Thursday, October 6, 2011

My wedding dress catastrophe

All I wanted was a simple wedding dress for our small, informal beach wedding. No beads or lace, no corset or bustle.  Simple.

One bridal shop owner, Brooke, said that bridesmaid dresses often come in white or off-white and make great wedding dresses for a fraction of the price. Genius! She showed me a few bridesmaid styles that she could order in a bridal color.

This Jim Hjelm number was to die for. It was a little fancier than what I had in mind, but I loved how “flowy” it was. Brooke showed me a fabric swatch in a beautiful off-white, and I was sold.

Here’s a picture of the back of the dress from the website (shown here in ice-blue). Gorgeous, right?

And here’s a picture of the front.

When I tried the dress on, I was a little concerned about how open it was in the front. The Girls were really on display. Brooke assured me that this would not be a problem once I had the dress in my size. That sounded reasonable to me.

About six weeks before the wedding, the dress arrived. It was beautiful, but my boobs were still not appropriately concealed. The front of the dress gaped open, and you could see everything.

Brooke said a few quick alterations would take care of it. She pulled the dress up in the shoulders and together a bit in the front, and it looked much better. Again, that sounded reasonable.

A few days later, I took the dress to my tailor, Lynn, who specializes in bridal gowns. I showed her how I wanted the dress to close in the front, and she looked skeptical. “It’s too small in the bust,” she told me. “You should have gotten the dress in a bigger size so I could take it in everywhere else. I can’t make it bigger.”

My heart dropped, and Lynn saw it in my face. Then she started to mumble to herself. “Maybe if I pull it in here… pull it up here… Let me see what I can do.” I left her store with a lump in my throat.

A couple weeks later, I went back to see if Lynn could work her magic. The look on her face when I walked in said it all. “I tried,” she said, “but the chiffon is just too delicate. All that pulling would rip the fabric.”

I refused to get discouraged. I took the dress home and began my search for some contraption that would hold the front of my dress in place and prevent The Girls from escaping.

Let me just say that this little hunt was an eye-opener for me. Wow, there’s some interesting stuff out there. I always wondered how some celebrities kept their barely-there gowns in place while prancing along the red carpet. Now I know.

I tried everything – double-sided tape, pins, duct tape. (Yes, duct tape.) But nothing worked. As soon as I had the dress just right, one move would make it come undone. My boobs stayed covered only as long as I didn’t move. One post-ceremony hug, and our guests would see some nip. Not good.

By this time, it was two weeks before the wedding. I sat on the edge of my bed, defeated.  I allowed myself a good five-minute cry. Then I took off the dress and jumped on the Internet.

I looked for white or white-ish dresses that I could rush order and would not need to alter. Since I’m a whopping 5’1”, a long dress would have to get hemmed, and I didn’t have time for that. I had toyed with the idea of wearing a short wedding dress before, so it wasn't so bad that my hand was forced in that direction.

Matt came home to find me furiously typing away. I explained the problem with my dress, which he had not yet seen, and my search for a new one. I apologized for spending more money than we had planned because the first dress could not be returned. He listened to my tale and cautiously asked, “okay, but, are you okay?” I assured him that I was fine, and he nodded and backed slowly out of room.

I applied the same method for finding a wedding dress that I use for finding a swimsuit. Buy a whole bunch of them online, try them on in the comfort of my own home, and return all the ones I don't like. (My self-esteem is worth all the return shipping costs.) I ordered eight dresses online and had them rush delivered. They all arrived at my doorstep within 48 hours.

Three of the dresses required alternations, so they were immediately ruled out. One strapless dress was made from a heavy jersey material and kept sliding down. So it was out, too. Another dress was practically transparent. Out. One dress was too lacey and girly-looking. Out. Another was super cute, but a little too casual for a wedding dress. So I kept it to wear to dinner on our honeymoon.

Six of the eight dresses were returned.

One dress was a clear winner. It required zero alternations, it flattered my short stature, and it was an interesting champagne color instead of traditional white. Perfect for a wedding on the beach!

And that, my friends, is how I found a dress just ten days before my wedding. Whew!

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