I was not looking forward to dress shopping. There were three main reasons: I can be indecisive; I wanted to avoid the ego blow when I saw the non-vanity sized tag in the dress that closed (or didn’t); and the pressure to have the “oh, mommy!” or “this is the one” moment. I also dreaded having to go several places to find something I wanted. Up until now, planning has been relatively simple and Sean and I have gone with the first or second site or vendor we’ve found and liked.
And so, I put it off. I probably would have waited longer if the planning checklists I consulted didn’t say wedding dress shopping should begin right around now, or two months ago.
As January wore on, I started searching. First, I looked through general wedding planning websites for tips on finding a dress, trying on dresses, types of dresses, best dresses for your body type, etc. I made a spreadsheet of local bridal boutiques, both small business and chain shops. I read Yelp horror stories and freaked out. I asked friends and family for recommendations for shops and got some tips.
Then I waited a couple of weeks. This is the way wedding planning goes for us. Sean and I will be productive one day and then take a break for the next two weeks.
When I was home for the grandparents’ anniversary party, mom reminded me about going dress shopping. Early last week, I opened up my trusty spreadsheet — Google Docs has been great through planning — and made two appointments at shops near my apartment. I let mom and Lori know so they could make plans, take time off work.
For the next few days, I did my homework. I checked out the many dresses made by the labels carried at the boutiques. By Friday morning, I had three albums of screenshots of dresses I liked along with a list of elements I did and did not like. I didn’t have any musts for my dress, but knew I probably wasn’t going for a huge Cinderella ball gown with a busy pick-up skirt or a fitted mermaid gown with tons of bead work and huge bows.
Mom and Lori arrived promptly at 9:40 on Friday morning and we drove to Rosa’s Shop in Culver City. I’ve been in the area many times and noticed the store, but never had occasion to step in for a bridal gown, formal dress, first communion or baptism dress/suit.
Rosa met us outside the shop and we quickly got to business. I named dresses I liked and she pulled them out or found something similar. Lori got a mini upper body workout moving the dresses from the racks to the dressing room.
While Rosa went through the racks she pulled out a couple of dresses with details I liked and were within my price range even if they were not on my not-so-short list. Once in the dressing room, I stripped down and she began helping me get into the dresses. We’d step out of the room and take three steps to the platform where I’d slip on Lori’s shoes and check out my reflection.
I tried on 6 or 7 dresses. I can’t remember the exact number, just that we were pretty efficient. I liked all of them. Surprisingly, mom and Lori were mostly in agreement. I expected our preferences would differ more and underestimated how well they know me, my style and taste. If I wasn’t excited about a dress or didn’t like something about it, they didn’t like it either. They were opinionated without being unhelpful or stressing me out.
The penultimate dress I tried was made by a designer whose dresses feature corset backs. It was nice, but not my favorite. The whole process of getting laced in seemed a bit complicated and I didn’t want to do that again for the last dress on the rack, also by the same designer. I was ready to be done, but Rosa asked me to try the dress on. It was her favorite. She’d pulled it out earlier from a rack after I told her what I was looking for.
“You said you wanted [X element],” she reasoned.
Rosa was right. I agreed to try it on. She took it out of the clear garment bag and took it off the hanger. I got the dress on and walked out to the platform. I slipped on Lori’s shoes and instantly grew 5 inches. I stood still and studied my reflection as Rosa laced up the corset and tied the strings. As she pulled tighter, I felt something. No, it was not the loss of oxygen.
I loved my reflection. The dress was perfect. I loved the fabric and the pretty, but not overdone details. I loved what it did for my figure. I felt beautiful.
I looked down to my mom — and odd feeling since she’s a few inches taller than me. She nodded her head like she does when she’s thinking and gave a soft smile. This dress was different. She had immediate comments on all the other gowns. Not this one. Lori — now wearing my purple flats — was smiling too.
I needed to see what Sean would see as I walked down the aisle with my father by my side.
“Can I try on a veil?”
I stayed on the platform while the others walked over to veil display. They picked out a chapel length veil. Rosa affixed it to my hair and pulled the tulle down over my face.
Something clicked. I turned to my mom.
I choked up as I said, “Mom, this is the one I want.”
Yeah, I cried. My nose got red. Lori took my camera out of my purse and took some pictures. (Of course, those won’t be shared.)
As cliché as it sounds, I’d just had my “oh, mommy!” moment. (Oh, wedding industrial complex, you win again. At least I’m aware of what I’m falling for because I read Rebecca Mead’s One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. That makes it okay, right?)
As I walked around the room getting a feel for how the dress moved, I thought my dad would’ve been crying if he saw me. It’s a good thing my mom and Lori foresaw that and didn’t let him tag along.
I went back to the carpeted platform and stared at myself for a couple more minutes. I asked Rosa about the details, cost, length, bustles and other potential alterations.
And then I realized it was 11:36 and I had a noon appointment at the Alfred Angelo store in Beverly Hills. I hurried to change in to my casual dress. Rosa gave me a quick hug before leaving and I promised to return.