Monday, September 29, 2008

Dress Saga, Part 2 of 4

In part one, I fell in love with a beautiful dress and, confident that the rest of the weekend would just be fun, headed off to the remaining three appointments footloose and fancy free.

The moms and I left the boutique and headed for Houston's, where we toasted our good fortune of finding a beautiful dress so early in the day with a glass of wine. I'm pretty sure it was noon already.

Before we left the boutique, we booked a follow-up appointment for Sunday at 4pm. That way, we could look around at the other dresses, then bring it on home and order the dress before heading home to real life. I loved the dress. It was beautiful and elegant, but I wanted to make sure, so we finished our wine and headed for the second stop on the Great Dress Hunt of 2008.

B's mom had heard over-the-top crazy wonderful things about the next place. It wasn't a boutique experience; in fact, it was located in the warehouse district. Fine by me! Lower prices, same dresses, sign me up.

We pulled up to a hot pink building painted with a black and white portrait of a bridal party. Now, I don't mean to make this sound tasteful--it wasn't, but we shrugged off our snobbery in the cracking parking lot (which featured signs for "Designer Rings from $75! Next Door!") and headed inside.

The co-owner of the store, the male half of the couple that had been running this place since I was learning to letter my name, met us at the door and said I could pick five dresses. He asked what I was looking for, then barreled around the store picking up this and that. B's mom lit up when she saw dress one, from the boutique, on the rack and grabbed it as one of the bunch to comparison shop against the others. In minutes, and without really seeing a lot of the dresses, he had us set up and waiting in line for a dressing room.

The dressing rooms were their own stories... It looked like H&M. Tall curtains that pulled off to the sides only with higher hooks, so the dresses would stay above the floor. Outside the dressing rooms, a stage-like setup awaited with about 20 yards of mirror-lined walls that faced, dare I even say it, church pews. Rows upon rows of church pews.

Basically, you picked your dresses, then got in line. When an attendant was ready to help you, they called your name (Taffeta and Silk, Party of One) and took you back to get started. Moms and friends wait on the pews. You walk out and face not only your party, but everyone's parties. Think of it like a mix between the runway and The Gong Show.

Turns out, they only had three attendants working that day (because Saturday isn't a big shopping day, grr), so we had a little wait on our hands. While we waited, we browsed bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, looking at colors and examining fabrics. I have a thing about bridesmaids dresses--the fabric. It looks flammable. Ergo, you rarely (ok, usually never) wear them again. You can have the most gorgeous dress, but when the fabric has that super-starched look, you know it's a bridesmaid dress. Oy.

While we were debating silk verses faux-silk polyester, they called my name and back I went with an attendant who looked young, but was kind and helpful. Sarah zipped me into a boufy dress and out I went for review. The moms looked up from their rehearsal dinner conversation and cocked their heads, examining the dress. They came up, walked around me in the mirrored fun-house, then sent me back for another dress. Sarah and I got to know each other a little better and, through her clues, I slowly learned that, at most, she was 16. And I only give her that because she said she drove in from Stone Mountain. Later I realized that she only said she came from Stone Mountain. Big. Difference.

She zipped me into one after another, which I happily paraded out for the moms, and for anyone else in the pews. It became a community event--moms gave thumbs-downs and the girls behind them readily agreed, pointing out how #1 obviously topped #3 any day.

For #5, I tried on "my dress," the one from the first boutique. After all the other dresses, it suddenly felt heavy and stiff. It was definitely the same dress, but after seeing a wider selection, it was definitely no longer my dress.

Sarah saw the hesitation in my eyes and said, "I have a dress I'd love for you to try on if you don't mind." Now I really appreciated this--she works here (when not cheering for JV football, I'm sure) so she knows the inventory, and she's got a whole line of people waiting yet she still breaks the "limit of 5" rule. Ordinarily, if you wanted to try on more than five dresses, you could do so, you just had to get back at the end of the line. Eek!

She brings in a beautiful dress with movement and a little old school charm. She zips it on and, after what I thought was "my dress," I realized how much better this one felt. I reached around to see who it was by and realized that the label was missing from the dress.

Sarah caught my eye, "Oh.. we can't tell you whose dress it is until you buy it." What? This place has bargain-basement prices, so it's not like I'd be price-comparing around town, just wanting to send it to my sister or compare it online to other favorites, but no. No labels.

Mom went to talk to the store owner, who gave her the same run-around. No info on the dress until you buy it and, oh yes, you had to pay in full.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but remember that we're in a storeroom in the middle of the warehouse district. I know you've been open for 22 years, but I'm new to this and it scares me that, say my dress doesn't come in, I don't even have half of the amount that I can hold back as wedding dress ransom.

I left that day loving the style of what was now the dress, but concerned that I couldn't even bring it up online at my aunt's house to look at it again. Believe me, mom and I crawled through every dress on TheKnot in hopes of seeing it, but there was nothing. I knew I had doubts, but I figured anyone would. After all, you go try on about 28 white tshirts, then try to remember what the neck detail was on number 17.

No problem! you say. Just take a picture! Ha. Pictures are also not allowed until after you've put down a deposit, or in this case, the full payment for the dress. Apparently once you buy it, you get rights to photograph it and visit it. Until then, you're the deadbeat bride.

We left that day happy (love the dress!) but uneasy about buying it from a place that didn't seem too interested in selling it to us. Mom and I headed for Saks to take a peek at their bridal salon (ok, and grab a Starbucks from the mall) and then to B's parents' home for a delicious dinner with their next-door neighbor P. They humored us immensely and we watched the Alabama Georgia game all night, stopping to eat dinner during halftime, which was about 9:30pm.

Alabama trounced Georgia (at least in the first half) and ended up winning by double-digits, so we all took it as a great sign of a weekend that was surely going well.

I had a dress, but I wasn't sure yet. It looked pretty, it was pretty, but I felt unnerved. Was it the hot pink storeroom, or the fact that my dress was still out there. As one online reviewer said, "But you have to draw the line at some point and the line is around the [sic]builidng of [this] bridal shop." Only Sunday's appointments would tell.

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