My older sister was helping me try on wedding dresses yesterday. Three of the four sides of the cramped space was dripping with puffy dresses in puffier bags. We were day two into our dress shopping experience. My mom, and each of my three sisters were with me, on our own version of a Kleinfeld's tour across Syracuse.
"How am I supposed to know which one is the 'right' one?" I asked her.
I had tried on everything from chiffon bridesmaid dresses to heavy taffeta gowns with 4' trains. While I had never had wedding dress fantasies as a child, I came into the wedding dress shopping experience with a very clear image of what I wanted my dress - and the celebration of my wedding - to be. I wanted to wear a dress just like the one Elizabeth Taylor wore in the film "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." - short, casual, flirty, non-traditional. No strapless (I'm too busty), nothing too traditional (I had never planned to have a wedding anyway), and nothing too expensive (I'd rather spend the money on travel). If I couldn't find a dress like this while shopping with my family, I was going to buy it online for $130.
And now, after trying maybe 20 dresses of all different sizes, most of them for the fun of it, I was confused.
"Well, from everything I've read and seen on tv, you just know," she replied.
So far, on this appointment, my 6th stop of the weekend - I had worn a tea length, satin dress with a ruched bodice, a full length white cotton gown with a modest ribbon tie at the waist.
I slipped on a full length, sheath style-white gown made of a bold cotton lace that gave the appearance of being covered in white roses. I stepped into the crowded, mirrored hallway, where the rest of my family waited. I looked at myself and said immediately, "NO! This is terrible." Everyone agreed.
Back in the tiny dressing room my sister said, "So, now you know how you can tell which dress ISN'T the right one."
Next I slip into a antique ivory, strapless, beaded, organza, tea length gown with a tulle underskirt. It has a slightly vintage energy. I stepped out of the dressing room with my older sister and grinned.
My mom said, "There's the face! The giddy face."
Yup, I felt giddy.
We walk across the rows of dressing rooms and families towards a large bank of mirrors. I look at myself. I feel beautiful.
My "bridal consultant," Miranda, slips a large ivory cloth rose into my hair, pulling it slightly away from my face. I turn and look at my family now 30 feet away from me. They are all smiling.
I walk towards another bank of mirrors, conveniently located in the shoe section of the store. My sisters follow and dig out a pair of lace covered, peep toe pumps. I slip them on and look at myself in the mirror.
I say out loud, "This isn't the dress for the wedding BMG and I have planned," I think. "This is so much more formal. I can't wear funky shoes with this dress (it would be too busy), and I don't look anything like Elizabeth Taylor. But, I really like it."
My sister helps me return to the other tea length gown, the plainer one that WOULD allow me to wear funky shoes and jewelry. I emerge from the dressing room and the women lining the halls, waiting for their brides to emerge from their tiny changing boxes, say, "Nope, go back to the other one. THAT one is special."
Miranda approaches me and says, "I have seen many women try on the other dress. And no one looked as fabulous as you in it. You might think I'm bull shitting you to make a sale, but I'm not. The other dress, the beaded dress, that's your dress."
Still wearing the plainer tea length gown, I finish the short walk to where the rest of my family waits, near the bank of mirrors by the shoes. And I start to cry. "I miss the other dress. I want to put it back on," I say. My older sister hugs me and says "This is how you know which dress is the right dress."