Tessa Tookes traveled to Ontario to put on her ideal wedding gown after discovering it on Instagram, but she had the worst experience. The 28-year-old model from New York City met her fiancé, Joey Kirchner, during season two of “Bachelor in Paradise Canada” which premiered in 2023.
She explained that when she stood on the platform in the perfect dress, the boutique personnel took two brown-colored breast cups. The cups that were already incorporated into the dress were beige, or “nude” — and free — but if she wanted the undergarments to match her skin color, she’d have to pay an additional $200.
Tookes said the experience immediately reminded her of her high school dancing performances, where she had to “pancake” her pink ballerina shoes with foundation and dye her “nude” tights using tea bags to match her complexion.
She told USA Today, “I just received the information in silence and defaulted to being uncomfortable. I was not acutely aware of my blackness until [that moment.] It was incredibly isolating, and I felt very othered.”
A week later, she responded to a text message from her future mother-in-law regarding the dress appointment. Then she told her fiance.
In support of his soon-to-be bride, Tooke’s fiancé Kirchner posted a video expressing the incident and requesting that wedding dress designers take heed. “You should be called out,” he said, pointing at the camera. “Figure it out.”
Since then, the video has received more than 3 million views and more than 709,000 comments, some of which were from Black wedding dress makers offering to custom-create her dress or professionally dye the cups for free.
After watching the video, the boutique in question got in touch with Tookes and offered to cover the full cost of the wedding dress, which Tookes thought was kind but “didn’t necessarily get at the heart of the issue.”
In retrospect, Tookes admitted that she could have spoken up at the time, but she didn’t want to become a “bridezilla.” Furthermore, it shouldn’t be her responsibility: “To have to defend your skin tone just doesn’t feel fair.”
While some of her followers expressed disbelief that the staff in Tookes’ situation felt comfortable enough to bring up the upcharge, others shared similar experiences they had at bridal boutiques.
For now, Tookes said that she has left her wedding dress mess up “in the air.” Although she already paid a deposit on the gown after opting for the “nude” cups that she had planned to dye on her own, she’s now considering working with one of the many Black designers who reached out to make a gown for her. “It just feels a lot more aligned with my feelings on the matter and wanting to support and uplift this community of women.”
Tookes offers the following advice to future brides of color who might be concerned about dealing with similar circumstances: “I think we’re all aware of the potential experiences we could have in terms of not feeling like our skin colors and bodies are represented in these environments. But consider splurging for a positive and magical wedding dress shopping experience, and go in with the expectation that you may have to advocate for yourself.”