Hope this helps!
1. Location - Most custom dress companies are based in China. You can tell this by looking at their website.
a. The photos on the site are of designer dresses but they are at prices below MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price). All designer dresses should be sold at the same price no matter the website if they are the "real" thing. In other words, if you see a deal that is "too good to be true", that's because it is. These sites are considered a scam because they are showing you one item and selling you something else. You see a photo of a designer dress but they are selling you a knock-off.
b. They either won't have an About Us section or their About Us section will tell you this specifically. This is not always a bad thing, but it does mean you need to read the fine print before purchasing from them.
2. Shipping - You may have to pay customs fees on your purchase. While you may get a good price for your dress, customs fees can really add up. Fees can range as high as $40-50 for one dress.
3. Sizing - Some sites will tell you that they don't guarantee the sizing to be exact. They say it will be within one inch of either direction and that there is extra material built into the dress so that you can have it altered if needed. Alterations in the United States are very expensive and it is much more difficult for a seamstress to alter a dress they did not make than their own. Some sites say they will pay you a portion of the alterations fee and some will not pay any of it. Getting money refunded from these sites can be frustrating and time consuming. In our opinion, this defeats the purpose of purchasing a custom, handmade gown. extra sized items to wear of the prom that is not expensive
4. Testimonials/Replicas - On the Chinese sites you never see real pictures of the gowns that they have made. You are taking a chance of ordering a dress from an unknown company, in a foreign country with no real proof that they can do what they say they can do.
5. Returns - Read their return policies and you will see that even if they send you the wrong size dress, the wrong color dress or even the completely wrong item, you have to pay the return shipping cost. Seems insane; but true - and it happens more often than you would think. Shipping a dress to China via USPS (with tracking, which is mandatory) can cost between $50-80. Sometimes even if you are getting a refund, there is a restocking fee on top of that. Also, because you are dealing with foreign banks, it is sometimes impossible to get a refund.
6. Reviews - Before you make a purchase online, check to see if the site has any complaints with the Better Business Bureau ( www.bbb.org/search/ ). You can also see if they are listed as a scam or counter-fit site at www.toppromwebsites.com/knock-off-prom-dresses-list.html . Scam Advisor can also give you some information on the website domain and their trust worthiness ( www.scamadvisor.com ).