Saturday, August 9, 2008

Say Yes to the Dress

Leaving the Olympics and returning to the wedding theme, I'd like to share my wedding dress shopping experience, because for every other girly-girl out there, this is something you need to do (seriously, even if you're already married, just go look for a bridal gown again - you can always "call off the wedding" at a later date).  NavyGuy - if you don't want to get any hints about the dress, STOP reading now.  :)  Love you dear.

So last week Wednesday, mom, my future MIL, future SIL, and I took Madison by storm in an attempt to finally find me a dress.  This was not my first time looking, and my patience was growing thin - what if there wasn't actually a dress out there for me?  What if I had to settle for something that was just, okay?  What if I had to bleach my prom dress and go with that?  By this point in the search, however, I had narrowed down my factors, eliminated some styles, and was a much more focused bride-to-be.

The first store we tried was a bust.  The woman there was incredibly helpful, but all they had were big poofy marshmallow gowns, and because of my less than voluptuous bust, those types of dresses make me look like one of those books that are cut into three strips, and you can match up the head of a chipmunk, the torso of a duck, and the bottom of a manatee.  Not good.  

The second store though, was my dream wedding gown shopping experience.  Vera's House of Bridals (no, mother, I'm not being paid to advertise), is an institution in Madison.  The shop itself is a giant white building with columns, that looks like it could have been a home in the South pre-Civil War.  There is actually a Vera - who I got to meet - who started the business 46 years ago, when she sewed her own wedding gown.  More on her later.

How many of you have seen the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress?  It's a reality show where brides shop for their wedding dresses at Kleinfeld's Bridal Store in New York, and they show women trying to pick dresses, and going through traumas when it comes to alterations - it's essentially crack for brides.  Anyway, I knew I myself would never shop at Kleinfeld's, but I had always hoped that I would go through the "Kleinfeld" consulting process at one of the dress shops around here...

Well, lo and behold - I had my own Say Yes to the Dress moment at Vera's!  The inside of the store is beautiful, with a dramatic staircase cascading down the entrance, and a second floor balcony circling all the way around the entrance.  I met my consultant, Beth, who took me to a private room upstairs, with a long bench for family to sit on.  She began by asking me about my "vision" for the dress, wedding, etc. - all kinds of questions about what dresses I had tried on, what I liked, what I didn't like, the setting of the wedding, and on and on.  I filled her in on my dress debacles up until that point.  Then she confidently announced that there were over 400 bridal gowns in stock, and that she would go search through the stock room to pull a few that she thought would suit me.  Mom, MIL, SIL, and I were free to wander around and pull any other gowns that we thought could work.

When Beth was done pulling gowns, she had me come back in the dressing room, where three gorgeous gowns were hanging.  She helped me into Dress #1, and then had me stand and look at myself for a moment, gauging my initial reaction to the dress.  Then we paraded out to the balcony and stood in front of several full-length mirrors to show off to my audience.

Dress #1 fit like a glove, and had a marvelous swishing when I walked.  I wasn't sold on the ivory color, but she found a sample of the white satin that would be used so I could compare.  Yes, I was definitely more a white girl, than an ivory lady.  I could sense that I might be putting this gown back on eventually, but I'm not a fast decision-maker.

Dress #2 was nice as well, but I was already comparing it in my mind to #1, and it wasn't making the grade.  It had horizontal bands of alencon lace circling around it all the way down the floor, and the effect was not flattering.  

Dress #3 was a full-blown mermaid gown that belonged on the Oscar red carpet.  It was tight to my knees, had a bedazzled bodice, and a big flare at the bottom.  Besides that, it was heavy!  Fun to play around in for a bit, but not the one.

That took care of the gowns she had selected from the back room.  During my various parades around the balcony however, a sparkly, lace number on a mannequin had caught the eyes of both mom and I.  Beth quickly stripped the mannequin (scandalous!) and I threw the dress on.  Uh oh.

Now we were in trouble.  I loved Dress #1 and Dress #4 (the sparkly mannequin one).  They were very similar, but #4 was sparkly, had a different all-over lace pattern, and the bottom draped more straight.  Dress #1 felt better on, but not having been able to try a white version, I was hesitant.  I walked around.  I walked into a different dressing room to see them both in natural light.  I sat in both.  I danced in both.  Crap!

Finally, Beth broke it down for me.  She said, "Are you a sparkle girl, or a non-sparkle girl?"  Essentially Dress #1 did not have any beading on top of the lace, whereas Dress #4 did.  Deciding whether or not I needed the sparkle would basically decide the dress for me.  Well, am I a sparkler or not?  How the hell do I know?  I don't use my 1980s Bedazzler any, but I'm a major fan of my bling engagement ring - how's a girl to decide?

Per usual, NavyGuy saved the day.  I quickly texted him the $64,000 question, and told him to respond fast, and with his gut.  My phone rang seconds later.  I already was beginning to know in my heart which dress I thought was me.  I was wearing Dress #1 and I was starting to get that bride feeling...

I always knew I picked a good guy, but it's nice to be reminded that when it comes down to the big decisions, NavyGuy knows me better than I even know myself.  I answered the phone, and he immediately said, "Non-sparkle."  

I turned to Beth and my entourage.  "This is it."  Everyone cheered, I felt slightly choked up, everyone laughed at me for using a text message to make a wedding dress decision, and we accessorized the gown with a veil, shoes, and earrings.  I was led onto the grand staircase, where all of a sudden, THE Vera appeared!  She is probably in her mid-80s, and reminded me of "a lady who lunched," with her great pink heels and tailored suit.  It's clear she loves what she does - oh yes, she still comes in and helps with alterations and such - and she threw her perfectly manicured hands up to her face, and proclaimed I looked like "a whisper."  (Which I took as a compliment).  MIL and SIL were equally entranced by the gown (always a good sign) and were both convinced that despite NavyGuy's typical stoicism, he would in fact get choked up when he saw me in the gown.  The staff took my photo posed on the staircase, and it was ready for me to take home once I had been measured, etc.

All in all, it was well worth the exhausting, stressful, seemingly unending process of finding The One (dress, not guy).  I am positively giddy over the gown, and it simply cannot arrive soon enough.  My advice for future brides (or anyone who likes to be pampered) - check out Vera's in Madison - and hope it's a day Vera herself is in the store :)


Anonymous,  August 10, 2008 at 7:01 AM  

M- I've now convinced myself that if I look at EVERY dress on Vera's website, I'll be able to pick out the ONE. I need help........

I must get to FDL and see the bridal binder before I bust!

Macy's mom

historygirlie August 10, 2008 at 8:18 AM  

Seriously, reading your story got ME choked up! :) I so remember that moment, standing in the room at Edith's of FDL, and doing the bridal spin, watching the layers floof around me.

But it's wasn't a given until I sat in the dress. It swelled around me like a soft marshmellow. Everyone applauded, and I cried.

Ahhhh.....maybe when Kitty gets married, I can try on a few dresses. :) A 50-odd woman trying on wedding gowns.....funny thought.

mugs018 August 10, 2008 at 9:52 AM  

Oh my word, I cannot even THINK about Kitty (or Macy for that matter) getting married!!! There will never be worthy princes for those princesses! :)

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