The Bride’s Dress. A Cautionary Tale

Did you find, or are you hoping to find, the perfect wedding dress? I would call the experience a quest, because it truly is a long road, fraught with detours. booby-traps, and even robbers!

When I got married, I was an attorney working for the city.  I was making a living, but not pulling in the big bucks.  So, when it was time to look for a wedding dress, that was the schema that I brought with me. “Think of this as a happy party, don’t get sucked into the bridal spending spree.”

Of course, I looked through all of the bridal magazines. My style was tailored and classic, except on weekends. Because I am petite, things like short sleeves, embellishments, poufs, and such, just made me look short and dumpy. It made sense to me to go with a classic, simple wedding dress.

Plain wedding dress

An elegant A-line

In the 1970’s, my aunt had worn a simple, silk a-line, with a high neck and sleeves. She looked beautiful, and, to this day, I remember that as the most elegant gown I had ever seen. It didn’t have frills, sparkles, or sequins. It had the sophisticated rustle and glow of Shantung.

I saw a picture in a magazine of a similarly simple gown, except that the neckline, sleeves, and hem were edged in pearls.  This is it, I thought. It was expensive, but I assumed I could find something like it in a local bridal store for a more reasonable price. After all, I was looking for less – less fabric, less sparkle, less labor!

I wish that someone had told me that looking for a wedding dress can be like shopping for a car. Being the oldest in my family, I didn’t have much experience in this arena. The game of smoke and mirrors was on, and I was the gullible participant.

Simply elegant wedding dress

Simply elegant

Whether high-end or discount, every bridal salon I visited had the same script: greeting, then the question, “How much do you want to spend?” This is when experience is the best teacher. Only, I didn’t have any. So I was completely honest and open.

“Oh, good,” replied the saleswoman, “Some people don’t want to spend anything, but want the moon!”

I was escorted into a private room, chosen, no doubt, by my answer to Question 2.

I described the kind of dress I was looking for, explaining that I didn’t like crystals or lace. No puffy sleeves, no Cinderella ball gowns. The saleswoman pondered for a moment, left the room, and returned with several dresses. None of them was what I described.

This was the fourth or fifth bridal store I had visited. I was beginning to get discouraged. With a full-time job, I didn’t have time for this. I needed a dress, and I wanted to wrap up this task. We had other wedding stuff to get done.

The saleswoman encouraged me to try on the dresses. “You may like one of them once you have it on,” she suggested.

So, I put each of them on. The last one was actually pretty, though it had lace on the bodice, a few crystals, and puff sleeves. Looking back, I realize that the dais I was standing on elongated the skirt, such that it looked less puffy than if I’d been standing at floor level.

“That looks really good on you,” the saleswoman said. “It’s pretty,” my mom commented. I asked if the embellishments could be removed and was told they could not.  

“Okay, this is it!” I decided. On to the next errand: Cake!

bride's shoe

* * * * *

About six months later, my dress had come in and I was scheduled for a fitting.

When I arrived at the salon, my saleswoman was not working. I was shown into a different room and given my dress to put on. That’s when I saw it.

The dress I had described. It was an unadorned dress, with three-quarter length sleeves and pearls edging the neckline and cuffs. No poufs, or bows, or lace. The price was a third of the cost of the gown I had bought.

I was speechless. And, I knew immediately that this had not been an oversight. This dress was purposely not shown to me because of the price. How callous this woman must have been. She didn’t care about helping me find the dress that I wanted.  The saleswoman wanted to “up” her commission.

Hopefully, my story is a rarity, and not the norm. When shopping for a wedding gown, or any expensive and significant item, think about what you’re willing to spend, then cut it by two-thirds. You can work your way up with a salesperson more easily than working your way down.flutes

Don’t give up on what you want, especially if what you want is reasonable. Somebody, somewhere out there can help you find what you’re looking for.flowers2

Now, when I look at our wedding pictures, I see an exuberant, young couple who had a big, happy party to celebrate their marriage. Everyone is smiling and having fun; even the bride, who looks like an inverted cupcake in her Cinderella ball gown, with its puffy sleeves and sparkling crystals.

stpauligirl

I’m thinking St. Pauli Girl…

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