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Lauren’s Wedding Planning: Oh My! Dress

Long time readers will remember my long and involved dress saga (if you don’t, it’s worth a read, because what an epic story it was). So it only seems fitting that we’re coming full circle, and Assistant Editor Lauren is here with the first installment of her dress story. Not to give away too much, but in it she’s naked and sweaty with a bee-keepers mesh hat on. So, you know there is that.

So Kamel and I have been watching Say Yes To The Dress because Oh my god that sh*t is caarraazzy! And I’m totally fascinated with people who think nothing of spending 5k on a dress whereas it takes me six months and a lot of potatoes to save 1/2 that amount. But oh the pretty! And oh I digress.

You guys – I cannot BELIEVE I haven’t told everyone the story of my dress hunting experience! Because isn’t it supposed to be one of those ground breaking wedding planning moments? For some people it is. I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve seen the “oh my gosh this is THE ONE!” face and then the tears and the mother’s tears. So I know it’s not a myth, I know it happens to some people, probably to even some of you. Buying a wedding dress can be a long journey so when you finally make that decision I can see it being an emotional one.

My journey had two stops and the first was in Chicago where my dear friend, Maris, set me up an appointment at a used dress boutique. Because my goal was to find something that didn’t look like prom and was under a thousand. Preferably like six hundred bucks. I was stoked because this place had straight up designer dresses, but were all used so they were greatly reduced. I had never tried on a wedding dress before, I had never even really seen one up close. I had no idea what all of the different shapes meant or how they would look on my body. But I did know that something was amiss when the storefront had a little basket of socks and a sign asking us to remove our shoes before entering. The entire store was white. White carpet, walls, furniture. The saleswomen wore all white. There was a soon-to-be-bride trying on her possible wedding gown on their shiny, white runway in the middle of the store. A full on runway, raised off of the ground about a foot, with a three sided mirror at the end. This decadence had always been what I had imagined for wedding dress shopping. The troupe of girls, the champagne, the sitting room with the glittering chandelier, the runway. The runway? Then why was I suddenly in the midst of a full on run-and-hide panic attack?

First, I was sweating like a mofo because it was mid-June in Chicago and the humidity was upon us, and god knows trying on clothes while sweating is a real treat. Second, I was asked to wash my hands before I was allowed to touch any of the dresses, for fear I would sully them. Then I was shown to the back room, with Maris, where hundreds and hundreds of dresses hung in bags on rows and rows of racks. I was told my appointment would only allow for 6-10 dresses, so pick wisely, and then we were left to our own devices. And the clock was officially ticking. Maris was like a kid in a candy store, and bless her heart because if it wasn’t for her I would have probably apologized to the sweet lady in white and ran to the nearest bar. Maris was grabbing all varieties of dresses going, “Ooo THIS one! THIS ONE! Ooo lace? How do you feel about lace? Embellishment or not to embellishment?” and I would respond “nuumm? Eerr? Fuhhh…” and shrug my shoulders. Finally I was able to croak out, “I’m a little overwhelmed…” as I literally fanned my face trying desperately not to cry and be a total psycho in this fancy store. Maris continued to repeat, “Lauren this is SHOPPING. You know how to do this! Start picking things!”

And we did. The sales lady eventually lugged out 6 lumps of fabric in bags and told me to get undressed and to put on a robe. And then almost immediately told me to take the robe off and try to step into the first dress. No one told me the sales people dress you. No one gave me any headsup this was a lot like when you go and get fitted for bras. And definitely no one told me how much effing fabric a wedding dress is. Once the dress was clipped to me, I teetered out, lugging the 20 lbs of fine cloth with me, and stepped up on the run way platform while Maris oooed and clapped from her seated position. When I looked in the mirror I was… embarrassed! Where had I gone and who was this old lady looking back at me? Suddenly I had aged 10 years and gained 30 lbs. Where was I under all of this? I couldn’t be found. But I swallowed it as the sales lady hammered me with questions I couldn’t answer. “How do you like the fit? What about this detailing? Is the sweet heart low enough? What do you think about the train length?” I played vague and hustled back into the dressing room for the next round, because I didn’t know! I didn’t know how I looked! I have been trying on formal dresses since I was 15. I went to an all girls school and we had at least two formal dances a year and I went to every one of them. I know how this works, and while wedding dress shopping… I was struck dumb.

By this time I was full on sweating. The lights were hot, I was bloated from humidity, and the dress was thick and heavy. The next dress to try on would only work going over my head, so my sales woman politely asked me to put on a face net. Like a bee keeper but with cinching so it stayed under my chin. God forbid I get any of my makeup and/or face grease on these fine specimens. She then asked me to take off my bra and put my arms in a diving position above my head and she would hoist the dress over me and I would aim to shoot through the hole. Dear god, I really did it. When the dress slid over my head, the mass amounts of tulle got sucked up over my hips so the dress wouldn’t fit probably. That brave sales lady, without any hesitation, reached up under the skirt, in my sweaty under pinnings, to try to free the bunching while I directed her from above, face mask now pulled up like a lunch lady’s hair net, my boobs just a side show at this point. It was around this time where she actually asked me if I’d like a glass of water since “I seemed a little warm,” and since her face was literally in my nude, mesh underpanted crotch for a good amount of time, I took pity on her even through my embarrassment.

Another point to make: I could not afford any of the dresses I tried on. The lowest they got was just a bit over a thousand, and with tax and fitting there was no way it was going to happen. But saying that they were too expensive, that the cheapest dresses available were above my price range made me feel like pauper. And like I was wasting the sales woman’s time. Which… I kind of was. Except I wasn’t wasting my time, or Maris’s time for that matter, because I needed to do this, I needed to understand what I didn’t want, what I couldn’t handle and I needed to have that moment of “What the f*ck am I doing?” so I could move past it. I also needed to try on the dresses with descriptions like mermaid, fit and flare, tulip, trumpet, and A-line. Because really, those words mean nothing until the dress is on your body and you suddenly can’t find your waist. I left the appointment without The One, to say the least, and with immense relief, to say the most. I left also realizing that wedding dress shopping is a lot like buying a car, everyone is in for the hard sell. Your entourage wants you to buy one, the sales ladies want you to commit on the spot and I, at least, only knew two things: I couldn’t be naked, and I would not go above a certain number.

This is not where my dress journey ends, but I have future posts to fill, and it’s a full 6 months until my wedding – I can’t give away too much too soon! You have to have something to read for my grad post, after all.

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