A groom has called out a bridal shop after his wife was asked to pay extra for undergarments to match her Black skin.
Kirchner, who met his fiancée Tessa Tookes on the show in 2023, explained that she visited a bridal shop and wanted to purchase a “beautiful” wedding dress. But when she went to buy the gown, the woman who worked at the unnamed bridal shop told her that the undergarments only come in two options.
“The standardised choice is nude, which is free. But if you would like the undergarment to match your skin tone, there’s an up charge,” Kirchner said in the clip, which has been viewed more than 3.5m times. “So 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 the undergarment to match her skin tone?”
He continued: “First of all, why is the standard white? How f***ed is it that in 2024, the standard, which is free, is a nude skin tone? Nude can be a lot of different colours, but they decided to make white nude the standard?”
Kirchner explained that Tookes was standing in the store “awkwardly” after she was told she needed to pay extra for the undergarment. Instead of paying the extra fee, which was around $200 more, Tookes decided to order the nude undergarment and dye it herself to match her skin tone.
“Wedding dress designers, take goddamn note. This is b******t and you should be called out,” he said, adding: “Figure it out.”
Speaking to The Independent, Tookes - who is set to tie the knot with Kirchner in September this year - explained that she came across her dream dress while scrolling on Instagram. When she discovered a boutique in Ontario, Canada, had carried the gown, she travelled all the way from New York City on 13 January to try it on. “The moment that I stepped into it and they buckled it up in the back, I was just speechless and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever worn,” Tookes told The Independent.
“I really just felt like a bride in the moment. It was stunning,” she said.
The undergarments in question were two beige-coloured breast cups that were sewed into the gown. However, if she wanted the brown-coloured breast cups, the bridal shop said she would have to pay more. According to Tookes, employees at the bridal shop “didn’t hesitate” to inform her of the additional fee, which made her feel “pretty caught off guard”.
“Once I heard it’s an extra charge, I was like, ‘Oh, you know what? I’ll just dye them on my own,’ to try to pivot the conversation because I felt so uncomfortable,” she explained. But when she went to the front desk to purchase her dream wedding dress and the brown-coloured undergarments, she noticed that the final cost was around $200 more than the wedding gown with the sewn-in ivory cups.
“I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Tookes said. “Being in a bridal gown and standing in front of sales associates, it’s your special day, you’ve got your bridal party there, and then suddenly they’re smacking on this extra charge just because you want to have that illusion bodice experience. Like, I wasn’t asking for anything extra or fancy, just literally having the sheer look.”
As for her fiancé, who wasn’t at the bridal shop when the incident occurred, Kirchner believed the extra charge was “absolutely ridiculous” but didn’t expect his video to go absolutely viral. Nevertheless, the couple both understood that the bridal shop experience would “resonate” with viewers.
“When you’re navigating an intercultural or interracial relationship, so much of my experience I’ve become desensitised to because I’m so used to it,” Tookes said. “To be able to share an experience with Joey who, you know, isn’t as privy to the experiences that Black women have when they’re shopping, I think it’s very new to him and that’s why his reaction was so raw and unfiltered.”
Several people in the comments section of the video agreed that Tookes shouldn’t need to pay extra for the undergarments to match her skin tone. “The wedding dress store I went to had all undergarment shades free. I didn’t realise that wasn’t standard, that blows my mind!” one TikTok user wrote under the video.
“That’s terrible! They should have waived the up charge!! Unbelievable,” another person said, while a third user commented: “Thank you for feeling this rage with her. This is so validating.”
Others took the opportunity to share their own negative experiences while shopping for wedding dresses.
“The industry needs change!” one person said. “I’m a plus-size wedding dress designer. Other brands always upcharge for larger sizes. Every size I offer is the same price.”
“I hate the wedding dress industry. The wedding dress people made me cry because I wasn’t a size eight or less,” another wrote. “And told me I should lose weight before getting married.”
Among the top comments, several women of colour expressed how “validating” it was to hear Tookes’ perspective because they too have been “gaslit” into feeling as though their real-life experiences are not as they seem.
“I’ve definitely, in the last week, been trying to wrap my head around how people can still dispute the argument that it’s fine to have beige as the standard. That blows my mind,” Tookes said. “We’re in 2024, we know how vast the range of brides is in terms of skin tone. It’s just so normalised in our society to expect fairer skin as the norm.”
Tookes’ experience isn’t exclusive to the bridal industry either, but also spans across the skincare, hair care, and fashion industries as a whole. Indeed, consumer markets still have a long way to go when it comes to inclusion and diversity in their products, advertising, and ethos.
The boutique later contacted the bride-to-be after her fiancé’s PSA went viral on TikTok and offered to cover the entire cost of the wedding dress. However, Tookes believed that her dream dress is “a little tainted” due to her shopping experience. Instead, she’s considering purchasing a wedding dress from one of the many designers who reached out to her. “I’ve been contacted by so many designers who want to work with me who are very inclusive in their practices,” Tookes said. “I think I would rather wear a dress by one of those people.”
Since their TikTok went viral, the couple simply hopes that their video will “open some people’s eyes” to what non-white people experience on a daily basis. “Take the time to actually understand something outside of your own personal experience, because I feel like that’s largely part of the problem,” Kirchner said.
Tookes urged viewers to “challenge the standards” set by society and understand why these so-called standards exist in the first place. As for brides, she recommended they “do [their] research” ahead of time in order to work with brands that are more inclusive in their practices.
“If you’re comfortable advocating for yourself in the moment, do it. If not, lean on people like your fiancé, your family, your partners, to support you when you can,” she added. “Lean on your community.”