Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dress

Ah wedding dress shopping.

Mostly, I like wedding dresses. I like looking at them and imagining how I would look in them (I am a ferocious online shopper). I like looking at pictures of happy women wearing their dresses, and I like watching wedding-dress-shopping shows that show the moment where a woman puts on a dress, smiles, and says "This is the one."

And then I had to go shopping for my own, and all that went out the window.

To be fair, like most of the planning so far, I don't really "have" to do anything. Dave and I still are months, maybe years from setting a date, so there's nothing that needs to get done right at this moment. Dresses especially could wait, since I should know what time of year we're getting married first, and my tastes might change, or styles might change, or my dream dress could be discontinued by the time I wanted it.

And yet, after flipping through a magazine and seeing a dress I liked, my mom offered to set up an appointment at a bridal salon near our house. It would be just to look at the dress, she said, no pressure. It sounded like fun, so I said sure.

Not long after we made the appointment, Dave and I got into a fight/serious conversation about just how long this engagement was going to last. With him studying in Chicago and me working a great journalism job (practically an oxymoron) in New York, neither one of us are able to move. Once it got out that 4 years was a very serious possibility, I lost it a little. Some other post will be devoted to navigating the travails of a long-distance relationship and long-term engagement, but needless to say "Plan Wedding/Life with Dave" was not at the top of my To Do list the next day. I was just bummed. I couldn't read my favorite wedding blogs or walk down the street past a bridal store without getting a pang of jealousy and longing: When would that be us?

So, all things told, not the best mental state to go dress shopping in. Aside from feeling less like a busy bride than ever, I didn't want an obsequious saleswoman hovering over me telling me I looked like a princess (noooo ma'am) or laughing in my face when I said we wanted to spend less than $1500, dress and alterations included. I considered canceling the appointment, but after some long talks with friends I realized despite all the misgivings, I still was excited to go wedding dress shopping with my mom. I mean, wedding dress shopping with my mom! It's kind of one of those wonderful mother-daughter things that I've always looked forward to.

I told my mom my worries and about my talk with Dave, "I don't know how I'll take this, so if I tug my ear, you are to get me out of there a.s.a.p.," and off we went. The salon was this tiny little store with two saleswomen and two racks of dresses. As soon as we got in the owner marched right up and said "We have been waiting ALL WEEK for you to come and try on this dress! We've all been talking about it!" I don't mean to be a cynic, but really? I can't even imagine in what universe a shopful of women would circle a dress for DAYS wondering about little old me. Bad omen...

They slipped it on--one of those "strip down and we'll help you" places that I've always found awkward--and marched me out. And...nothing. It was lovely and pretty, but, no. The neckline wasn't right, it was poofy and heavy and scratchy and enCRUSTed with jewels. No, no, and no. The owner asked me why I didn't look happier, and I just said, honestly, "I'm sorry, but I don't think this is me." She looked like she was getting ready to try and convince me, and I looked like I was ready to tug my ear off, when my mom stepped out with another gown, and suggested I try it on.

I was more than ready to get out of this thing, so I hopped down and the saleswoman (who really was more chill than the owner) helped me into my mom's choice. I walked out to the mirror, took a look, and was ready to dismiss it as well, when I stopped. This was comfy. Like, I could lounge around the house and take a nap in it comfy. Smooth, soft, silk-satin; a curve-hugging, flattering silhouette; a classic design but with a beautiful geometric construction.

"What do you think?" my mom asked.

"I think, I love it," I said. And, against all odds, I did. Everyone in the room was surprised. I guess I wasn't quite the picture of the blushing bride when I walked in (not helped my the torn jeans, sneakers, and hoodie I was wearing), and I don't think anyone expected me to go doe-eyed over a dress that day, least of all me. But it was comfortable--I could picture myself dancing in it, leaning down to hug friends and family, sitting easily--but it was also just me, fun and sweet and classic yet original. I didn't want to take it off!

We left that day without the dress, after the saleswoman told us the manufacturer was known to never discontinue dresses, but as I got into the car, I felt deeply satisfied. I'd been so worried about that moment where I look at myself in the mirror, dressed as a bride, and thought, "It will possibly be years before I wear this again." Instead, all I could think about was that this marriage thing was really real, it was going to happen, I was going to walk down the aisle in dress like this, see Dave waiting for me, and start my life with him. There's something about having the dress on that makes it all suddenly more present, and I think the "this is the one" moment for me came less because I had found this amazing dress that I absolutely loved and more because I realized despite all the potential wait and impatience and frustration about wedding planning, the pieces were still, slowly, falling into place.

It's half silly and half wonderful that it took a wedding dress to realize all this, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

Image of Kleinfeld from TV News and Reviews

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