had passed and I got an email from the seller she told me that the buyer had fell through, they did not read the details of the auction properly and the size they wanted was a lot bigger than what the dress was. So I was offered to buy the dress, of course I jumped at the chance. As a side not we have kept in contact with Danielle and still do to this day, we have become very close friends over the last few years. We not long ago have the wonderful fortune to be able to go to her wedding. It was funny telling other guests how our friendship began, all over a dress that was never worn!! It was a friendship that was meant to be!!
In August 2006 and Bill and I found out way to the UK and to Danielle’s. On first sight of the dress Bill knew instantly why I wanted it, Yes Bill saw the dress before the big day!! He agreed 100% with my choice, he loved every single detail, and I loved every single detail. I often heard people say “the photo don’t do it justice” well this is also a case of the photos just do not do the dress justice. The crystals, the bead work the embroidery, the dress everything was nothing short of breathtaking. Bill and I had a few more days in the UK and as we were in a small motor home I tossed most of our clothes out of the cupboard to make space for the dress, LOL!.
The day we were to come home I laid the dress very carefully in my suit case, gave it a gentle stroke and told her I would see her in Melbourne. I didn’t want the dress to go in baggage I wanted to carry it on board. We spoke with check in and they advised us to take the dress with us on board. So I hugged my beautiful dress and we pottered about Heathrow till our plane was ready. Bill laid my dress gently in the overhead compartment, it was not a very full flight so there was plenty of room. Someone went to dump their bag on top of my dress, Bill was standing guard and he said to the guy “better not put that there mate, it’s the missus’s wedding dress, she will kill me if it gets ruined”
We took off and we were home bound, we got to Hong Kong and things seemed a bit out of place, we were extra security checked and bags were checked and so on. We didn’t think much of it till we got to Melbourne and that night a neighbour asked if we got caught up in the craziness that had happened at Heathrow. No, we said quizzically, we had found out that there was a massive security breach and all airports were now in lockdown as some people had tried to take liquids or something to the effect to do something sinister to the planes. YIKES!! It was one of the worst types of threats to the modern day since world war two!! We were pretty lucky to avoid that, no liquids were allowed in cabin baggage and no carryon baggage other than passport and purse items were now allowed. It could have been a very scary and uncomfortable time indeed.
When we got home I put my beautiful dress away, I was so so excited I now had my dream dress, my next plans were to accessorise. I found the perfect shoes, the perfect veil. We had surrounded our entire wedding theme around this beautiful dress, everything we had was going to match beautifully. Our bridesmaids were in black, our junior bridemaid and flower gilr were both in dresses that matched my dress beautifully, they were the same colours and the beading and pattern work was also a wonderful match. We had our theme all ready to go and we could not be happier. We had a very difficult time planning our wedding so we were happy that we had so much already organised and out of the way.
I had scoured so many places to find a dressmaker to do the alterations to my dress. I spoke to a well known bridal salon near us and they gave me the phone number of a dressmaker, her name was Janet Baker (Barnes) they raved about how wonderful she was and how happy they were with her. I phoned her and she was just the kindest of personalities, Janet put me instantly at ease, she told me all about the awards that she had won, she told me all about the dresses that she had altered, she even told me that she has had brides cry when they were having their final fittings. (I now know those tears were from shock not joy) . I booked her in, I booked her for late January to give ample time for alterations, and I did not want her to feel pressured and wanted to give her plenty of time to do the job well.
January came so fast and I phoned Janet to confirm my appointment, she told me she was moving so I needed to keep to that appointment. Oddly she told me she was changing her name from Barnes to Baker, she had not gotten married or divorced, I thought it a bit strange but I brushed it aside. My best friend Lynda came with me for the first dress fitting. It didn’t take Janet long at all to pin up the dress, something that now I know better should have taken her a lot longer. The train on the dress has loads of detail and it flows beautifully, I was very explicit with her and told her I did not want her touching the train. The train is one of the most detailed parts of the dress and one of the many reasons why I loved the dress so much. I told Janet all about the story of how I got the dress and how anxious I was, I even told her about my wedding nightmares about my dress that I had been having having. Janet was fully aware that there was just no way whatsoever that I could replace this dress, it is a Maggie Sottero gown, they take up to 6 months to make, Maggies don’t just come off the rack!! My Maggie was beautiful in all senses and made of the highest of quality that Maggie gowns are so well known for. Janet had in her hands my most treasured item, the one thing not only I had my heart set on but my future husband too.
We had our whole wedding theme, everything was based on this dress so the want for my dress to be altered beautifully was paramount. We were also paying almost $500 for the alterations, not cheap by any means so quality work was the least of our expectations. A little over a week later I got a call from Janet saying that the dress was ready, I was shocked and said so, she told me she was a “fast worker” certainly not what I wanted to hear, I was worried that she had done a rush job. I picked up my wonderful Aunty Colleen and Lynda, we were all pretty eager to see the finished product. Both Lynda and Aunty Colleen oooohed and ahhhed they both told me how wonderful I looked and how they loved the dress. I was really worried about the length and I asked Janet why was the dress so short? She told me that when the dress gets pressed it will flatten out and be fine. You see when you are in the dress you really can’t see down so well and Janey did not have the best of facilities to see these finer points to I had to trust her. This is where I made some crucial mistakes, you see I should not have listened to Janet about that, I should have listened to my instinct. I we also should have unbustled the bustle and double checked her work I should have gone over everything and double checked. We should not have taken her word for it, we should not have allowed ourselves to have been rushed and we should have questioned her more. Janet had thrown out all the excess fabric, this totally shocked me and upset me , how DARE she throw my fabric out without asking. Janet did produce a hideous looking horseshoe that looked like something out of a Little Bo Peep pantomime, she said it was to add to my dress for the day!! It was disgusting, it was very much tacky costume than high quality bridal! Janet was very rushed in getting us out the door, when we were trying to look at the dress closer she snatched it up and turned it inside out. This stuck all of us as very odd, she told us it was to protect the beadwork. (Kinda made sense but I had never heard of it before) she also said to leave it inside out till I was ready to press it. Janet advice was to get the dress pressed a week before the wedding and when it gets pressed leave it in the bustle till the day. So off we went and I did exactly as I was instructed, I wanted to make sure I did everything that she told me I wanted to make sure that everything was just perfect.
About 6 – 8 weeks before the wedding, I had decided to get a jacket made to match the gown. I had been getting some tattoos removed and felt that they had not faded enough so I was going to get make up to cover them and because of that make up I didn’t want my skin to look bad so covering the make up with a light jacket should be enough. I took the dress to another dressmaker, she didn’t take much of a look at the dress but instantly said that she would have done a better job. I began to worry a bit about what she said but in the same token I understand that things like this can be very hotly debated between professionals on the best way how to do things. This dressmaker made me a stunning bolero style jacket, her work was amazing and of course expensive too!! This jacket cost $300, it was the total cost of the fabric and her work, it was just beautiful it was exactly what I needed.
It was now a little over 3 weeks till the wedding and we had to see AuntyColleen for a few things, I also wanted to get the photos off her camera that she had taken the day of the final dress fitting. In fact I really wanted those photos, something was just niggling at me. That night I had a restless sleep, I had yet another of my wedding nightmares and I had woken feeling very anxious about seeing these photos. I was up at about 7 am on a Sunday morning, Bill was still in the land of snooze, I started to look at the photos, something was not right, in fact something was VERY wrong…… I went to the bedroom and grabbed the dress, took it out of the bag, turned it in the right way, hung it up and took off the bustle. The first thing was the hideous loop she had made on the OUTSIDE of the dress for hold the bustle in place, it was smack in the middle of the train, and it stuck out like doggie fuzzie!! Then I looked at each side, one was higher than the other, then I noticed that she had touched the train, it was crooked that a dogs hind leg and very uneven, it was just shocking. The part where the train begins was heavily puckered on both sides. These are all shocking things, things a dressmaker of her alleged standards just would not do. The workmanship was far from quality, in fact it was worse than what a child would do on their first pattern. Needless to say I was not quite about it all, Bill got out of bed and I asked him to hold the dress up, I wanted to see the train properly, my face fell, it looked like a platypus bill and not the open flowing train I loved. My dream dress was now a rotten looking costume, it was shocking, and heartbroken did not even come close to how I was feeling that day. Little did I know one of the neighbours does dressmaking, she came over immediately and told me that there was no way that it could be fixed. The first and foremost was that she had taken all the needed length off the dress so even if it was let down there was no fabric to make up the needed length. The train was so uneven that that would have needed cutting in more but that still would not have fixed the shape. The dress was ruined beyond repair, I could not believe that I trusted Janet with my dress, a dress that I had my heart set on. A dress that I could never have afforded other than the good fortune of finding it on eBay, the dress that I could not replace. You see Maggies take 6 months to make and this one was not in the usual line so it would have had to be made, finding it on the rack would be a miracle if anything.
I emailed Janet to ask her what happened, I could not believe what she had done, I was shocked, and I was even more shocked that she never responded to my emails. A friend lives in the same town that she lives in and told me that she was advertising her alterations services. I was so mad, I phoned and she would not answer, I emailed and she would not respond. I knew I had the right emails, I was more shocked that she added me on Facebook and did nothing when I tagged her. I even tried to take it though the small claims, but found out that she was slipperier than a bar of wet soap. She knew what she was doing, she had been down the road before.
I was forced to find a new dress, there was no option, I could not get the dress of my dreams, but I did get a dress that was beautiful, it cost $3000 including alterations, this was money we had set aside for our honeymoon. The jacket I had made, didn’t match, the shoes I had, didn’t match, the veil I had, didn’t match…. The whole theme was in jeopardy, we had to change the boy’s ties, and we were out of pocket so much. It was just not fair, this woman had taken good money for a high quality gown and destroyed it. She should be ashamed, instead she is changing her name and moving from town to town ruining the dreams of brides to be. The dress I had worn on the day, it was beautiful, Bill and I had a wonderful wedding day, it was nothing short of the most wonderful day we have ever had. So many people say they like the second dress better than the first, they are entitled to their opinion and I am happy that they liked the dress. You see for me it was not “The Dress” it was not the dress I had my heart set on, it was not the dress I had dreamt about for so many years, it was a dress that was second to my dreams.
I would not wish this on anyone, I cannot urge brides to be to check double check and triple check. Try to avoid what happend to us, it is an exceptionally expensive and heartbreaking thing to go through. Go through bridal industry approved vendors and if you can join a couple of wedding forums and ask other brides to be. The power of word of mouth may very well prevent a disaster!
My horror story was published in the Daily Telegraph in July 2009 alongside other poor brides and their stories about shonky vendors. There is one persons response that struck me as a bit sad, they stated that they had no sympathy for when things like this happen and likened it to a tantrum throwing bride trying to get her own way and blowing budgets out. It’s amazing that they “knew” so much from just these lines, I am sure that the other brides like myself certainly did not behave in this manner. We were all simply trying to make our wedding days all our partners and selves wanted and the services we paid very good money for had failed us. I am sure that if the poster had paid for a product, did all their homework to get the best possible price for that service and that service was not provided. I also wonder how the same poster would feel if they took their car into be serviced and it came back a write off, I reckon they would be mighty upset about it, just as upset as the brides where in the story about the services they paid for!!!
The Dressmakers name is her last known address was
Janet Barnes (Baker)
59a Averys Road
Her email address
There has been some overwhelming response to all the media attention our story has attracted. The Daily Telgraph and Today tonight were just wonderful with their stories. The only real issue is they both talked about wedding disasters and not so much about solutions and how they can be avoided. Since the airing of the Today Tonight segment I have been asked questions from other couples planning their wedding, regarding how they to can avoid problems? All too often word of mouth advice ends in disaster, you need to search beyond the people you know. Often a word of mouth could be a person whom is just trying to help out another person whom sounds really nice. This is close to what happened to us, a reputable bridal store made contact with a bubbly person and they wanted to help her get work. Hence why the evil wench named Janet was reccommended to us. At the point that they passed her details onto us they had no idea that she was the fraud she was. This was found out when it was too late and many people had their dreams ruined by her. My wish is that those people had come more forward and contacted the media or had joined a forum and vented a buyer beware thread. This would have not only helped up but all others that have been ripped off by her shoddy workmanship.
Here is my list of recomendations, a list that I endeavor to elaborate more on. We hope that our story and experience helps others to avoid suffering the same. This is very much the reason why we have been so forthright talking about our situation. Planning a wedding is a very costly experience let alone have to deal with the extra expense when disasters happen. The wedding industry is rife with crooks ready to have a hand out willing to take hard earned money for little in return. Right now anyone with a camera can say they are a photographer, any person with a bag of sugar, a cake decorator or in our case a person with a sewing machine. It’s an industry that needs to be regulated. Our story is just one of thousands and the more the wedding industry grows the more the crooks will surface.
My suggestions are to those planning their wedding to go through industry approved vendors, such as Australian Bridal Service approved.
As for photography use a member of The Australian Institute of Professional Photographers AIPP for short, they too can be both Bridal Industry approved and a member of the AIPP.
For your wedding cars you and got through The Wedding Car association, they too can also be bridal industry approved
There is a lot of reputable places out there so don’t be alarmed, keep to places who are registered professionals in their industries. Ask others about their experiences, try to join a wedding forum, make sure its local. There is not much benefit joining an US based forum if you are in Australia. Below is a few Australian based wedding forums
Try to take the time to get to know your vendors, after all they are dealing with one of the most important things you will ever do next to having a baby and buying your first home!
There are other things you can do such as, ask your photographer if you can see a few full album shoots. It’s easy to plaster your walls with wonderful photos but what does a whole wedding look like? After all you don’t just want a handful of great photos, you want to be able to have a great album. With photography potentially costing thousands you certainly want to make sure you are getting yours money’s worth.
We wishe you all the very best with your wedding planning and we wish you a wonderful wedding day.
Our warmest of wishes
Billy and Dee