My Wedding Dress: The Final Chapter

So, there is one more story that I owe you before the wedding, and that is the final story of the wedding dress. I’ve talked extensively about my search for a wedding dress here (and if you are still in the land of looking for a dress, these are all posts worth reading):

My first foray into the bridal salon
My love of vintage dresses
No, you’re confused, I want a dress not a car
My lovely but can’t afford it brush with couture long and lace
My nice but homogenized trip to David’s Bridal
My decision to try to make a wedding dress
Making the wedding dress

Looking for a wedding dress was hard for me. I would go so far to say that at some points it was painful. What I wore on my body really mattered to me. It mattered to me more than I would have ever expected. And what was even stranger was that finding something a little off the beaten path (i.e., not strapless, poufy, bedazzled, with a monster train) was HARD. So, in the end, we decided to make the dress. And that’s where I left off telling the story.

Here is the rest: After we worked on the dress over Christmas, my sister took it to Michigan to finish putting it together. It was a long arduous process, and at some points it looked like she might not be able to finish it in time. But, she worked hard on it, and in April, it arrived. But there were problems. Every time I put on the dress, I felt happy and loved, but I didn’t feel pretty. I would show David, he would say I looked great, and then I would hang up the dress feeling confused and wondering if I should even care how the dress looked.

So over the Fourth of July weekend, I tried on the dress for my mom and sister. I asked my mom to zip up the dress…. and she couldn’t. She asked me how I’d been zipping it up. I told her I’d been holding my breath as much as I could and then yanking. What I’d been in denial about is that the dress didn’t fit. And as my friend Kate said, “It’s hard to feel pretty in in a dress that won’t zip up.” True. My options were limited. I could re-build the dress (something we didn’t have time or money to do), wear a girdle (I tried one on, couldn’t breathe, and realized this was not how I wanted to spend my wedding day), or wear a different dress. We were one month away from the wedding.

This should have been an unmitigated disaster, but it wasn’t. In the middle of the is-the-dress-going-to-be-finished-in-time?? period, I walked into a vintage store in the Haight to look at a red cocktail dress. And what I found was the wedding dress that I would have bought at the very beginning if I’d known about it, and it was only $250. I walked out of the store. I had a dress, I didn’t need this vintage dress. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Everyone told me to go try it on, there is no way it would fit, and then I could get it out of my head. So two weeks later I went back. The dress was still there, which was a strange miracle, and it fit like it had been made for me. So I bought it, just as a backup. I called it ‘understudy dress’ and put it in the back of my closet.

After we realized the dress we made didn’t fit, I pulled the vintage dress out again, and everyone agreed it was just right. It’s a white party dress from the 1950’s. My dad said that was perfect, because what I really want is a great party. It’s lace. It’s tea length. It’s vintage. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that I couldn’t wear the dress we made, but when I did, I realized that this vintage dress that came into my life unbidden, that insistently wouldn’t go away… it was the right dress.

My wedding dress experience was deeply imperfect, and it was at times painful. But on Sunday, I think it will seem just right. I know that all of the women in my family poured their love into my wedding dress, I know that sometimes big dreams don’t quite work out, and I know endings you would never expect are the best endings of all.

And my dress makes me feel like pure sass.

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