Thursday, April 28, 2011

a dress

Much of the speculation about tomorrow has to do with the dress. It's overwhelming, the pressure of being a bride--satisfying relatives (did you invite your cousins? your great-aunt Sue? WHY NOT?), choosing a low-cost spread (family style or buffet line? broasted chicken or beef tips?) and selecting bridesmaids (you want how many groomsmen to stand up? Crap, I have to find someone else so the numbers match up--you're sure we can't just have an extra usher?). On top of it all you have to look good.

Actually, better than good.

When I got married, I was kind of stunned because I hadn't exactly planned for the event my whole single life. Unlike many of my friends who subscribed to Bride and Bridal Monthly and Bride Vogue since high school, I had no preconceived notions for my big day (hence the God-awful dresses I foisted on my poor bridesmaids, among other tasteless and ill-considered choices). In retrospect, the only things I like about my wedding were the flowers, the string quartet and my dress. And the groom. He turned out pretty good, too. My hair, the centerpieces, the colors, the decorations, the bridesmaids' dresses, the dinner, the cake, the photography are all things I wish I'd done differently. Bygones, right?

Back to the dress--naturally Princess Diana set me up for some really high expectations of how to look on the Big Day. But I'd been to lots of weddings by the time Mr. D and I got engaged and bore witness to some terrible dresses, clearly designed by 5-year old girls with Bedazzlers and unlimited supplies of ruffles, lace and tulle. When I was a bartender back in the Olden Days, I saw some pretty gaudy brides come through on their ritual bar-hop between church and reception hall. Most memorable was the Saturday afternoon when one bridal party came through the front entrance of the bar and another walked in through the back. The brides? Were wearing the same dress. No kidding. Of course everyone noticed and the two brides looked put out that they didn't look special. The moment stuck with me--right up to a few months before my wedding when I went to a dress shop.

In the dressing room I pulled on the first dress. At this shop, wedding dresses came off the rack a standard size 10 and got altered to fit. I'm a standard size 4. I couldn't tell what any of the dresses would even look like on me because they gaped and hung and fell and slid and generally looked like huge poufy, satiny piles of nothing special.

I tried on exactly two dresses before leaving the shop.

Then I did what any reasonable woman about to get married would do in 1995: I took a 1988 copy of Bride Magazine from a friend's house and paged through it. I circled the bodice, neckline, sleeves and skirts that I liked. Then I called a dressmaker, gave her the torn out photos and chose a fabric. She measured me this way, that way, up, down, across and around and promised to call with an estimate. For two weeks I held my breath--I had a tight wedding budget and prayed I could afford the custom-made dress of my dreams.

She called me back with the numbers: $220 for the dress of my dreams. Way less than anything I'd find in a store, and made to order. For an extra $30 she made me a veil.

Aside from the string quartet that played during the ceremony (they sounded lovely--I might be terrible at choosing decorations, but my taste in classical music is unparalleled), the one thing I got the most complements on that day was my dress. Waltz-length, without a train, I danced all night without tripping on the hem or dragging it through spilled beer. The bodice fit me like a glove, the neckline flattered my shoulders and the detailing was simple and pretty. I looked good in that dress.

The giant bow on the back of my teased-up, sprayed down helmet of a hairdo? I didn't say I looked good from the neck up, reader.

Somehow I bet Ms. Middleton will look just fine from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet tomorrow.

Spill it, reader--what was your best dress? The Easter dress of your childhood? Prom? Wedding? Do tell!


  1. I loved my wedding dress (even though it's spent the last 12 years crumpled in a ball in the bottom of its bag in a closet at my mom's house!). First bridal shop was terrible--butt bows, puffy sleaves--gag. Then we stopped at a tiny little shop in a little WI town and it was like the holy grail scene from Monty Python! Perfect, simple and cheap...I guess if the dress fits ;)

  2. Yes, your dress was the bomb...the bridesmaid dress I wore...was OK

    My favorite dress was the one I wore for my 8th grade recognition. I have always loved the "sailor" look and that dress had the sailor collar ---think naval uniform. I wish I still had that dress.

    I can't wait to see Kate's dress.

  3. Oh man...I love clothing so much..EVERY dress seems like my "best" dress! *haha! But one does stand out in my memory...a fragile cotton tissue-thin, billowy dress from India ~ adorned with paisley and floral motifs in purple and lavender had that smell of asian indian fabric, y'know? And I bought it when I was living outdoors in the tipi (my hippie incarnation)...I wore that dress to DEATH...when it started getting little rips and tears in the lower area, I cut it off and wore it as a shirt!

    Yeah, it finally disintigrated into a pile of threads, that dress...

  4. I had no grand delusions about my wedding either. We wanted it really really small. I picked out a dress (it wasn't even a wedding dress!), sent the pattern to my mom, and she made it for me. I loved it!

  5. I could care less about my wedding dress. I was NOT a typical size, and I just wanted one that would fit and not look horrible. That was my criteria. So I found mine at the local JC Penny outlet for $90, including the dress bag.

    I have one vintage piece I'd like to get back into, a black crepe 40's cocktail dress with pick satin roses on the hip and shoulder. Scoop neck & V-back with 3/4 length sleeves. Looks dreadful on the hanger and smokin' hot on the bod - when it fits!

  6. I remember many people being very disappointed in Princess Di's dress because it was so wrinkly. Still, I was smitten.

    When I went wedding dress shopping I had no idea what was in still, what looked good on me, what I wanted. I am much more stylish now than I was in my twenties (which I think is funny) and looking back I wouldn't have picked the dress I did. My mom LOVED my wedding dress, and that is why I bought it. I don't regret it. It looked good. I felt like a princess. It was the best day ever. But knowing my taste now I probably would have chosen differently. And a different cake. And bridesmaid dresses. But that may be it. ;)

    I love your dress. It has a very romantic feel to it. :)

  7. Ha! I just read my comment. I love that I said I'm more stylish now than I was in my twenties. That would imply that I am stylish. Which I'm not. I just meant I know my own style better now. HA! Too funny.

  8. I was a stunning bride -- 6 feet, 140 pounds, poured into cream silk-faced satin. I was made for wedding dresses with slim waists, broad shoulders, and huge skirts. This dress had no lace, no ribbons, no pearls, no sequins, no rhinestones. It was a Vera Wang dress, and its only decoration was a big satin rose over each shoulder, a huge satin rose at the back-waist, and the requisite huge, 1991 puffy sleeves. Pretty. The same cannot be said for the trumpet soloist I hired for the wedding. ;)

  9. the best dress I ever wore was when I married my 2nd husband who I am now married to. I could have worn white, but felt that at age 53 a bit of color would suit me better. Teal is what I chose and have no regrets at all.


  10. I had a great wedding dress, too. I also tore pictures out of magazines and took them to a seamstress - my mother! She made it exactly the way I wanted it and I felt beautiful. Mom also made her dress and the dresses for my 3 bridesmaids - and I still like all of them!

    I was disappointed with the flowers and wish I had decided on a served dinner instead of a buffet. And, ultimately, disappointed with the groom...but only hindsight is perfect!

  11. My wedding dress was a poufy silk ballgown. It was quite possibly the girliest dress ever...

    Little Bit and I are driving the rest of the fam crazy watching Charles & Di's wedding over and over again while we wait for tomorrow's big reveal. She is watching while wearing her skates. I love that kid.

  12. I loved my wedding dress. I had battenburg lace on the train and it looked really cool when you bussled it up. The halter neck was flattering on me.

  13. What a terrific idea..... Waltz length!!!!! I have always loved a black velvet strapless dress I wore for a semi-formal in college...I wore it so many times...and so did my roomates!!

  14. Your dress looks lovely, and I love the waltz length too.

    I was 35 when I got married, and I've never even dreamed of being a size 4 --I'm 5'10", although I was quite a bit thinner those 12 years ago. My dress was a burgundy velvet with long sleeves and a scoop neck, but the style was casual --I ordered it from the Coldwater Creek catalog. I loved the dress, but I sure don't fit in it anymore!

    We invited only our parents to our wedding, wrote our own vows, and had a short simple ceremony in a UU church in my hometown. Getting married later, I had lost the urge for a fairy-tale wedding --I just wanted it to be simple and stress-free!

  15. I still like my wedding dress, but I think my favorite dress was a little black dress I found at Nordstrom Rack marked down from $750 to $75--and this was 20 years ago when even $75 was a lot of money. A sleeveless black velvet sheath with a keyhole back--in a size 5. I looked both hot and classy!

  16. You look lovely. It was a dress of the times.

    My dress was $60. :-)

  17. I had a budget wedding, too. Radical that I was (and still am), I picked out a bridesmaid dress for myself. It was primarily white with purple flowers. Oh, the scandal! I wore a print! As a bride! And no veil - a flower headpiece. My friends loved it, I must admit. Only the really old folks were scandalized.

  18. How interesting...everyone's "favorite dress" was their wedding dress, except for Treat Girl and me. hmm.

  19. My very best dress it the one I wore to my cousin's wedding. It's hard to describe but it was pink and blue with black swirls embroidered onto it. Ryan took one look at me and that was it!

    Shopping for my wedding dress was horrible. I was pregnant (oops) but not showing. Just my waistline had vanished. Because Dutch immigration was being difficult we had decided to move our wedding to the US and almost no-one could attend. I ended up with a knee length gold dress, simple and elegant, with room enough for a foetus. I loved it.

    Still, that pink dress... I wish I could have found something similar to get married in.

  20. I got married in white velvet because we had a winter wedding. I felt very strongly about having something simple with no excessive beading or lace. It was an OK dress, kind of grabbed at the last minute. I wore my mother's Spanish lace mantilla from her wedding for a veil. What I really wanted to wear was my mother's wedding dress but I was several inches too tall for it.

    You were smart to pick a waltz length dress.

  21. If Mr Sunshine can get my scanner to work, I'm going to blog about my (not)royal wedding.
    I loved my dress. it was a little bit Hippy-dippy, lots of embroidered was the 1970's!

    Sorority Girl has talked about having it restyled if she has a wedding.


Spill it, reader.