Waikato ballgoers are being caught out by cheap online deals with some paying hundreds of dollars to fix up cheap online botch-ups.
And as local dressmakers pick up the pieces, retail experts say more people who don't do their homework before shopping are likely to get caught out as ball season reaches its peak.
Online frocks made offshore can range in price from $200 upward depending on what buyers want, but increasing numbers of gown-hunters looking for a sharp deal are getting such ill-fitting or poorly made dresses they end up either selling them on Trade Me or paying to have them altered.
Vicki Dromgool, owner of Margaret Wallace Clothing Alterations in Hamilton, said about half of the 80 ball gowns she works on each year had been bought online, with each year bringing more people through the door following a bad buy.
"The lining fabric is not high quality . . . they are usually constructed completely differently to the way we would make them.
"The most common thing is that they are too big, and they are usually too long as well. Both things are easily put right, but some are too small, and there is nothing we can do about that."
Te Aroha dressmaker Mary Hansen, who has been in the business for 50 years, said she started getting work from clients who had bought online about two years ago.
"I think they probably cut out 500 gowns at once in a medium size, get measurements sent to them and then cut them again.
"It's pretty hit and miss."
Te Awamutu College student Katrina Mitchell thought she was getting a good deal when she paid $380 for a dress she saw in a shop.
The owner promised to order it in peach, and took her measurements before sending the order offshore to be made.
It arrived five weeks later, a mixture of peach and orange, and the zip has already broken. The alterations will cost around $250. Her dressmaker, Andrea Wood, who made clothes for the designer brand Christian Dior, says she sees online disasters all the time.
"They are just atrocious. Many of them seem to be made in Thailand and Asian countries and a lot come from America."
Consumer NZ advisor Maggie Edwards said online shoppers had to do their homework before buying.
Ms Edwards also said buyers should make sure they knew where the dress was being made as the website might not be in the same country.
Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said online shoppers who bought from offshore websites were not protected by New Zealand law and it was a case of buyer beware.
"If you are shopping on an online New Zealand site you are covered by the full force of consumer protection," Mr Albertson said.
"They might save a few dollars by going offshore but then the product might come in and be awful.
"You get what you pay for."
- Waikato Times