Behind the Scenes of “Be Mine”

Yesterday we shot the second installment of our collection  “Be Mine.” Preparation for the shoot had begun in earnest about a week earlier, but no matter how much planning we do beforehand, there’s always so much more to do day of!

The early morning hours found us “blinging” out a pair of glass slippers, steaming the dress, doing hair and make up and… trying to find a Price Charming for our Cinderella. Our first string Prince had fallen through and we were scrambling for a replacement. Fortunately, our very own knight in shining armor arrived just in time and we were off the Mesa Arts Center to shoot our baby blue gown Ella against a gorgeous Arizonan sunset.

There we met up with William of W Gates Photography and his lovely assistant, Lisa. One of the bad things about shooting with a sunset is the sunset won’t wait for you to get that extra shot in (no matter how nicely you ask) and…. it may not show up at all!

Our sunset yesterday was a no show – not a streak of orange, yellow or pink in sight, just grey, overcast clouds. No worries, though – our photographer had come with a Plan B and C and the shoot turned out beautifully! We can’t wait to reveal the pictures very soon, but in the meantime here are a few behind the scene sneak peaks!

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A Quick Buyer’s Guide to Avoid Scamming

One of the saddest aspects of Virtuous Prom is hearing horror stories from our customers about online dress scams they have fallen victim to. Often times, young girls are shopping for a great deal and they see a beautiful dress for an amazing (suspiciously low) price that can be custom made to their measurements.

It seems like a dream come true, a deal they can’t refuse, and they do what most of us would do – buy it!

What these girls don’t know is that 99% of the time, the item they’re purchasing is not the item shown in the photo.

What do I mean? Well, in the past five years or so and especially since the rapid globalization of AliExpress, the use of pirated images and the production of forgeries based on those images has sky rocketed.

Many Americans find themselves being defrauded because they don’t understand the subtle but sinister reality at play. When we shop online with western companies like The Gap, we never think twice about whether or not we’ll receive what we are shown in the photo, because we’re looking at Gap’s photo of Gap’s product. Additionally, if we don’t like the item or if there’s an issue, there are channels set up for returns and complaints.

Because the western world was first introduced to online shopping through western companies, we have an inherent sense of trust, but do not be deceived – this mode of presentation and selling is not inherent to all companies. In fact, there seems to be a strikingly different sense of ethics and sensibilities found abroad, especially in China.

From the data available at present, it seems that it is a standard and acceptable procedure for clothing retailers to use images from another company to advertise styles that they think they are capable of reproducing. There is absolutely no way for the consumer to tell whether or not the product they are purchasing will look anything like the stock photograph they based their purchase off of.

For example, a quick search of Amazon pulls up this item:

Pirated Image

To the untrained eye, it might register as odd that the model is missing a head, but here’s what you’re not seeing:

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That’s right, folks. This image belongs to Bella Formals. The vendor on Amazon has absolutely no legal right to use this image and has taken pains to obscure the image’s origins.

I guarantee you 100% percent that if you were to purchase this item, at least one element would be strikingly different. I also guarantee you that if you were to complain about the sizing or any other aspect you would not find a satisfactory resolution. From what we have heard, the very best overseas companies offer is to refund you your money once you have paid for the item to be returned internationally. This is the best resolution. The worst is to pay good money for a garment or item that is completely unlike what you wanted and completely unusable.

How big of a problem is this? Well, according to the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association in 2013 over 700,000 counterfeit wedding and prom dresses were purchased in the US alone, making it roughly a $70,000,000 industry annually.

There’s so much more that could be said on the subject, but for the sake of brevity I will leave you with this very informative link to the ABPIA’s website: http://www.abpia.org/category/counterfeit-wedding-dresses/ and this striking visual from the same page that illustrates our renewed need to live the words “Buyer Beware!”:

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Ordering Online – the Leap of Faith

I want to start out by saying ordering from Virtuous Prom is not for everyone, and I mean that in a good way.

Some people really need to try a dress on to make a decision. Others need to feel the fabric and see the quality for themselves before making a purchase. Some are blessed to live in areas where modest fashion is more accessible and sometimes their price point is slightly lower.

Virtuous Prom isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK.

Ordering online, especially for big ticket items like your wedding dress, can be scary, especially when so many people online are disingenuous and looking to take advantage of others. However, there are tremendous advantages that make the leap of faith shorter and easier.

The more we work with young ladies and women across the globe, the more we see how Virtuous Prom becomes the right choice for our customers.

  • Custom Measurements – Having the option to custom make (almost) every dress is a huge plus, especially for those of us that are taller or shorter than average, have figures that don’t fit “straight sizes” (for example, my waist is usually two sizes smaller than my other measurements!), etc. Many brides don’t know this, but alterations for a gown can cost $500 or more – sometimes more than the dress cost itself! When a dress is made exactly for you there simply isn’t a need for alterations because the dress isn’t a size 4, 10 or 14. It’s a size you.
  • Price Point – Simply put, our prices are hard to beat. With wedding dresses starting at $275 and prom dresses starting at $70, it’s easy to see why.
  • Custom Designs – Whether you know exactly what you want (we’ve gotten a few drawings submitted!) or can’t quite figure it out, we love working with our customers to design a one of the kind, gorgeous dress that perfectly reflects their vision.
  • The Personal Touch – We’re a family business that believes in direct accountability to our customers. We enjoy working with our customers, meeting with them, and sometimes even going to their weddings!

However our customers find us, we love working them! Our customers really are the best part of our business!

I Have the Best, Best Friends (and Business Partners!)

Don’t be deceived by our gorgeous dresses and photographs – Virtuous Prom is hard work! Behind every beautiful shot is hours of work, fretting, deliberation, blood, sweat and tears.

I love every second of it, but it’s been an uphill battle from our very first photo shoot. Each step of the way, we’ve learned something new. Each new revelation is a priceless gift that propels us leaps and bounds towards our goals, but it’s always bittersweet. Almost two years into being Virtuous Prom’s Creative Director, each twist in the learning curve makes me look back and wish “If only I knew that back then…”

To say I kick myself for past ignorance and mistakes is an understatement, but I never beat myself up. There’s just no room to! Every time I get to feeling dejected or demoralized, one of my two amazing business partners always comes to my emotional rescue (most of the time without even knowing I’m feeling low).

Today, as I enter my second week with the flu, I wasn’t having my best day.  In fact, I was feeling very low. Then along came Brandon. Without knowing the kind of day I was having, Brandon reached out to me and asked how he could help out more with the day to day concerns of the business. In doing so, he lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. He went out of his way to immediately implicate what needed to be done today. and when I saw his work it was the best surprise I could have asked for.

I have the best, best friends (and business partners too!). Thanks, you guys! We could never had made it this far without each other.

Why Buy the Cow, When You Can Get the Milk for Free? A Guy’s Perspective on Modesty

I should preface this post by saying I am a new guest blogger for Virtuous Prom….and I’m a guy.

In my long and short 27 years there is one thing I’ve learned for certain, and that is there is nothing more beautiful than the female form.  You ladies are the reason I didn’t do as well as I should have in school. I spent half my time distracted by you and the other half distracted by cars. Beauty is power and ladies you have more power over men than you could ever imagine. It’s important you realize this and remember “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

You have the power to make guys like me weak, and weak men aren’t men of God. Weak men can not be effective leaders, husbands, fathers, and friends. The world needs strong, virtuous men and I’ll let you in on a little secret: We desperately need your help to be that way.  Being virtuous and modest are the biggest ways you can help the men in your life be better men of God.  By making them better, you’re making yourself better in return.

Modesty directly reflects a persons dignity.

Let’s take Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus for example:
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…Who would you say is dignified and virtuous?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The Forms taken by modesty, vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man.” (ccc 2524)

Today’s society is consumed with sex, and thus makes modesty, virtue and dignity take a back seat. Sadly, more focus is placed on Kim Kardashian’s ‘behind’ than the beautifully modest Taylor Swift sending Christmas gifts to a good portion of her fans (yeah, I kind of have a crush on Taylor Swift…get over it!).

Men Like women…Women want men to like them. It’s simple. Sometimes to get male attention a lady feels the need to expose more of her body than her mind.Well, I’ve got another secret for you: you don’t need to. If the guy is a guy worth having he will be drawn to you first and your body second.  That’s not to say worth while guys aren’t checking out the immodestly dressed – they are – but they are checking out the modestly dressed too.  It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, guys are looking. So leave a little more to the imagination!  Most guys are scared to talk to you anyway and when you’re showing off your body you’re not helping us.

Men are in desperate need of help. The majority may not admit it, but we are.  For many guys modesty can mean the difference between thinking “Wow! She’s so beautiful right now” (with a slight dorky grin) and “Wow…I want to see what’s under those clothes” (with wide eyes and a creepy grin).  Being immodest gives way to lustful, carnal thoughts, and actions; furthermore, it turns you into an object, not a human.

Which one would you like guys to be thinking?

Living a virtuous life isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth while.

This is more than just a blog post; it’s a plea. A plea to women of every age, please help the men in your life by being virtuous. Please help us become the Prince you deserve, by being the Princesses you are. I hope that having an insight to the male perspective on modesty and virtue reassures you that it’s not all about showing your body off, it’s about showing yourself off.

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Every week or so I check how we’re doing being “ranked” by Google for the query “modest prom dresses.”

In developing the website for Virtuous Prom, learning how to do meta-tagging (the keywords that “talk” to Google and other search engines) was one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced. Neither I nor my business partners really had any expertise, and all the technical mumbo-jumbo was mind boggling for this creative type.

And so I check in with Google frequently to make sure our website is communicating with Google well (technically speaking, that we are SEO – search engine optimized).

I also check what images come up for the keywords “Virtuous Prom,” mostly out of curiosity. We’re still a young company (our website finally came to life this past July; we joined Etsy the following month) and at first when I searched for images related to “Virtuous Prom” very little came up. It’s been fun to see how Google picks up more and more of our images over time and it’s been a way to track our diffusion into the internet.

Today, I was looking at images under our brand name and found one image that did not belong with the others:

One Does Not Belong

Can you spot it?

Upon further investigation, I saw that in a string of random words, someone had inserted our brand name, in the hopes of boosting traffic to their site!

Hi Pirates

A very good reminder to always protect our brand. Undoubtedly, this is the first of many times to come, but as they say imitation is the highest form of flattery!

Model Behavior

It seems almost impossible, but this time two years ago, I was looking for a modest dress to wear while performing as a harpist. No matter how many times or how I googled it, modest dresses really weren’t available online. There were a few websites scattered across the internet, but either they were so user-unfriendly or they were so out of my price range.

I’m all for paying good money for a great dress, but $300-500 for a formal dress? If that was outside of my price point, what were teenage girls doing?

And so began the idea of Virtuous Prom. The first months of 2013 were filled with hours and hours of research and reflection. Then came the decision to start the business and since then time has flown by. Our first model was blessed with a baby boy this past December (Congrats, K!), just on the heels of that our darling Paige announced her engagement to the eternally lucky Wade.

I’ll freely admit, I have more than a little nostaliga about our “little Paige” getting married. When we had our first photo shoot with her she had *JUST* turned eighteen. Looking back at her film, it’s easy to see how she effortlessly transitioned from a beautiful young lady to a gorgeous woman.

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Yup, that’s our little Paigling. It seems impossible that tomorrow we’re meeting up for a dress consultation for HER WEDDING DRESS!

Time flies by, seasons change, and in this I am reminded to be thankful for the time we are given, the wonderful friends we meet and to treasure each moment in that very moment.

Things are happening fast for our little company and one of our upcoming changes we’re thrilled to announce is that we have a new model! We are so excited to work with the gorgeous Cynthia in our upcoming collection “Be Mine!”

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Cynthia, we can’t wait to work with you! You are so beautiful and have such a sweet personality! A lot of changes are going to happen for Virtuous Prom in 2015 so stay tuned! These updates are just the first of many.

Happy 2015! May it be a wonderful and blessed year for you all!