A Toronto woman is warning other brides in the South Asian community to be careful when shopping for wedding dresses after discovering the quality of her custom made dress fell far below her expectations.

Rubina Shaikh, 33, ordered 11 dresses for her wedding earlier this year—one for her wedding, another for the traditional Mehndi ceremony, and dresses for her bridal party, mother, sister and in-laws.

They paid a total of $10,000, including $4,000 for the wedding dress, all in cash because she was referred to the store by friends.

Dress

Rubina Shaikh points out pearls glued on to one of the dresses.

"The fabric was poor; the craftsmanship was poor," said Shaikh. "There were holes in the dress. Threads were coming out, beads fell out."

'Tears, pretty much every day'

Because the dresses arrived only two weeks before the mid-September wedding, Shaikh said there was no time for extensive alterations, despite the store owner having taken measurements for most of them. The stress resulted in "tears, pretty much every day."

Wedding dress hole

Rubina Shaikh says her wedding dress arrived with a hole in the fabric.

"I was in shock," she said. "One by one, as the outfits kept coming in, it just felt worse and worse."

Shaikh told CBC Toronto she took the dresses back to Dhaagay, the shop in Mississauga where she ordered them.

But she said the owner was difficult, refusing to make adjustments, including fixing the hole in the wedding dress and taking in the sleeves.

Rubina and bridesmaid

Shaikh's bridesmaids each paid $220 for their dresses, but the bottoms were stained. (Rubina Shaikh)

Shaikh said the owner refused a refund, as per their contract, then offered to exchange her in-laws' outfits, but rescinded that offer soon afterward.

While the owner of Dhagaay refused an interview with CBC Toronto, she mentioned she gives out store credit if her customers aren't satisfied.

Store

The dresses were purchased from this store in Mississauga.

Shaikh said that never occurred. "I can't believe we ended up in that position," she said. "During the [wedding] day, my bridesmaids had scissors with them just to clip some of the [loose thread]."

Appraisal

CBC Toronto took a few of the dresses to a store in Scarborough that specializes in South Asian clothing to get them appraised independently. 

Dress

Many dresses were frayed with loose thread.

"Four thousand dollars is definitely overrated," said Chandana Benjamin, who owns Kashmir Bliss.

She stated she wouldn't sell the wedding dress for more than $2,000.

"I'm not impressed with the dress," she said. 

She mentioned there was only some hand work done with the beading and embroidery, and the patterns were not complicated. She also noted many of the edges were frayed. When asked about the $700 spent on Shaikh's sister-in-law's dress, Benjamin asked, "Are you serious?"

She appraised it at about $200.

Chandana Benjamin

Chandana Benjamin, owner of Kashmir Bliss, appraised the dresses for CBC Toronto. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Shaikh said the stress affected her relationship with her family from that day forward, as some of her relatives took the situation very personally. "I'm Indian. My now-husband is Pakistani," she said, mentioning her in-laws didn't wear their custom orders.

"Weddings are typically about families coming together when it comes to our culture, our community," she said. "The guy's side [plays] a little more importance in the wedding experience. I couldn't do anything." 

Wedding dress warning 

The Better Business Bureau says it doesn't have any record of complaints against Dhaagay. It handled 440 complaints in 2016 from the U.S. and Canada, not including complaints against bridal sections of department stores or independent seamstresses. It also cited the rates at which complaints were successfully resolved was only 64 per cent compared with an overall average of 79 per cent. 

It suggests brides: 

  • Research businesses.
  • Ask for references.
  • Never pay 100 per cent of the cost up front.
  • Be clear about their budget.
  • Be clear about their schedule.

"That's the thing that frustrates me the most, that there's not more to protect the buyer," said Shaikh, who mentioned family friends referred her to the store.

"It would be nice for other brides to know they're safe."