Where our new contributor, Lisa (in the photo), tells us about finding THE dress.
I am not one of those girls who has been planning her wedding since she was this big. I am one of those girls who stockpiled issues of Vogue and Mademoiselle and funnily enough, J.Crew catalogs, which means that I have been planning my closet since I was this big.
So when I got engaged all my friends assumed the dress would be the first thing I bought as soon as that ring slid onto my finger. My friend Alexis told me that she imagined me in Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s wedding dress. That impeccable, perfect Narciso Rodriguez white sheath of a dress. Which I took as a compliment because if she imagined me in the dress that CBK wore that must mean she thinks that maybe I reminded her of her??? Which means I can officially stop trying.
But the thing was that I really, really, really, really, really had no desire to start wedding dress shopping. I mean, think about the absolute pain in the ass that is swimsuit and jean shopping. Now multiply that by a gazillion (and one). In each scenario you’re looking for something to make you feel perfect about things (your butt, your boobs, your body) you don’t feel perfect about. Now imagine that none of the dresses are going to fit you because they’re all sample sizes and you have to just imagine how the dress is going to fit you.
No. Thank. You.
I’m going to spend the most money I’ve ever spent on anything ever and I am going to use my imagi-freaking-nation?
So I put if off.
Meanwhile my mother tried to “discreetly” get an idea of what sort of dress I was thinking of by asking me questions like “Is it going to be beautiful?” Mom. C’mon.
Although I didn’t really want to start looking I did know that I wanted either some sort of amazing silk, bias cut gown from the 1920’s and 1930’s OR some sort of Victorian slightly gauzy and sheer with embroidery and eyelet dress. And I knew I didn’t want to find myself sitting on silk tuffets with all the women in my life squealing over gowns until I finally found “the one” as I cried my mascara into little black rivers on my face. I really just wanted a reason to buy a ridiculously beautiful dress from a designer that I would never otherwise be able to justify (Phillip Lim, I’m looking at you).
I thought I’d just go to Barney’s or Bergdorf’s or Net-a-Porter or some amazing vintage store and find one in my size, love it and buy it. And I wanted something that I would feel comfortable and like myself in, NOT some pile of ruffles and layers of tulle and pleats and feathers and sequins and 1 million buttons and corseting and a mile long train. I wanted simple, classic, elegant, silk (this is the diatribe I announced to anyone who asked me about my dress and to anyone in general really).
I realized I had to start looking. I started by shopping online (low-commitment, anonymous, easy to do when you’re avoiding deadlines) and I found a dress that I was totally not expecting to like at all (one word: lace) at BHLDN and I was CONVINCED it was the one. One of the only places in the city that had it was Kleinfeld, one of the biggest bridal boutiques in the city and home to the show “Say Yes to the Dress.”
My best friend beat me there, as I wash rushing to get there I got a text that said “This experience is going to be bananas,” so I went in with my defenses up and list of “don’t wants.” I didn’t want any padding, I didn’t want any of those weird chicken cutlet things shoved into a bra two sizes too big for me. No trying to convince me what sort of bride I absolutely was not. I was there to try on that one dress and one dress only. And I did. And I didn’t like it. I felt completely un-me in it. I halfheartedly tried on a couple more (three more to be exact) both silk and beautiful but…meh. I left dress-less.
You know that thing when you try on ten different outfits before you go out and have a panic attack and then just put on the first one and suddenly everything is okay? That’s what happened with “the dress.” When I first started dreaming (remember that silk bias cut beauty?), a friend had recommended Johanna Johnson and her studio was my last stop. I walked in dubious and left with a solid top two. The first was a simple slip of a silk dress: low back and thin straps and affordable. And I liked it, I really did BUT I’m freezing when it’s 60 so…and there was also the issue of what mom would say. The second dress was beautiful and I felt like Lauren Bacall (classic and beautiful). It really did feel special. But was it $$$ special? I mean, no item of clothing is four figures special (at least for my income bracket). I decided on the latter and immediately after I felt an amazing sense of relief, which was then immediately followed by the seven stages of grief:
1. Shock and denial: I am not that bride and, Jesus, this costs a ton of money
2. Pain and guilt AKA buyers regret on steroids: as soon as I uttered the security code on the back of my card I felt a terrible ball of anxiety form in the pit of my stomach and immediately started thinking of ways I might sell the dress on the black market or ways I might make a ton of money in a short amount of time that didn’t involve taking my clothes off.
3. Anger and bargaining or how the f*ck did I just spend that much money on a dress??? I felt irrationally irresponsible (like that time I did all those Jell-o shots). We had been cutting corners and pulling from all our restaurant friends and musician friends and creatives and DIY-ing the rest of the wedding, how could I justify spending that much money on just the dress??? (Please: no chorus of “But it’s your big day!” “It only happens once in your lifetime!” “Think about the photos!” “It’s totally worth it!” blah blah blah). I mean, it’s just a freaking dress. Then I started bargaining: mentally reallocating funds and mentally shuffling finances around like a kid moves the food they don’t want to eat around on their plate.
4. Depression, reflection, loneliness: Yep. All of it.
5. The upward turn: Pep talk from bestie and looking at the most beautiful images of the dress online helped (a little).
6. Reconstruction and working through: vis-à-vis many glasses of rosé.
7. Acceptance and hope: I bought it. It’s mine. It’s beautiful. Maybe I’ll win Powerball?
How was your wedding dress experience? Did you know when it was “the one”? Or did you just settle?