How Much To Fight Over a Dress Debacle?

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Dear Miriam, 

Right before my son’s wedding this past weekend, I realized my dress needed some last-minute alterations. I took it to a local tailor I’ve used before and explained the alterations and the time sensitivity involved. When I went to pick my dress up, it was all wrong and rendered unwearable, and there was no time for them to fix it again. I ended up purchasing a new dress last minute that fit off the rack, and the wedding was lovely. Now that the dust has settled from the event, I want to go back to the tailor and ask for a refund. My son and new daughter-in-law want me to let it go. What do you think? 


Mother of the Groom


Dear Mother, 

First and most importantly, I want to wish you a mazel tov on this occasion. I’m glad you didn’t let this dress debacle get in the way of enjoying the simcha or cloud your view of what really mattered about the event. On the other hand, how incredibly frustrating, nerve-wracking, and probably, in the moment, pretty awful. 

My first impulse is to agree with you. You should go back to the tailor with the unwearable dress, explain what happened, and ask for your money back for the “repairs.” It’s only fair, they should know what happened, and they should try to make it right. 

But then, in thinking about this further, I realized that the damage is done and also, the wedding is done! And it was great! In the scheme of a wedding, this was likely a minor expense, and even the purchase of a new mother-of-the-groom dress probably didn’t have a significant impact on your finances. Sure, it was stressful, but even in the best-case scenario, the tailor can’t reimburse you for that. Will you feel better if you reprimand someone who works there? Or if you explain this to a manager and someone gets fired? How will any of these outcomes impact you today and impact your memories of this special time in your family? 

I think the answer is that you won’t feel better, and the sooner you let this go, the sooner it can be a funny story instead of a source of bitterness and feeling wronged. My biggest reason, though, that you should not go back to the tailor to complain is that your son and daughter-in-law think you shouldn’t. This is an opportunity to follow their lead, respect their wishes, and show what kind of mother and mother-in-law you plan to be. This path doesn’t excuse the tailor for their mistake, but it allows you to be a kind and gracious person who understands that people make mistakes. Not a bad way to describe your new mother-in-law!

You do, however, need to find a new tailor. I don’t recommend badmouthing this business on Yelp, but you don’t need to continue to support them. Finding a new tailor may be on par with the inconvenience of finding a new dress, but it’s nowhere near as difficult as repairing a relationship with your children or convincing someone you’re actually a nice person after reaming them out for a mistake. 

One small possible compromise is to bring the ruined dress back, explain what happened, and ask if it can be re-repaired free of charge. But only do this if you think you can carry out the entire exchange from a place of patience and grace, if you actually have an occasion to wear this dress should it again be wearable, and if you’re willing to walk away if they say no. If you can’t meet all three of these conditions, let it go, move on, and be glad this is the worst of your wedding woes.

Be well, and mazel tov again,