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A bride says she was told she'd have to pay extra for dress fabric that matched her skin tone even though white and 'nude' options were free

A bride says she was told she'd have to pay extra for dress fabric that matched her skin tone even though white and 'nude' options were free
A man and woman hug and hold a cake in front of a "Mr and Mrs." sign.
Tessa Tookes opened up about her experience wedding dress shopping.Tessa Tookes and Joey Kirchner
  • "Bachelor in Paradise: Canada" star Tessa Tookes went wedding dress shopping.

  • Tookes thought she found her dream wedding dress after connecting with the brand online.

  • But Tookes said the staff at a boutique told her she'd have to pay extra for fabric matching her skin tone.

Tessa Tookes has been dreaming about her wedding dress for years.

Tookes, 28, got engaged to Joey Kirchner in 2022 after the pair met on "Bachelor in Paradise: Canada." The couple live in Ontario, but they're moving to New York City soon.

Tookes and Kirchner's wedding is set for September 2024, the model and HR specialist told Business Insider. So, as the new year started, it was time for Tookes to begin seriously looking for a wedding dress — which was one of the parts of wedding planning she was most excited about.

"I was part of the 'Say Yes To The Dress' fandom era," she said. "I just was waiting for that iconic moment. It's definitely been something on my bucket list for my entire life."

Tookes had her eye on a certain dress

Tookes said she fell in love with a dress she saw online, even reaching out to the brand via Instagram to tell its staff how much she liked it, and she was eager to try it on to see if it fit with her vision.

Tookes told BI it was an ivory fit-and-flare gown with a sweetheart necklace and a sheer bodice. She said it also featured built-in bra cups to provide some coverage.

A man kisses a woman on the cheek as he hugs her from behind.
Tessa Tookes went to an Ontario bridal boutique with a specific dress in mind. Tessa Tookes and Joey Kirchner

Only one boutique in Ontario carried the gown, so she made an appointment at the store to try it on in mid-January, bringing one of her bridesmaids and one of Kirchner's groomsmen along with her.

When she tried the dress on, Tookes loved it. But as she looked at it in the mirror, Tookes said she realized the built-in bra cups the sample dress came with didn't look right on her, as they didn't match her skin tone.

Tookes said when she brought the cups up to a consultant working at the store, they told her that the dress could be made with white, beige (which the staffer referred to as "nude" at the time, according to Tookes), or brown inserts.

"I was super excited they had brown," she said, as the darker shade would be a better fit for her skin tone. "Then, as I started to express interest in that, they're like, 'But for the brown, it's an additional cost.'"

The brown fabric could only be used for a fee, while white and beige were free, Tookes said

According to Tookes, the salesperson said that the white and beige inserts were included in the original price of the dress, but the brown inserts would cost around $200 extra.

Tookes said she was disappointed that the brown fabric was singled out, but she didn't want to "dampen the mood" of the appointment by voicing her discomfort.

"It's a familiar emotion of being told that what you need because of your skin tone requires either more work or more money," she said.

"I just didn't expect it to happen on my bridal shopping day, especially when I found the gown, and I'm about to pay this business a lot of money," Tookes added. "There's such a lack of sensitivity there, and I think I'm used to covering up those feelings, but in the moment, I just felt kind of embarrassed."

She put a deposit down on the dress without buying it in full, choosing the white fabric for the inserts and planning to dye them herself.

Tookes said if she had known about the charge for the brown fabric in advance, she never would have tried the dress on.

"I wouldn't have wanted to try on something that singles out certain types of brides," she said. "If they're going to offer the bridal cups, which they absolutely should, it should be a standard fee for all of them or free for everyone."

Tookes and Kirchner posted about the experience on TikTok

A bride and groom embrace in front of a "Mr and Mrs" sign.
They detailed the experience on TikTok. Tessa Tookes and Joey Kirchner

Tookes didn't tell Kirchner about the fee immediately after her appointment, but when his mom asked if she'd found the dress, she told him everything and said she wanted to post on TikTok about it, as the couple have a joint account.

"I told him, and the rage just immediately came over him," Tookes said of Kirchner's reaction, adding that he was upset that anyone would have to pay extra for their gown because of their skin tone.

"I have not felt more in love with him," Tookes said of her reaction to Kirchner's empathy and rage on her behalf. "He was furious, and that's a fury that I felt my entire life."

"To have someone so easily understand what I was feeling and empathize and want to make a difference was just so, so beautiful and such a classic Joey thing," she added. "He's the sweetest, most understanding, considerate person."

Tookes and Kirchner posted a TikTok video about Tookes' experience on Monday, and the video immediately went viral, amassing over 3 million views by Friday.

Kirchner spoke in the video, advocating for Tookes.

"You're telling me that it's free to be white, but if my bride has a different skin tone than white, she has to pay extra money to get an undergarment to match her skin tone?" he said in the video. "First of all, why is the standard white? How fucked is that that in 2024, the 'standard,' which is free, is a 'nude skin tone?'"

Tookes said she thought the video would resonate with people, but she didn't expect it to be so popular.

"I knew that there would be an audience there, but I didn't expect it to reach beyond the bridal community," she said. "I'm really moved by how the community has really rallied for us and also rallied for Joey just unapologetically standing up for me."

Tookes hopes the wedding industry can become more inclusive

There are a handful of wedding brands focused on inclusivity, like Alonuko, which specializes in illusion wedding gowns for Black women, and Lost in the Lace, a size-inclusive brand. But overall, Tookes said she's found that "the standard is still thin and white."

"It's hurtful, and it's not something that we should be proud of," she said. "It's not something we should tolerate."

Tookes said she was in contact with the brand about her experience shopping for the dress, but she ultimately decided to buy a gown from a different designer.

"I really don't want to wear a dress that stands for charging someone more off the basis of their skin tone," Tookes said.

She also said she felt a sense of catharsis after sharing her feelings publicly, empowering her to continue to vocalize her experience.

"It's very common for me to hold those things in, especially when they have to do with being a woman of color," she said. "I don't like taking up a lot of space, but TikTok has made it very clear that I'm allowed to take up space."

"I'm just excited to continue being a bride and preparing for the wedding with more boundaries when it comes to shopping and standing up for myself," Tookes added.

Read the original article on Business Insider