Knockoff, No-Show Dresses Bought Online Dash Prom 
Dreams Retailers warn of perils of shopping knockoff websites
By: Deanna Dewberry |  Wednesday, May 8, 2013  See Video report

Some North Texas teenage girls ended up in tears this prom season because the dress they ordered online either never arrived or arrived looking like a cheap impostor of the designer dress they thought they ordered. W.T. White High School senior Dashya McCuin has been dreaming about prom since she was a freshman, but the 17-year-old's dreams were dashed when the dress she ordered online never arrived.

She had her sights set on a baby blue, strapless high-low gown embellished with ruffles and sequins from a website called

"She wanted that particular dress and, if you know my daughter, she has to have what she wants or she's not going to leave you alone," said Leslie McCuin, her mother.

Like many moms sending their princesses to prom, McCuin caved, allowing her daughter to buy her dress online. Dashya McCuin ordered it in March, weeks before her big day so that she'd get it in time. She even told the website her prom was two weeks before the actual date to make sure there was plenty of cushion. But as prom inched closer, the dress was a no-show. "It never came," McCuin said. McCuin was heartbroken and empty-handed and the clock was ticking. To add insult to injury, McCuin got an email from in April that read, in broken English, "I am sorry the dress still not shipped yet, I am afraid the dress can't arrive you Saturday, maybe you can keep it for your next function?"

"I didn't think people would do that," said McCuin. "Like, proms and weddings are, like, so serious, so why would you play with people's emotions like that?"

The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association said plenty of companies are playing with young ladies' emotions. Two of the large local prom retailers, Terry Costa and Whatchamacallit, hear the same sad sob story time and time again.

"I'm tired of little girls coming through here at the last minute and they're almost in tears when they walk through the front door," said Tina Loyd, the CEO of Terry Costa, which has both a brick-and-mortar and an online store. "That's not what it's about."

Loyd said the problem has been prevalent for the past three years, and 2013 is no different. In fact, she orders more dresses at the end of the season for what she called those "last-minute horror stories."

ABPIA said more than 2,500 websites rip images of dresses off of legitimate designers' websites and use them on their own websites without permission. They lure girls in so they think they're buying designer dresses with a cheaper price tag. Instead, they sell knockoffs.

ABPIA's head and CEO of Mon Cheri, Steve Lang, told the NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit about 300,000 knockoffs came into the United States from abroad, costing the industry $120 million.

And families end up paying the price, when the online order goes south by never arriving or looking like a cheap imitation. The girls then have to go buy another dress and spend even more money.

The industry is so concerned about the issue that 12 major manufacturers filed a lawsuit aimed at shutting these websites down.

In Whatchamacallit's Dallas location, owner Gary Graham keeps a knockoff of a Sherri Hill dress next to the real deal as a cautionary tale of an online order gone wrong.

Sherri Hill is an A-list designer among teen girls heading to their big dance. The Sherri Hill hanging in Whatchamacallit's window is a turquoise short gown with elegant gold beading and fancy feathers. It retails for around $730. The imitation, bought online, cost about half, and is ice blue, looking more like an ice-skating costume gone wrong.

"Fake feathers versus real feathers; the stones aren't even correct. The color is way off. The design, the style, is completely off," Graham said.

White Settlement mother Teresa Davis can relate. Her daughter looked online for a dress to save money, and she found a beautiful sea-foam green dress with gorgeous beading on the bodice on a website called It's the exact same image of the same dress as on the website of the legitimate designer, Night Moves by Allure, so she ordered it, spending more than $200.

But what arrived was a dramatic departure from the dreamy dress. It was a baby-blue gown with plastic beading in a connect-the-dot pattern and a skirt made of a mesh material. It came in a 10-by-12 envelope postmarked from China.

"The dress didn't look anything like the one on the site; just a cheap knockoff," Davis said.

Davis sent numerous emails to the company complaining about the quality and asking for a refund. Via email, the company told her the dress was "beautiful" and that there could be a "5 percent difference" between the product pictured and the product she received. She did not get a refund and bought her daughter another dress, which cost $500.

"I still cannot believe we spent that much money," Davis said, adding that her daughter's grandmother chipped in as part of her graduation present.

The NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit reached out to, based in Hong Kong, and, based in China. We never got a response from either company.

Neither the Davis family nor the McCuin family ever got a refund.

Experts advise when buying a prom dress online, call the company to ask if it's an authorized dealer. Look for the "Top Prom" logo on the website. It was created by the industry to help identify websites, which are authorized to sell designers.

And if the discount is too deep, it's a red flag.

"I wasn't going to miss prom, so I had to find a new dress," said McCuin, who finally settled on a bright pink high-low dress with golden beading that cost about $200 at Terry Costa. She paired it with matching jewelry and sparkling platform heels.

"It was fun. It was bright, so I was just like, 'This is it,'" she said. "When I saw myself in it, I really liked it."

"She kept saying, 'Say yes to the dress, mom. Say yes to the dress,'" her mother said. "It was yes to the dress because she's beautiful in it."


Scammers target promgoers with fake designer dresses Apr. 11, 2015 at 8:24 AM
Jeff Rossen and Josh Davis TODAY

A new warning for high school girls and their parents: With prom coming up, there are scammers targeting teens, and ruining their big night.

We've told you about scam artists selling fake electronics, handbags... the list goes on. Now these scammers are targeting the prom, fooling teenage girls with fake designer dresses, charging hundreds of dollars for gowns that literally fall apart in your hands.

It's prom season, and for the girls, it's all about the dress. "Prom overall is the Oscars to high school kids," said Kimberly Gambale, owner of clothing store Diane & Company.

High-end labels sell for hundreds of dollars. That's a ton of money for most high school kids and their parents, which is why they're always looking for the best deal. Now brazen scammers are cashing in on their excitement.

Their websites are a teen girl's dream, offering designer prom gowns at deep discounts. The sites sure look real, but designers say it's all a scam. "At least three to four times a week we're faced with girls who have been scammed by online websites," Gambale told us.

Alexandra Marschall wanted a Sherri Hill dress, one of the hottest labels in prom wear today. "I was working for months to save up the money," she told us.

She found the perfect dress. In the store it cost $400. Alexandra found it online for 25 percent off and ordered it on the spot. "My immediate reaction was, you know, 'Oh my gosh, this is awesome. The dress I love, it's beautiful, and it's at a great price, so it's gonna make my mom happy, too.'"

But just a week before prom, what she got in the mail was misery in a box: a cheap knockoff, mailed from China. Wrong color, wrong fabric, sloppy stitching, and way too big. "It was supposed to be just one color," Alexandra said. "The lining is so itchy. The dress feels cheap."

In the online photo, the dress was covered in beads; instead, it came with a plastic bag of beads and a sewing kit. "I took a step back and said, 'Do they expect me to sew this on? I'm a teenage girl. I do not know how to sew,'" Alexandra recalled.

Now scam artists are shipping imposter prom gowns to girls across the country. We looked at one with shoddy stitching that was falling apart, with beading that looked like an arts and crafts project gone wrong.

Dusty Hill is the president of the real Sherri Hill, trying to intercept the fakes. "It's a huge problem, and growing," he said.

So huge, the company has hired two full-time investigators to hunt down the counterfeit sites. "This is a fake website, but they're using authentic pictures," one investigator told us as he showed us an example. "They just take it off of Google images and upload it to their site, and pretend it's our dresses."

The trouble is, these counterfeit websites are usually like whack-a-mole: when you knock one down, another one pops up.

"We're aware this is not a problem we're going to be able to fix," Dusty Hill said. "It's going to be an ongoing fight."

The federal government has shut down hundreds of these sites, but the scammers are tough to catch, many of them based overseas. Good luck getting your money back. And those priceless prom memories.

"When I put the dress on, I didn't feel beautiful," Alexandra Marschall said. "And you're supposed to feel beautiful at prom." At the last minute she had to buy a new dress, and spend hundreds more.

So how do you protect yourself? Experts say: Call the company directly and ask, "I'm on this website, is this an authorized dealer?" They're happy to tell you.

And this helps too: Many of the top prom dress designers have posted a list of authorized websites, so you can check there too before you go shopping.

Our Story

Teens Taken By Fake Prom Dress Website...May 31, 2013

KENSINGTON, Md., (WUSA) -- "Shopping for a prom dress is very stressful," says Ruth Silverstein. She thought shopping online for her daughter, Tanya's, dress would be a breeze. Silverstein says, "She could look at this dress and say this is exactly what I want. And, they're going to make it exactly to my size. "They clicked onto, found prom dresses discounted up to 60 percent and placed an order. "It was $200 or so," Ruth Silverstein says. What they got was a poorly crafted gown made with inferior materials. "The whole thing is kind of off centered, ahh, the pleats are really poorly sewn," says Tanya Silverstein. Ruth didn't have much success when she tried to contact the company by email or through the website. She ended up buying a completely different dress from a local retailer. "If a website is offering a dress that's exactly, excatly like another dress that sells for $600 somewhere else, and they're offering it to you for 200.  They're telling you that they're going to make alterations, well that's just not reasonable," says WUSA 9 Call For Action partner Shirley Rooker. Tanya wasn't the only one with a stolen prom princess moment. "I had to get it taken in in the back about, maybe like an inch and half, two inches.  Also, the buttons that secure the top are strings, so I was really nervous it could come off at any moment," says Giselle Gamero. Lori Amsellem says she never received the $268 prom dress for her daughter. So, she took a gamble and ordered a second prom dress from a different knockoff website.  When it did arrive she says, "Couldn't pull it up because the material on the inside that they lined it with has no give, very stiff."She had to buy more material, create a corset and tie her daughter, Felice, into the dress. All of the moms spent more money to have the shoddy dresses either replaced, redesigned or resewn. "You are risking it because getting a refund from some of these companies may be impossible," Shirley Rooker American Bridal and Prom Industry Association Your best bet, go with a reputable prom dress site, check for complaints, the return policies and make sure you can talk with someone before you buy a thing.
China Scams Teenage Girls With Counterfeit Prom Dresses 
Survey Reveals Nearly 20% of Prom Dresses Sold Online Are Fake Knock Offs

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

As online prom dress shopping season heats up with "Pink Friday" on March 1, today unveils its Authentic Prom Dress Guide on how to avoid being scammed by Chinese websites selling counterfeit prom dresses.(Photo: Chinese prom dress websites are stealing copyrighted images from prom designers such as La Femme, Jovani and Tony Bowls.  Based in China, these bait-and-switch websites scam teenage girls into believing that they can purchase the exact same designer prom dresses for steep discounts. In addition to the Authentic Prom Dress Guide, DressGoddess created a viral video to reveal the clear quality differences between a counterfeit and an authentic designer prom dress. "Unfortunately, if the price is too good to be true, it's a fake prom dress," said Jon Liney, president of "Prom dress designers determine the price of their dresses and every authorized prom retailer, both online and offline, must sell dresses at the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price or MSRP."As an American Authorized Retailer of leading dress designers, DressGoddess certifies the authenticity of each dress it sells and guarantees that its merchandise is genuine. "If you see a prom dress on nearly every ecommerce website and retail store for $298, and then you find the dress on a website for 10% to 50% off that price, that dress is a fake knock off that will only disappoint you on prom night," continued Liney. Here are the problems with purchasing cheap prom dresses from Chinese websites: counterfeit prom dresses are poorly made fake prom dresses do not fit properly knock off prom dresses look nothing like the actual genuine designer dresses or their online photos inauthentic prom dresses may not arrive in time for prom refunds and returns are not provided by Chinese websites American customers have no legal recourse because these fraudulent companies are located in China online shoppers can not call and speak to American customer service representatives.

How to spot a counterfeit prom dress Knockoff gowns and the websites that sell them abound. Do you really want a cheaply made imitation?

By MSN Money Partner Mar 20, 2013 4:14PM

 It is easy to get lured to sites, typically based in China, that appear to be offering name-brand dresses at deep discounts. These sites tend to actually fulfill orders -- they're not really big on returns -- and what you end up with is anyone's guess. But expect a cheaply made imitation of the real thing. The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association has already identified more than 450 counterfeit websites that have sold more than a half-million counterfeit gowns. Indeed, knockoffs of all sorts are a continuing challenge for online shoppers. But your prom dress? Do you really want to take that chance? "It's hard to visit any online venue without running across sites that are hawking fakes. Worse still, it's getting harder and harder for consumers to discern the real McCoy from the fakes due to clever marketing, slick sites and plausible discounts from counterfeiters taking advantage of digital channels," said Fred Felman, CMO of the brand protection firm MarkMonitor.  What consumers stand to lose can also be far greater than just the experience of receiving a junky dress.

"Without a little care, it could be disastrous for the buyer. Not only are the goods poorly made and low quality, the consumer will likely encounter shipping delays and could even risk having their (credit) card number or identity stolen by counterfeiters," he said. "There's no shame among them, and they aren't looking for return business." The Pennsylvania-based online retailer has a guide to spotting online fakes,  as well as a video illustrating the difference between a genuine name-brand dress and its counterfeit. To help avoid getting scammed by a counterfeiting site, MarkMonitor suggests looking at the following:

Price. If it's too good to be true, that's a red flag, and consumers should be extra vigilant.
The site itself. Some sites look really professional at first glance, but brandjackers aren't always careful with the About or FAQ page. 
Returns policy. Reputable sites spell that out for you.
Privacy policy. Counterfeiters don't usually invest the time to craft a clear, strong privacy policy.
Reputation. Is the site or seller mentioned on any of the scam warning sites? Do a search for "vendor+scam" and see what comes up.


Steer Clear of Counterfeit Prom Dresses!
April 11, 2013 at 5:00:00 PM
by: Seventeen Magazine

With all the excitement (and crazy-expensive prices) of prom, the idea of getting your dream dress online for 25% less than it costs in the store can be incredibly tempting.
But be careful! Tons of sites that look legit are actually selling knockoff designer gowns that have shotty stitching, botched beading, and are all-around poor quality.

​The Today Show recently featured one girl's prom nightmare: her supposed-to-be Sherri Hill dress showed up in the wrong color, wrong size, and with a sewing kit, presumably so she could do the intricate beading from the gown she thought she was getting herself!
Not exactly a fun prom DIY...Check out the clip below to find out more about how big prom designers are trying to stop these illegal knockoff websites from ruining more girls' big nights.

Before Ordering Your Gown Online: 

If you are thinking of ordering a dress online and the price is super cheap, think again. The Internet is swamped with hundreds of websites selling knock-offs dresses. Instead of getting an authentic designer dress at a ridiculously low price, what you are getting is a  cheap counterfeit version coming to you directly from a factory in China.

Delivery to your home can take up to 60 days or longer and that’s if you even receive your order at all. In some cases even the websites are fake they are there for one purpose only and that's to steal your Credit Card number and identity.

The  dresses from a knock-off site, look like the real picture. The Chinese factories behind the slick websites use the designers' copyrighted photos without permission. However theses Websites lack the original patterns needed to sew the dresses, therefore, they try to duplicate them based on the photo taken by the original designer. As a result, you will get some very cheep imitation of the dresses that may not even look the same, and usually these dresses do not fit properly

5 ways  to spot a website selling knock-offs or counterfeit dresses: 

1.    If the price is cheap so is the dress, you can search the dress online by entering the style number and the designer name, all legitimate  authorized retail should have the same price across the board. If the price is half of the normal retail cost or lower, then you are buying a knockoff.

 2.    If designers are named on a website, find that designer’s website.  Next check the Store Locator for a list of authorized retailers. If the website/store is not listed, then beware, the dresses will be counterfeit  

3.    The Contact Us page should have a phone number and address listed (preferably within the US), not just an email. If the site has a phone number or address in China, that’s a red flag. 

 4.    If the website claims that you can return the dress for a full refund you can be fairly certain that this is a China website. As a general rule, Authorized Retailers cannot take returns unless the merchandise has a factory defect.  

5.    If The websites requests more than a few of your body measurements. Professional dress and bridal shops in the USA normally use 3 measurements or If the website offers a color chart with many color choices, or a choice of fabrics then this is a counterfeit dress, Real designer do not offer customization specially on Prom or Evening dresses

Warning!  You will not get an original designer dress unless you buy from an authorized dealer for the designer. Counterfeit sites can duplicate the designer labels as well as the dress but the quality and style will not be the same ... you'll get what you paid for or you may not get anything at all. 

Various photos of Pageant winners wearing dresses from Runway Fashions

Runway Fashions was established 2002 in Sterling Heights MI. We started as a casual wear boutique with only a few evening dresses. It did not take long to expand the evening wear collection as customer demand increased. Today, we specialize in one-of-a-kind dresses that you will not find anywhere, including Evening Dresses, Pageant Gowns, Prom Dresses, Homecoming Dresses, Fashion Jewelry, Evening Bags, Shoes, and accessories.

We are authorized retailers for, Sherri Hill, Jovani, Terani, Alyce Paris, Mac Duggal Couture, Cassandra Stone, La Femme, GIGI, Blush Prom, Tiffany Designs, Jasz Couture, Tony Bowls, La Gala, Paris, Panoply,  Jonathan Kane, ME Prom, Val Stefani, Flash, Claudine,  Nika, as well as many imported designer dresses from Europe and other parts of the world.

To make your shopping experience easier , we also offer on-site expert alterations. In October 2008, Runway Fashions moved to a new location, just 1 mile down from the old location. The new location offers a beautiful spacious showroom with large fitting rooms, and a classy, professional atmosphere.

We have also become a PROM SUPER STORES, by offering hundreds of styles from all of the major prom designers. In the last few years we have dresses many Pageant contestants and winners including Miss Michigan America 2012 Angela Venditti. Come and visit Runway Fashions and find out for yourself why we have been one of the leading boutiques in Michigan.


Mon - FRI  11 am - 7pm      Sat. 11 am - 6 pm    Sun. Closed

​​Michigan's #1 Choice

Prom, Pageant, Homecoming

Evening, Mother-of-the-Bride

& Non-Traditional Bridal


    36822 Ryan Rd. Sterling Heights, MI 48310

The following are reports from numerous media outlets across the country.

Is it a Fake Prom Dress?
Websites selling counterfeit dresses are scamming prom girls!

By Cassandra Morris, Guide

If you're shopping online for your prom dress and suddenly stumble upon a site that has prices that are deeply discounted... think twice before you click “buy.” The dress is a probably a fake.

Overseas websites (many of them China-based) are targeting prom girls by stealing images from top prom designers like La Femme, Jovani and Tony Bowls, then claiming to have those exact dresses for sale. In reality, it's a classic bait-and-switch. The dress that gets shipped to you is a cheap knock-off with fit problems that looks nothing like the real thing. Or, it never gets shipped at all.

That's what happened to Dallas-area teenager Joi Mainoo, who forked over $1000 to an overseas website for a prom gown and after-prom dress. Her dresses never arrived... and she ended up spending over $500 on a new prom dress at a boutique just four days before the big night. Ouch.

Federal agents are investigating, but it's proven hard to shut down the websites. New ones pop up weekly, and faster than you can say “beaded bodice.”

"Unfortunately, if the price is too good to be true, it's a fake prom dress," said Jon Liney, president of, in a release. "Prom dress designers determine the price of their dresses and every authorized prom retailer, both online and offline, must sell dresses at the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price or MSRP."

Designer Sherri Hill told Dallas News that she began putting serial numbers inside her dresses to guarantee their authenticity. Prom e-retailer giant has devoted an entire section of their website to educating consumers about fake dresses, and guarantee their dresses are the real deal. They're even offering a 20-percent discount on accessories to consumers who take their prom pledge to buy in the U.S.

Next, tried-and-true tips for telling if the website you're browsing is a big ol' fake.  

Think before you click, and don't scammed!

"If you see a prom dress on nearly every ecommerce website and retail store for $298, and then you find the dress on a website for 10% to 50% off that price, that dress is a fake knock off that will only disappoint you on prom night," said Liney.

The following tips were provided by

  • Check the price. If your dream dress is listed for $298 in every retail store and on U.S.-based websites, then you find it deeply discounted on another website, that should raise a red flag.
  • Check the website's credibility. Just having an SSL seal or Paypal seal at the bottom of a webpage isn't enough. These seals should be active- not just an image. When you hover over the seal with your mouse, a new website should pop up. Scam websites will steal these seals and have them on their webpage as a jpg. It's also a good idea to see if an e-retailer is a member of any consumer organizations, like Top Prom Websites or Prom Websites Association.
  • Check for Contact Information. Legit prom sites will have a physical address, phone number and customer service representatives that are available to chat with you. If there's no contact info or a non-U.S. phone number, beware.
  • Research Their Shipping Methods. If an overseas website says they'll mark your package as a “gift” to save on shipping costs, that should raise a major red flag. Counterfeit manufacturers do this to avoid detection by U.S. Customs officials.
  • Thoroughly Look at the Website's Content. Are the dress descriptions written in broken English, oddly-phrased or do they contain overly flowery sentences that you'd never actually speak? Chances are, it was written by someone overseas.
  • Compare the Style Numbers. If your dream dress is listed as style 1141 on every website except for the one you're considering ordering from... that's not a good sign.

The Pitfalls of Shopping a Fake Prom Dress Website

I know- the price looks appealing, and at first glance it appears as if you're getting a bargain. Just remember:

  • You'll end up spending more money on another dress if the one you ordered from a fake website arrives and it's a total dud.
  • The dress might not arrive on time- or at all.
  • Counterfeit dresses aren't made of the same material that real, designer ones are.
  • The dress that arrives usually looks nothing like the picture on the website.
  • Fake dresses often don't fit properly.
  • There's no quality control. The seams may be off, one sleeve could be longer than the other and the hem could be uneven- and not in a cute high-low way.
  • There's no way to get a refund or do a return on fake sites with no contact info.
  • There are no customer service reps to help you.
  • It's difficult or impossible to take legal action against overseas-based companies.
  • There's no way of knowing who manufactured the dress. Was it made in a sweatshop? By children? You'll never know.
  • Buying knock-offs hurts prom designers and takes business away from U.S.-based shops.


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