Ordering Timeline and Availability…It Depends

Every day, all day, I am asked, “How long does it take to order a dress?”  My answer is always the same – “It depends.” I then launch into a 5-minute explanation of the categories of dresses and the parameters that surround ordering them. Usually, the customer’s eyes glaze over – who could blame them, they are already under all of the stress surrounding the wedding. I often imagine myself sounding like the adult voices in the Peanuts cartoon “WaaWaaWah! WaaWaaWah!” By the way, that’s the same voice I hear when Dante tries to explain how to fix a problem on the computer, but I digress.

I think the simplest way to explain the ordering system is to break it down into bite sized pieces. Here goes…

Group 1)

These dresses are cut one time and will more than likely never be cut again. If they are re-cut the color is anybody’s guess – and who knows when this will happen anyway. We, as stores, will order these dresses 6 to 8 months out and the manufacturer will only cut exactly what is ordered, with virtually no extras. When they’re gone – they’re gone. These typically are the dresses that hover around $300 and below – especially when the price gets closer to $200 and under. There are some exceptions however, Pronovias is one, these gowns start at about $800 and they may be ordered only one time. They are from Spain and they do not take special orders.

Group 2)

Dresses in this category may be ordered, but know that it will take a minimum of 12 weeks. It is important to know that 12 weeks is shipping from the manufacturer to the retailer – not an in-store delivery date. Also, every manufacturer makes it very clear that they do not consider it late until 2 weeks past the expected due date. This means that if a dress is 10 days past the expected ship date, the manufacturer will not pay for upgraded shipping to get it to you any sooner – even if your wedding is in 3 days.

Group 3)

These dresses are cut in cuttings only. This means that I cannot call that manufacturer up and ask them to cut a teal size 12 for me. If the dress is not hanging, I have to ask if there is a re-cut scheduled and find out if there is a teal in the time frame needed. If there is no teal, I have to find out if there is any other color that will work for my customer. The cut dates and colors will vary.

Other Variables:

Seasonal –

It is important to note also that ordering time will vary seasonally. Chinese New Year, which unfortunately coincides with all of our spring social events, will extend shipping time to 16 weeks or more. As we get closer to this in the fall I will give you more information on this and remind you to get your orders in. 

Rush Orders-

Rush orders are a rarity, but occasionally they are available. They tend to be expensive, I have some that are upwards of $200 – my cost, and these are only available at certain times of the year. We do have a manufacturer that is more reasonably priced and more consistent with their rush orders, but know this – the availability changes too. During Chinese New Year we are unable to take rush orders. Three years ago, we received a sudden notice that they were not accepting rush order for the entire summer. Recently we received an email from them at 4:01 PM.  We opened the email at 5:10, only to find out that after the close of business that day the manufacturer was no longer taking special rush orders. We literally had 20 minutes notice. The problem was, there were a number of customers pushing the envelope waiting to bring a friend or family member in to help make the decision. There were others just figuring they had time. These people were suddenly locked out.


Interestingly enough, at the exact same time, we opened an envelope to find a discontinuation list from another manufacturer. We received the letter on April the 12th, and the discontinuation was effective April the 15th.

You should know that discontinuations are not based solely on sales. Over the years we’ve had many dresses we’ve adored and sold well discontinued.  Reasons for discontinuation are varied. It can be that the fabric is no longer available – or the dye lots have changed; it’s getting too difficult to obtain a special treatment on the dress; the manufacturer has to adjust for costs and it is no longer cost effective to produce; or simply the cut tickets in China are getting too big to be able to cut individual pieces.


Now you know why I cringe when I’m asked, “How long do I have to order my dress?” I sympathize, because it’s a very fair question, but I honestly don’t know how to answer it. If I warn the customer about the possible uncertainty in waiting, they look at me like I’m a used car salesman; however, nothing is worse than having a mother walk in excited, having made the decision, ready to order her dress, only to find out it’s no longer available.

Hopefully, this has given you insight – that only retailers have – into what it takes to order a dress. I often say that our job is “like air traffic controlling – there’s no room for error in what we do.” Now you know why.

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