I knew that it was time to start wedding dress shopping when people would ask “have you found a dress yet?”, and then seem very concerned for me when I said no.
“Well, you better get on that!” They would tell me.. They. Not just my mom, or my friends – my aunt, my dentist, the lady who does my hair – all of them made me feel like if I didn’t “get a move on it”, I was going to end up buying my dress from the prom section at Macy’s.
So, I got a move on it. I made an appointment at a bridal salon and dragged along two of my friends to watch me parade around in dresses for two hours while they cheered me on by saying things like, “I love that one!” and “You look so skinny!”
It was wonderful. For me, anyway. Probably less so for the girl who worked there as a “bridal consultant” and was assigned to help me get in and out of the dresses.
“I’m really sorry if I flash you,” I said to her, more than once. And then, both times, I flashed her. So I guess it was her lucky day.
“What kind of dress are you looking for?” She asked me. My friends kept asking me that too. As if I knew what kind of dress I was looking for, as if I’d been dreaming about it since I was nine.
I’ll admit, there were – shall we say – certain aspects of my wedding that I’ve considered since I was nine. For example, when I was nine and wanted to marry Brian Hyland (the boy who sat next to me in 1st period), I imagined our wedding in a GIANT church with a thirty piece orchestra. I imagined walking down the aisle, and singing “My Heart Will Go On” (AKA the “Titanic song”) …. because, apparently, I thought that would be a great time to break out in song. Like my wedding was going to be an episode of Glee.
However I hadn’t considered the dress. I’d considered the sad solo I wanted to belt out at my wedding, as if that’s not weird- but no opinions about the dress. The only thing I could tell her was –
“I don’t want to look like a cupcake. Nothing poofy.”
“Okay.” She said. “Nothing poofy. So, no ball gowns.”
“No ball gowns?” My friend Kat seemed disappointed. There’s something about the word “ball gown” that makes it feel like this could be your last chance to be a princess. We could model our wedding after William and Kate’s, I thought to myself. It could be like a fairytale!
No. No. We don’t have William-and-Kate-money, and I’ll regret buying a dress that I would constantly be tripping over all night.
“What about a mermaid dress?” The girl asked me, going the complete opposite direction of ‘ball gown’, as she was sifting through a row of white lace.
“No…” I wrinkled my nose. “Something a little more traditional.”
Alright, so maybe I did have some idea of what I was looking for.
- No ball gowns, no mermaids.
- No strapless.
- No sleeves.
- No sequins.
- White(ish) (Not like, white-white, but not not-white either – do you know what I mean?)
- ABSOLUTELY NO BELTS.
I didn’t even know you could do a “belt” on a wedding dress until I started really paying attention to wedding dresses. If you don’t know what a “wedding dress belt” looks like, it can be a ribbon or a… I don’t know, I think they’re typically ribbons, and they tie around your waist, and sometimes they have a giant bedazzled broach or a jewel or something sparkly in the center. Or sometimes they’re just this random ribbon tied around your dress.
If your wedding dress had a belt or a ribbon on it, I’m sure it was beautiful. I, however, do not look beautiful with a giant bedazzled broach strapped to my torso – so, good for you, but not for me.
“What about this one?” The bridal consultant that I’d already flashed twice came out carrying a cream colored pile of lace in her arms. “I think you’ll really like this one.” She said.
I didn’t like it. I hadn’t tried it on yet – but I could already tell. First of all, it wasn’t white. And I don’t just mean it wasn’t a true white, I mean it was so off-white that it bordered on the verge of yellow. On top of that, the dress appeared to have no shape? Like, no shape whatsoever. I’m not sure what “shape” a wedding dress is really supposed to have when it’s on the hanger, if you aren’t going the ball gown or mermaid route – but it should at least have a corset…. right?
Mine should have a corset. I want to make sure it’s going to suck me in.
“Try it on!” She said, and she seemed really excited.
I agreed, even though I don’t know why. I knew that I wasn’t going to like it. Based on its sad, droopy appearance from the rack, it looked like something you’d wear to a hippie-dippy Coachella wedding.
Why was I trying on this dress? This dress wasn’t me. It was made almost entirely out of an off-off-off-white lace, and it had those sleeves. Do you know those sleeves that aren’t really sleeves? They just kind of hang off your shoulders? I think they’re called “cap sleeves”. Anyway, it had those.
“Oh my gosh,” my friend Klaudia said as I stepped out of the dressing room. “You look FANTASTIC.”
Fantastic? I’m wearing a dress that makes me look –
I finally looked at myself in the mirror. Actually this dress makes me look tan. And thin, even without the corset. How is it doing that?
“Seriously.” Kat said. “That dress looks great on you.”
I don’t know what you’re supposed to feel when you’ve found “the dress”. Are you supposed to imagine yourself getting married in it? Are you supposed to think of your future husband? Is it all supposed to feel “real” when you find THE RIGHT DRESS?
There was something unique about this dress that made it look like it could have been passed down from the 1920s. It was romantic, understated, and timeless, and made me feel a little bit like… Juliet?
Is that how you know when you’ve found the dress? When it makes you feel like a Shakespeare character?
“I think this is the one.” I said quietly. Yikes. Is it? Is it normal to find it that quickly? I’ve been looking – in total – for like, an hour. ONE HOUR. Isn’t this process supposed to take days? Or weeks? Aren’t I supposed to cry or something?
“Don’t buy it today.” Kat said. “Come back. Sleep on it”
But I could get this done today, I thought, and was more excited about the thought of checking “wedding dress” off my to-do list than I was about actually buying a wedding dress.
“It will still be here if you come back in a week,” she said. “This is the first place you’ve looked – just think about it.”
Think about it.
So I thought about it. It wasn’t exactly the dress I’d pictured… but then again, what was I picturing? Besides something with a corset, apparently. Beyond that, this met all of my other requirements – it wasn’t a ball gown, it wasn’t strapless, it did kind of have those little hang-off-your-shoulder sleeves, but do those even count as real sleeves? I mean, they’re not even covering my shoulder, or my arm. They’re just, there.
I should buy it, I’d convinced myself three days later. I should just go in there and buy it. SURE it was like, the fourth dress I tried on, and OKAY – so I didn’t cry when I found it… maybe the other girls cry because they’re so tired and frustrated after looking for weeks on end, maybe those are tears of RELIEF.
I’m going to buy it, I told myself. Then texted my friends to see if they wanted to come back with me. I needed to try it on one more time just to be sure. And then I was going to buy it! It would be a quick stop – in and out, like running in to the store to pick up a gallon of milk.
Except, of course, this was nothing like that.
TO BE CONTINUED……
In the meantime, here are some photos from dress shopping! Don’t worry – none of these are the one that I ended up with. (I have to save that one!)