Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dress Saga, Part 1 of 4

This weekend marked the Great Dress Hunt of 2008. Let me just start by saying that I'm now back safe and sound in Birmingham and that no dress vendors (naughty or nice) were harmed in the hunt for "the dress." That said, you saw the title of this post--part 1 of 4. I'll give you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story when I'm good and ready. So just sit back, hold tight, and enjoy what can only be described as a remarkable weekend. "Remarkable, Bah!" you say? Well have you ever been cut out of a couture dress? I thought not. So let's begin.
Mom and I headed out for Atlanta Friday after work, stopping briefly in Douglasville to grab a quick dinner before arriving at my aunt and uncle's home in Marietta, which would serve as our comfy and wonderful home base for the weekend. By the time we got there, it was already late--almost 10 Atlanta time. We kept my aunt and uncle up until almost midnight anyway, catching up on their amazing daughter J and chatting about family, life, and, yes, wedding. We all turned in around midnight--they were getting up early to head off to the Auburn game while mom and I had our first dress appointment at 10.

Morning came slowly. I didn't sleep much, which I blame on excitement (really? So not me. This marks time #3 so far post-engagement... The first after the proposal, and the second when B was talking to me about moving to Durham.). Up at 8, hair curled, makeup on, and ready to go. Honestly, I'm always amazed by the girls who shop in ponytails or gym-fresh hair--how do you know how you'll really look? I get distracted...

We arrived at a lovely and slightly trendy-looking bridal shop in... oh who am I kidding? Somewhere in Atlanta. Cindy, my fabulous consultant, whisked me away to the floor where I found seven delightfully large closet-type rooms filled with all kind of dresses organized by designer (and, therefore, style). "Pick 6 or 7 and we'll get started," she said.

I should mention that the only time I've ever tried on bridal gowns before was for a magazine story about an adorable boutique in Hartselle, Alabama, so I was pretty much clueless, and decidedly overwhelmed. My helpers for the day, my mom and B's mom, browsed, looking through beaded, lace, satin, silk, strapped, strapless, classic, and trendy styles, all the while remembering that any dress can be ordered in white, white white, off-white, ivory, or champagne. And it can be altered to add (or remove) straps, raise (or lower) a neckline, and tack on any number of extras like buttons, sashes, shawls, and so on. So basically, you're back to zero. We grabbed a handful, which somehow got re-racked, so we found them again and got started.

We began with larger dresses, ones with lots of gathering and fabric, beautiful detail work, then moved on to more slender silhouettes. I saw a dress I'd been dying to try on, so they zipped me right in (here's to being a floor-room size, and for floor-room sizes not being sizes 0-2). I pranced around (how do you not prance in floufy dresses?) and, when we'd all thumbs-downed the dress, waltzed back into my little dressing room to have Cindy unzip me.

Now here's what they don't tell you about dress shopping: You need a helper. I can't really get myself in a dress and dress shops would rather not have me try, so therefore Cindy is more than a consultant, she is a helper. And helpers get allll up in your business. So basically you end up standing topless in your newly-purchased conservative Victoria's Secret panties with a woman who's asking you about your fiance and your job as if we're having tea in crisp white suits. Sure, I won't laugh awkwardly. Especially when I'm stepping into dresses or diving up through them. Nothing odd about that.

So Cindy comes in to unzip me and errrk, the zipper jams. And I mean jams. It's not going up or down, and I know Cindy's trying because I'm inside the bodice she's desperately trying to wrestle into submission. Another consultant, also dressed in all black comes in, mutters something about this line of sample dresses coming in with a bad batch of zippers, then floats away to get L, the owner of the boutique, who comes in and, without pulling or yanking, says, "Yep, you'll have to cut it off."

So now I'm in a small room with three "black is back" ladies, one with a very sharp Xacto blade dangerously near my spine having the most expensive piece of clothing I've ever tried on cut from my body. I make a joke to the tune of "you break it you buy it" and thankfully they laugh because, as soon as the dress releases, I'm again topless, but this time in front of three very clothed ladies.

Bridal shops are smart--this one had a full-on runway in the middle of the store. It was elegant and molded to the shape of the room, but a runway nonetheless. You could add a veil and a tiara to anything and wear it on a catwalk and feel sexy. Believe me--I tried it in my little black courtesy robe and flip flops. Basically they narrow you down to a dress, then start accessorizing you and put you up there in the middle of the room ("church lighting" optional, I kid you not) and then you get to see yourself in three gorgeously framed massive mirrors artfully (and strategically) propped around the room. They show you a bustle (French and America) and you start seeing fireworks. Or at least I did--and it wasn't the church lighting.

The moms were amazing, if not discerning, lavishing praise about the dresses until I'd narrowed it down to one. I'd found my dress... at least the first one.

No comments: