The Election Stole My Wedding Dress Shopping Joy

As an immigrant and a feminist, I was in mourning

A year ago this week, I wanted nothing to do with the country that had been my home for the last five years, and yet I was about to do the most American thing I could possibly think of.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I would be trying on wedding dresses a little more than twelve hours after the 2016 elections had been called for Donald Trump. It hadn’t occurred to me because I had made the appointment more than a month earlier, because oh-it’s-your-wedding-dress-it-has-to-be-perfect-so-don’t-wait-too-long-to-find-THE-ONE. It hadn’t occurred to me because I am a woman from South India and terms like “empire waist” and “floral appliqué” had only recently entered my vocabulary.

Like much of the rest of New York City, I was sad and teary. That morning I had sat next to my fiancé and wept as Hillary Clinton conceded. I spoke to my dad, who anxiously asked whether Trump’s election would affect my immigration status in the Unites States. My boss at the time sent out an email reminding everyone of counseling services available through our insurance.

I had considered canceling the appointment. It was wet and drizzly, and my hair frizzes out at the slightest touch of moisture. I was supposed to feel beautiful. I felt like a wreck.

But I kept the appointment and arrived on time because what else are you supposed to do except the thing that you said you would do? I had planned to meet my brother, who was my best man, at the bridal boutique in Midtown, but he was running a little late and told me to get started without him. Bridal salons are designed to make you feel like you’re surrounded by everything that’s soft and good and delicate in the world. The lighting is flattering, the couches are low and cushy, and mounds of satin, tulle, and lace seem to float all around you.

Today is going to be special, they say.

I don’t necessarily believe that wanting to wear a pretty dress on your wedding day is anti-feminist. But on the day of mourning for womankind, I didn’t exactly feel like I was fighting for my sisters.

The consultant asked me to walk through the shop and pick out dresses I thought would work for me. She was enthusiastic, and I tried to mirror her spirit. I circled the racks and chose a few to try on. When my brother walked in, I was standing in the dress I would wear on my wedding day. It was covered with pink embroidered flowers, and green vines and crept over the bodice and around the airy tulle skirt. The consultant grabbed a sparkly headband and tied it around my head to complete the look. I felt like a woodland nymph.

I didn’t buy the dress right then. I wrote down its name, thanked the consultant, and like much of Manhattan, my brother and I made a beeline to the nearest wine bar. We probably talked about everything you talked about that evening. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, what in the fuck just happened.

But now it’s a year later, we’re more than ten months into the Trump administration, and my wedding was two months ago. I’m married to an American citizen, and my connection to the United States is an indelible part of my life.

My wedding dress doesn’t remind me of sadness. It reminds me of the happiest day of my life. It reminds me of my husband’s face when he saw me for the first time. It reminds me that the future is female, and we’re going to look damn good while we’re at it.

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  • penguin

    First sentence is missing a word – “yet I was about to [do] the most American thing”

    • Jess

      I found this out from some comments last year: you can actually e-mail the APW team w/ edits and they see them quicker!

      • penguin

        I didn’t know that! That’s cool.

    • Got it. We turned this around fast for obvious reasons, so our copy editor hasn’t gotten to it yet. Wasn’t done till the middle of the night!

  • Jess

    The day after the election, I was scheduled to get a haircut in the evening. On my way in, it felt the same way – flippant. un-feminist. self-serving.

    The night before, I had gone to sleep alone in my hotel room on a work trip, without checking the news or keeping up with the pending WI election results (my state). I had a sinking feeling – I knew the people I work with and who they were voting for. That morning, I woke up early in the morning, feeling nothing but dread. It took me a while to reach for my phone and check the notifications. I went into the plant in small-town America, where middle aged men were congratulating each other and semi-aggressively flaunting the results to me. I sat at a table, trying to answer e-mails that had built up while I was running equipment the day before, with a guy my age who wanted to talk through what went wrong. At one point I declared “I’m not talking about this anymore” and walked out to the floor just to escape. That afternoon, I drove to the airport where CNN blared the results, replayed Trump’s speeches from throughout the year, aired Hilary’s speech, aired countless heads talking about the election, aired people being celebratory.

    When I landed and drove to my hair salon, I was in shock and trying to figure out what the point was in a haircut, when the world was broken. I sat down in a chair, for the first time surrounded by women. Women who were talking about how awful this was, who were afraid, who were mourning. For the first time that day, I felt like I was with people who understood what I was feeling.

    I cried.

    There was something healing about being in an environment that was unapologetically feminine when it felt like the world, both my small one and the world at large, was telling me women are second class. There was something about letting someone else wash the day out of my scalp and delicately curl my hair that felt caring in a way nothing else could have.

    There is value in embracing feminine things and letting people make you feel good, especially in times like these.

    • ssha

      <3 <3 <3

    • Ashley Weckbacher

      My haircut always feels like radical selfcare. Maybe because my mother didn’t let me get my first haircut until I was almost 13, or because we fought so hard about my hair my entire life, especially when I cut it off. Or because people like Gavin McInnes are so vehemently hateful about girls with short hair. Or because it feels indulgent, financially, to go do this expensive thing every six weeks that is so much cheaper than extra therapy. Or because I feel more like myself with short hair. Or because my awful ex cajoled me into growing it out. Or because so many hairdressers have needed to be told, “Shorter.”

      There is power in hair and in tending to it. I’m not surprised that getting a haircut after the election was healing. I think Samson and Delilah get the story wrong…

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Hi, we have some things in common. I cut my hair all the way off in college and my mom cried because she thought I didn’t love her anymore.

        • Ashley Weckbacher

          My mother and I have never seen eye to eye on my hair; I wrote a ten page essay on it. I also have trichotillomania, and there was a lot of traumatic stuff surrounding that.

          But turns out it’s not her hair, after all

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Turns out it’s not. Cheers, fellow traveler.

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  • lurpy

    The day after the election, I ordered my fiancee’s engagement ring. I’d talked to jewelers and looked at designs and knew what I wanted and where I wanted to get it from, but I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger. That morning, I could barely think about anything except the election, including work. I spent most of the morning alternating between taking phone calls from my fiancee (we’re long distance) and trying to convince her that everything would be okay even though I wasn’t sure if that was true, and staring blankly at my computer screen feeling like everything I hold dear, everything that I believe my country is supposed to stand for, had been repudiated resoundingly.

    That afternoon, I decided I wanted to feel something other than sadness. Not much was happening at work–everyone else in the office was staring blankly at their own computer screens–so I left and went to the jeweler. I gave him the design and signed the work order. As I left, I felt better. Not because I was able to ignore the election or because the world was magically a better place now that I had a ring on order, but because in the face of all the terrible, ugly things that came out in that election, I still have the person I love. I have someone who shares my values, who understands my patriotism, who will fight beside me for the things that we both believe in, and not even Donald Fucking Trump could take that away. It will be okay–because we’ll make it okay.

    Celebrating in dark times doesn’t make you frivolous. It just means that, like the Grateful Dead say, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

    • Ashweck

      Sorry I’m late to this comment but I’m so glad that you were able to find some spot of light in that week. I like Dumbledore’s way of thinking about it, that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only we remember to turn on the light.

      I think there’s something beautiful about saying that you’re not going to let the people like Trump dictate what your life is going to look like. You have a right to your joy and it’s the only way we’ll survive this

    • CNY Bride

      The election ended up being our big push to get engaged. One of my major sadnesses, that took a long time to admit to myself and my partner, was that I had assumed that the post-election joy would put us in a happy place to talk more seriously about getting married (something we had said that we wanted to do but hadn’t made any concrete moves towards). I didn’t want to get engaged during such a time of sadness, but eventually we agreed that the current state of the world left it all the more important to embrace all that is good in the world. Our wedding is in June.

  • Daisy6564

    My daughter was due election week. We didn’t know the sex before she was born and the first thing I could think on the morning after the election was “I hope its not a girl.” How could I bring a little woman in to this world?
    She was 10 days late and was, wonderfully, female. This year has been tough for everyone and I feel like I have been mercifully spared too much reflection time because I have been in a baby haze and struggling like every new parent (what’s sleep?).

  • This is an amazing one. I can’t think that wedding gowns can be designed like that also. I think this something that can beat the current fashion. I would like to gift the same to my sister.