I’ve been engaged three times. I used to feel really embarrassed about that, but now I just sorta own it. That also means, I’ve been on three very serious wedding dress shopping missions. And I want to say early on, this is not a sad story. Just one of evolution.
One shopping mission came up empty, much like the engagement. It just wasn’t meant to be. Hugs to those dresses and that boy.
The next one was a hot mess. I bought a dress, then hated it and hired a seamstress to basically turn it into a completely different dress. Now, if wedding dress choices reflect the status of an engagement then I was two for two. The engagement was also a hot mess, and while I tried to transform it into something other than what it was, it just didn’t work. But y’all already know that story.
Then I met my husband. By this time in my life I was in love with bridal fashion. Say Yes to ALL THE DRESSES! But seriously, I get a bit misty just thinking of tulle, organza, petticoats, lace, and silk. I’m pretty sure I was bridal browsing just months after beginning to date my husband. Secretly of course. I didn’t want him or my girlfriends to think I was crazy.
I think bridal fashion was tied very closely to feminism for me (which I didn’t realize until thinking long and hard on it this month). In so many senses I deeply felt I needed a dress I could wear again. It symbolized the idea that a wedding wasn’t a waste to me. Men could wear their suits, tuxedos, ties, shoes, etc., again, but women were damned to buy a dress and wear it only once—and only for a handful of hours at that. Bullshit! How is that fair?
During my first two dress shopping missions, this had been an important factor. I needed a dress I could wear more than once. As I became engaged to my husband that idea shifted. Then it changed completely. I had been so practical, but goddamnit, now I just wanted to go all out and have a dress that was as special as my love for my husband. I wanted something that I would NEVER be able to wear again—because it marked that very special moment in my life.
Had I lost my only feminist ideal? Believe me, I pondered that fact as I poured over picture after picture of opulent gowns. Bigger! No, be practical. More tulle! Stop it, you’re just feeding into being dominated by male traditions. PINK!!!!! Oh lord, I figured I had my feminism in my wallet and was ready to exchange it for the biggest ball gown I could find.
The one thing I was adamant about: I would be a one-dress bride. None of this having one dress for the ceremony, then another for the reception. Nope. I would fully commit to one dress. It was my way of bargaining for the implicit vanity and laying down my feminist sword.
I had two very strong contenders. And they were so very different. I loved both dresses equally, but knew I could only have one as per my parameter. And I’m thirty-three. I can’t go prancing around in multiple dresses. I wasn’t willing to trade my dignity as well.
My two best girlfriends. My two extremely stylish nieces. My sister-in-law. I crowdsourced for opinions. It came back as mixed bag.
One day while comparing the dresses for the five-hundredth time, I realized that this dress meant everything to me. I was definitely in no way a feminist anymore. Right? Because I was way too focused on fabric and ruching. My sensible side was on vacation and all I cared about was getting the “right” dress.
If I could toss sound effects into posts there would be a record scratch right here.
Looking back I see that nothing was lost. I hadn’t traded away any values. I was just excited. And that is okay. More than okay actually. I wasn’t a bad feminist (and I use that term lightly with myself as I’m still defining what it means to me) because I drool over bridal fashion.
When it came down to it, I ended up as the biggest bridal fashion hypocrite. I had two dresses. Two dresses that I’ll never wear again. One I got in the magical thrift shop four hours before I got married. The other was a custom made, completely over-the-top, pink number that my sister called a unicorn dress (I think that’s good) that I wore to the party. I could have picked dresses or a dress that I would have gotten more mileage out of, but ohmygoshpinkruffles! All in, just like my engagement. Now I was three for three. Or three for four? Math is not my strong suit.
The one thing that I did learn is that I need to not judge bridal fashion choices. It’s not a statement on the person’s feminist beliefs if they wear a fluffy tulle ball gown. And on the flip-side a dress that can be worn again is great too. And who the fuck cares how old you are. You’re never too old to look fabulous. Not everyone gets three engagements to sort out their feelings on bridal fashion and how it intersects with their ideals. I’m really lucky I had that opportunity. And to pay it forward, I can simply support my sisterhood (which does not include interjecting my personal anecdotes) and hold back on the snark.
Photo by Tim Davids