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Cleaner said, she said: How was dress ruined?

Today, Debra Giardina will attend a family wedding. She will wear a new dress. Her relatives will say she looks great.

But Mrs. Giardina will be miserable.

To her, the evening was ruined earlier this week, when a local dry cleaner handled the dress she was supposed to wear today.

It wasn't any old dress. It was the dress Mrs. Giardina had worn at her own nuptials three years ago.

That dress _ a full-length evening model, not a traditional gown with veil _ could be worn to any fancy affair. From afar, the dress looks fine to a casual observer.

Up close, however, Mrs. Giardina points out what went wrong at the cleaners. To her, the meaningful piece of clothing is ruined.

"Now I wouldn't wear it to the dog show," she said.

For this, she blames Touch of Quality Cleaners. That company's owner says Mrs. Giardina is exaggerating, inaccurate and rude.

Mrs. Giardina, 45, lives in Jamestown, N.Y., which is near Buffalo. She arrived in Citrus on July 12 to enjoy a vacation with her sister, Patty Frankie, who lives in Cinnamon Ridge.

Their aunt's wedding was scheduled for today, so Mrs. Giardina brought her special dress. It has a white chiffon base with flowing, floral print scarves that tie in the front and the back.

The dress had been packed in an airtight container since her wedding April 24, 1993. So Mrs. Giardina, who typically does not use dry cleaners, took the dress to Touch of Quality's branch near the Wal-Mart store outside Inverness.

She retrieved the dress July 19 and found several black smears on the white portion. Also, she said the trim was tattered. Horrified, Mrs. Giardina asked for a new cleaning.

She got the dress back a second time and was even more upset. The black streaks were gone, she said; in their place were water spots. The cleaners also lopped off portions of the front scarves and then failed to evenly finish off the trim.

"I'll never be able to wear it _ ever. There's no way to fix it," Mrs. Giardina said.

Any wedding dress has sentimental value, of course. Mrs. Giardina said her dress was even more valuable to her because her mother _ whom she had not seen for 17 years before her wedding _ had bought the dress even though she had little extra money.

In fact, her mother will be at the wedding today. Mrs. Giardina wanted her mother to see her wearing the special dress.

Russ Powell, who owns the cleaners, said the dress came to his shop with yellow spots. "Those spots are impossible to get out," he said during an interview.

He also said the edging was messed up from the start.

In short, Powell said his shop did nothing to damage the dress. He would be willing to work with Mrs. Giardina to resolve the situation _ she seeks about $90 to compensate for the financial loss _ but he said she was "really nasty" when dealing with his staff.

"Ninety dollars wouldn't break me one way or the other," Powell said. "We stand behind our work 100 percent."

Meanwhile, Mrs. Giardina and her sister went dress shopping Thursday night and found her something to wear today. But it won't be the same.

"That (dress) was like a piece of gold to me," Mrs. Giardina said.