It is one of those epic moments in a girls’ life and a mothers…shopping for a wedding dress. I thought I might be able to save Sierra the trouble of finding and buying one and dug out my own 30-year-old wedding dress for her to try on.
“You can cut the sleeves off and the collar and change anything you want if you like it.”
She was gracious. “It was a great dress for you mom, but it’s not quite my style.” That was fine. I wanted to at least offer my dress, as did my best friend from childhood and the family friend down the street. My son, Bryce did not mince his words. “It looks like you’re wearing a curtain.” Someone else said I look like I’m starring in a western movie.
And so Sierra gets home from grad school four days before her fiance and the task at hand is to find a brides dress. The wedding will be held two weeks after the semester ends in May and living in Boulder makes it impossible to shop any other time but this Christmas holiday.
Our first day of shopping, we went to 5 bridal stores. She tried on about 8 dresses in each one. Many were hideous. Most of them were huge and the attendants clasped the fabric together with huge plastic clips down her back, giving her the illusion of fitting. Except for the boobs. The fabric gaped open and Sierra is far from flat chested. Nothing could be done right now about the gaping boobs. The bridal stores buy them large to accommodate more brides. That doesn’t help if you want to truly see how it will fit. “We can make the dress fit you, don’t worry.”
She was worried. Some said she would have to come back for three fittings. That wasn’t going to happen in Boulder or sit well with the budget. She wanted to buy a dress that fits NOW.
All the bridal shops were different. One lady was alone in her tiny shop and on the phone the whole time and left us completely alone. Another large shop told me needed to sit down in a parlor area and she would go alone into the dressing room with my daughter. I said, “I’d like to come in too.”
She said, “That’s not normally our policy.”
Tough shit. Sierra tried on 5 dresses in there and immediately took off every one, she hated them so. I would have been sitting out there and never saw her model a single one.
On the way home that first day, Sierra felt weepy. I told her this was supposed to be fun. I told her this was not supposed to create stress. But you learn a lot brides dress shopping- about yourself and who you are.
Sierra was not poofy. She was not heavy with a long satin trail that felt like an albatross and hindered you from dancing lightly around the dance floor. She was not sequins and pearls nor expensive.
“The dress must be under $500,” she’d announce as soon as she introduced herself to the clerk.
“And I like simple. My favorite style is a halter and I prefer ivory.”
That narrowed the search down rather radically. Now wonder after 5 shops we had struck nearly completely out.
There was only one dress that she found that she could possibly be content wearing to get married in. It did not excite her at all. It was just okay.
“I think your wedding dress should be more than just okay,” I told her.
We spent all that night looking at dresses online on the computer, which felt scary thinking about ordering one sight unseen but we may be reduced to that. We found multiple ones that looked gorgeous on the models but that is deceptive. The next day’s search would be in a different city- Allentown.
David’s Bridal is like the Wal-Mart of bridal stores. The internet was full of complaints about them but the dresses we loved on the computer were David’s dresses. Some were online only- others shop only- others still- both. The ones Sierra and I loved were supposedly both. She found one in particular that she adored and I saw another that was my absolute favorite. We were excited.
But at the shop, we were fortunate to find Sierra’s favorite (my second favorite) for only $250, but to hem it would cost $120. To sew a bustle onto the back, another $75.To take up the halter top, another $75. They said Sierra needed a long lined bra and that cost $55. And Sierra was concerned she looked a bit “hippy” in it. This had been her favorite online but on your body can be another story.
We decided to try out another shop close by and then have lunch and mull it over before buying it.
Shop #7 was a strike out with not a single dress worth trying on. They told us however, to check out Bella’s across the highway. Bella buys all of David’s discontinued styles and theirs.
When we drove over to the shop, it was closed in the middle of the day. That’s strange. A scribbled sign on the door said to call the owner, which we did from the parking lot. She answered her phone and said she would be there at 3 to open up. On the store front was a hand written sign said, “Wedding Dresses- as low as $50.” We were excited.
When 3 o’clock came, Bella pulled up on the grass and waved to us from the driver’s seat. She unlocked the door and said, “I’ll go turn on the heat.” It was cold inside like a warehouse.
There were rows and rows of dresses. Sierra announced, “I’m looking for a discontinued brides dresses.”
“That’s every one in the shop,” she assures us.
Sierra says, “I’m looking for dresses under $500,”
“That’s every one in the shop.”
“I’m looking for dresses that are size 8-10.”
“That’s nearly every one in the shop. Enjoy yourselves.”
There were hundreds of dresses, packed so tightly. Sierra and I found about 10 worthy of trying on and then I saw MY favorite (Sierra’s 2nd favorite) from the internet the night before. I couldn’t believe it. She tried on the dress and it fit like a glove. It was exquisite. She looked exquisite. “I love it,” I said. “I love it too,” she said. And our eyes locked and we knew this was the dress.No need to even try on the rest.
When we asked about altering she said she was a lot cheaper than David’s but when we finally noticed the dress’ hem we saw that it just touched the floor and with a small heel would be perfect. This perfect dress was already hemmed to Sierra’s height. No bridal dress comes already hemmed- all need altering.
“Was this dress worn before?” I asked.
“It was returned,” she said, “but never worn. Wealthy brides buy multiple dresses and they don’t always wear them all.”
“Are you kidding?” I ask.
“They buy three and have them all altered. One is worn for the wedding, another at the reception. This dress was purchased as the cake-cutting dress but the bride didn’t get around to putting on. A bride can’t return a dress at David’s so they bring them in here.”
A cake-cutting dress…who knew.
There was a disappointed bride in the shop while we were there who had brought in her $1200 dress to see what Bella would give her for it as her wedding got “canceled.”
But what a stroke of luck for us. Sierra’s dress did not even need hemming- unheard of. The dress of both our dreams for $300.
On the way home, Sierra said, “I got my dress, Mom, and it’s so beautiful” and we were indeed a little weepy. This indeed was a moment in a girls and a mother’s life.