Okay, I know I stalled on this particular topic, but I just wanted to give you a little intro to my wedding series before I got into the good stuff. This week’s topic is the dress!
I was engaged on Christmas of 2015, and if you read my last post, my (then) fiancé I had booked my venue before we were actually officially engaged. So, I was on a major time crunch to buy a dress. Most dresses take at least 6 months to make. Really not sure why, other than the sheer amount of dresses that are ordered this time of year. For anyone who has more than 6 months to prepare for their wedding, you might not find this to be a huge issue, but for me that meant I needed to find a dress immediately. So that’s what I did.
The first shop
Initially, I went with my best friend to visit a sample wedding shop here in New York City. Now, this was actually before I got engaged, but after we had booked the venue. I wanted to see what the higher end sample sizes had to offer before I checked out a mid-level shop in Chicago over the Christmas holiday. I went in with no expectations. The shop was also closing in 30 minutes or so, so we kind of rushed through, got overwhelmed with the sea of white and the fluffy tulle, and left after maybe 15 minutes. I was also too lazy to try anything on, so I didn’t bother to come another day. I was shocked at the elaborate details of the dresses, and really wondered if everyday women were really wearing these dresses. I think I had watched too much Say Yes to the Dress, and had assumed I’d see a ton of lace and princess dresses. I did see quite a few princess dresses, but they seemed more striking in person. I didn’t see much lace at all. Instead, I saw something a bit more modern. Mind you, this was 2015 (and the dresses wear a season old), so these are old and out of date now. But, here they are:
My favorite was this last one, sleek and simple and modest. I loved these, but was encouraged by friends and loved ones to try something a bit more “bridal.” Today, I doubt I’d get that feedback, but back then it was all about fit and flare, and extreme mermaids.
The second shop
Next, on December 26th I got up and drove with my mom to David’s Bridal. I got advice from many people to go there when trying on dresses for the first time because it gets the initial shock of “omg I’m getting married!!!!!” out and you think a bit more critically moving forward. And also, if you fall in love with a dress there, it’s usually pretty modestly priced, which is great. If you decide to try David’s Bridal, try to get the earliest appointment possible, and preferable on a weekday. You basically get the shop to yourself and all of the attendants fawn over you. It feels great when purchasing maybe one of the most expensive dresses you’ll buy. (Unless of course you live in a city that has fantastic markdowns on couture dresses, like NYC. I have a few more dresses that are high end, but a fraction of the cost. I can do a post on those if you want. Comment below.)
This was the first dress I tried on. Why? Not sure. I think the attendant suggested it for my frame, based on the sizes they had in-store.
Just look at my face. The sheer shock of wearing a wedding dress was indescribable. It actually had nothing to do with this actual dress, but with the whole concept of me actually wearing one. I was basically fangirling in the dress. It was a purely an ethereal feeling.
Now, I went into the shopping trip knowing that I wanted to get fitter for my wedding. I’d gained about 25 lbs of “love weight” and was determined to get them off in time. So, I tried to imagine myself with a smaller frame in all of my dresses. Here’s number two:
I think this one was a Zac Posen for David’s bridal. At this point, even though I was only on my second dress, I was already getting sick of the amount of time it took to get in them and the pressure of deciding what I wanted for my once-in-a-lifetime day. It was exhausting mentally and actually physically as well because wedding dresses are heavy. It’s actually unreal how heavy they are compared to a “normal” dress. Unless you’ve done a cotillion or quinceañera (or another rite-of-passage event or formal occasion) that calls for a dress of this magnitude, it’s difficult to be prepared for actually getting the thing on.
So, after listening to the arguments from the attendants about why I should purchase this dress today, I began receiving accessories left and right to add to the dress. Remember, back in New York City, I had been attracted to a sleek, satin-y dress, so what is going on here? I’m completely convinced now to try on a necklace, belt and cathedral-length veil.
It was fun, but knowing that I didn’t want to do anything too fussy, we headed to our next destination.
The third shop
The last shop was called House of Brides. They have a website, and also a full showroom in Chicago. It’s much easier to order your dress in the city you get married or live in, because that comes in handy once the dress arrives and you need to get fitted. Unfortunately, I don’t have as many photos–because I wasn’t blogging back then, but also because I think the initial excitement was wearing off and we wanted to get through it.
I think I tried on three dresses there. I don’t have photos of the first two. I remember that one was a princess-style satin dress. It had a wrap-like sweetheart bodice and a wide skirt. The second dress, I didn’t like at all and decided not to show it to my now audience of three: my mom, my aunt, and my like-family aunt.
Here was my third dress. Unlike anything I had imagined in my head, but perfect for me. It wan’t white, it was covered in beading, and the cliche sweetheart neckline. What can I say? It’s a very flattering silhouette on so many:
I didn’t want to take it off. I actually cried. Lol, I know. I actually did. It was the first dress I actually thought about my husband’s reaction in, and that’s how I knew this was it. So I didn’t go to 10 shops, didn’t fly to a third city, didn’t invite 12 guests to watch me try on. It was a completely intimate experience.
Here are my tips for wedding dress shopping:
- One thing to watch out for when dress shopping is listening to your intuition. Don’t pick a dress that makes other people happy. The last thing you want to be unhappy with on your special day is how you look.
- Do research beforehand, but don’t get stuck on “the one” before you see it in person or try it on. You might surprise yourself, like I did.
- Most wedding dress websites don’t display prices, so unless you’re prepared to call around, make sure you know which dresses are actually in your price point. Say Yes to the Dress can make you think that everyone is spending over $7K on their wedding dress. The most important thing is how you look, and what you can comfortably afford. Most people don’t really know how much a dress costs that isn’t by a popular designer. Guests are just just there to celebrate your day. Please don’t go into into extreme debt for a dress.
- Shop at least once alone or with just one person. just so you can see what you have a visceral reaction about without the distraction of a slew of loved ones who might skew your opinion.
- Order the dress in the size you think you will be, because it’s very difficult to let out a wedding dress or size it down more than once size. You don’t want to have to warp a dress you’ve spent hundreds, thousands or tens-of-thousands on.
- If you don’t like your dress after it arrives (and you have time and funds) sell it, and buy another. It’s not a huge deal, and there are a lot of women looking for pre-owned dresses on consignment sites and apps.Or, you can do what I did and figure out how to modify your dress:
Modifying my dress
So, even though I was thrilled with my dress, I couldn’t knock the feeling that since I was getting married in a church, I would have loved to go a bit more modest up top for the ceremony. I researched and found a bolero made by my dress designer, with the same beading and color, but after calling my sales associate I found that they needed a minimum of four months to order and ship it. It would also have cost an additional $400. I only had about 2.5 months, and definitely didn’t want to spend another few hundred bucks.
So, I found the Tradesy app and decided to take a look. Shockingly, someone had the jacket in the exact size I had ordered my dress it. The only thing about it was that it was white. I didn’t care. I figured, I live in New York City and I work in the fashion district. There’s gotta be someone who can dye it. And I was right.
I ordered this bolero, and even photoshopped it over myself to see how it would look. Here’s me excitedly receiving it at work:
And my attempt at photoshopping it onto myself before it arrived. Ignore the third arm:
The bolero in blush after it was dyed:
And finally, me trying it on after I’d lost enough weight to fit in it comfortably.
I was absolutely ecstatic. The amount of peace I felt after this bolero was dyed and matched my dress was so calming for me during such a crazy time. I finally felt like I had my “look” together and I was super happy with it.
After all of the drama of choosing a dress, waiting for it to ship, hoping it looks like what you remembered (which is so hard after upwards of 6 months to a year. By then fashion has completed a whole new cycle), you now have to spend even more hundreds of dollars to get it altered. Luckily for me, a close friend had just gotten married and referred me to her alterations professional who took me on as a personal client. Also, my I visited her at her home for two fitting sessions:
Fitting one (pinned sides and bustle)
Fitting #2 (bolero arrives has arrived and final measurements were taken)
A bustle is basically a technique that allows you to pin or button your train whenever needed. I learned an entirely new alterations language during this process.
The final look
Here’s the final look:
I decided to remove the bolero after the ceremony and before the reception. My guests all thought I had changed dresses.
I loved how it all came together.
Did anything surprise you about my story? Was your experience different? Have questions for me? Let me know in the comments!