In early July, an Airdrie bridal store, Taffeta & Tulle Bridal, announced on social media that they would be closing its doors. The abrupt announcement left many of the business's customers with many questions and even more emotions - as brides-to-be were trying to figure out what to do next.
Social media announcement creates chaos
The since-deleted post from July 4 wrote, in part:
"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have to close the business' doors. Taffeta & Tulle Bridal is insolvent. I have contacted a lawyer and due to the multiple threats and harassment myself and y family have experienced, I will no longer be able to answer any calls, texts or emails."
The post went on to state that the business would be liquidating its inventory.
"...To pay debtors what they are owed. Once this process is completed you will be contacted. I am hoping to have this cleared up with answers in the next few weeks."
A dress meant to commemorate loved ones
During the same timeframe, Airdrie bride-to-be, Beckie Ryan, who had plans to marry this September received a text message from the business about the closure of the store. She had originally visited the business in late January and decided that she wanted a custom wedding dress by Taffeta & Tulle. Ryan paid in full, $4,500, for her dream dress as well as for three bridesmaid dresses.
Her dress was all the more important to her as she had decided to incorporate elements to commemorate her father who had passed away as well as her fiance's mother, who had also passed away.
"I was going to incorporate them into my dress as a surprise for my fiance and being able to have that aspect was huge for me," she said. "She [the business owner] shared the emotion and she understood and she was energetic. My daughter and my stepdaughter were there with me as well."
According to Taffeta & Tulle Bridal's website, it lists its dress designer as Marisza Cottam. Cottam also appears to be the owner of the store. The website states that its gowns, 'range anywhere from $1700 and up. The orderable gowns start at $1700 and up - with the option of doing custom measurements and designs with an added fee.'
"It is recommend[ed] to begin bridal shopping approximately 8 to 12 months before your wedding. Throw yourself into the experience of it all and have fun!" the FAQ portion of the website reads.
After Ryan had paid for her dresses in February/March, she was told that by June 2023, she would be able to come back to try on mock-ups of her custom wedding gown. This was also the last time Ryan had any communication with the store.
When Ryan reached out to the bridal store letting them know that she had moved her wedding to the following year (September 2024) she had no response. June passed by with no indication of whether the mock-up of the dress was ready.
"I get a text message from her in July, saying that she was closing her shop and that somebody else would be able to continue with my custom dress. I messaged her back - short and sweet - saying that I was looking forward to hearing her solution."
At that time Ryan had not yet seen the social media post and by the time she had, she began wondering if she would be able to get a refund.
"I paid by e-transfer and when somebody goes insolvent, there's typically nothing that's ever going to come to fruition. Right now, I'm out that money and we don't know what's going to happen. There's been zero communication."
Though Ryan said she has been able to keep her emotions in check, she has not yet found another alternative for her wedding gown.
"To have to explain to somebody else now, the reasons why and to go through the raw emotions, again around why I wanted it certain ways; it's going to be challenging. I do have to start searching for somebody new. I just hope that I can find somebody equally as passionate that can try to recreate the design that I wanted."
Ryan said that she has filed a complaint with the Airdrie RCMP. Police did confirm an investigation is active, but would not speak to the number of individuals that have contacted police thus far.
'I have a dress that sits in my closet; I just wanted to help in any way that I could'
Amidst the turmoil that many brides were thrown into, several local women have reached out with offers, either wanting to donate their own dresses or lend them out. Tanya Puttick, a Rocky View County business owner (New Horizon Mall) said that she understands the frustration of the women, considering bridal gown appointments are often booked months in advance, and dresses sometimes take up to a year to make.
"I just wanted to help them out in any way I could. I have a dress that sits in my closet. I do have plans for it in the future, so, I don't plan on donating it, but I can lend it out," she said.
She explained that she wants to take photos of each of her daughters wearing her wedding gown along with jewellery.
Puttick, who was married on a cruise ship in the Caribbean said she absolutely loves her wedding dress and is hoping that she can pass that same feeling on to another bride. She also underlined, that as a local business owner, she is keenly aware of how hard circumstances can be.
"I've never looked negatively towards the business. It's not easy. My heart goes out to them; it's not easy being smeared with negativity," she said. "It's hard work and I feel it's fortunate that they ended up where they are."
She urged everyone to put themselves in the shoes of the business owner and said that when a business closes its door, it can be equally as devastating for the business owner.
While there has been a deluge of brides with similar stories to Ryan's, there have also been several individuals who remarked on social media that they had nothing but positive experiences with Taffeta & Tulle Bridal. However, they were not available for an interview at the time of publication.
'I believed after talking to her that she was going to be able to give me that dress'
Amanda Lewis, who is originally from New Brunswick, was also wanting to shop local, and based on recommendations, she made her way to Taffeta & Tulle Bridal in September 2022, hoping that the business would be able to create a wedding dress that would go along with her August 2023 wedding. Lewis said that her wedding theme was a 1920s/30's theme.
Although Lewis had booked other appointments at other bridal places, once she had met with Cottam, she cancelled the other bookings.
"I decided that I didn't need to go anywhere else. I bought my dress from her that day. [During] my appointment with her, she was so confident and the way that she was [talking] about the dress - there were no ifs, and, or buts that the dress would be on point and she could do it."
Lewis also paid the full $3,800. She said that the bridal shop told her that they would be the ones to contact her once the mock-up for the dress was ready, which would be in February or March of this year. When the months passed and Lewis began to contact the business via email, text and private messaging on social media there was no answer.
"At the end of April, they said that they were foregoing getting the mock-up, [in order] to speed along the process of getting my dress," she said.
Lewis scheduled alterations for her dress for June 16, even though there was still no word on where her gown was and even though she had told Taffeta & Tulle that the dress needed to arrive before mid-June. She was then told there was no such guarantee and that there was no information on where the dress was. When June 16 passed, she made an appointment and wanted answers as to what was happening. That is when she was told that the dress wouldn't arrive any time soon, or that it would arrive the week of Lewis' wedding.
Lewis said she was offered a dress from the floor as compensation, though Lewis noted, most of the 'off-the-rack' dresses ran at $1,300. By early July, in a panicked state, Lewis bought another dress. At that point, Taffeta & Tulle also offered her a refund. However, even though a refund was completed, Lewis was not provided with paperwork to prove the money would in fact come back to her.
"I went home to New Brunswick for my bridal shower and that was supposed to be a happy time. I was stressed the whole time I was there because I was trying to deal with getting our money back," she said. "We were out almost $8,000 at that point with the dress that we had bought [from Taffeta & Tulle] and a new dress."
Lewis did eventually get a refund, though she says she is still owed $200.
"I know that doesn't make seem like much but I still had to get the other dress and I still have to get alterations, which is still another $600. So, I'm still out almost $1000."
'When it comes to weddings, the dress is one of the most important parts'
Like Tanya Puttick, Debbie Stiles, a Crossfield resident and business owner was compelled to help when she saw social media posts on a local page. Stiles, who was married three years ago, says that for women, the wedding dress is more than a dress.
"The dress is one of the most important parts; because if you don't feel like a princess when you walk down the aisle, it's just not there," she said.
Stiles is offering her wedding dress up as a gift to the brides that have been affected by the business closure. Remembering her own wedding gown fitting, she said it is a memory that lasts a lifetime.
"It was just the feeling that you're picking out the 'aha' dress when you see it. You get to wear that dress, to walk down the aisle to marry the love of your life. I used to dress my Barbies up in wedding dresses for Pete's sake."
Looking at the situation as a business owner, Stiles said that while negativity and negative reviews will always be part of having a business, she feels it's up to the business to rectify a situation immediately and show they are willing to work with their customers.
The July social media post by Taffeta & Tulle Bridal did underline that brides who had a wedding dress arriving, 'in the next couple of weeks' would receive the gown which they paid for.
"I will contact you when to pick it up... I am sincerely sorry to my brides and their families for the stress and damage this has caused. My intentions were never to hurt anyone, only to keep a business continuing to run through an incredibly hard few years. I will do everything in my ability to make this right..."
Discover Airdrie reached out to Taffeta & Tulle Bridal via email and text, but there was no response during the time of publication.
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