If the invitations were an unexpected joy, dress shopping was an unexpected disappointment. (Followed by joy, of course!) I should start by mentioning our budget. We have one. Everyone has one. Whatever your budget, there are choices to be made and priorities to be set. This is tricky; my priorities might not be the same as yours, and that’s ok.
Not long into the planning my mom offered to buy my dress. She set a budget which seemed enormous to me. She was busy with other things, so I did some looking without her, just to see what the options were. My best friend went with me to several bridal shops, where I tried on lots of dresses. To my surprise, they were at the top of my budget if not well beyond it. Worse, there wasn’t a natural fiber to be found. I’m a bit of a fabric snob, so the yards of synthetics just weren’t doing it for me.
It started to bother me that I’d spend all that money on something that wasn’t even what I really wanted. Something that was just okay. It seemed like there had to be other options. I expected to revel in the dress shopping, and instead it was making me nervous and self-conscious. I did find some options from J. Crew, Siri and Jenny Yoo, among others. Meanwhile, I realized that sample gowns must go somewhere. They do! There are whole websites devoted to once-wed and sample gowns. They are also on eBay, which can be riskier since the return policies may not be in your favor.
I’m lucky to be in the sample size range (sort of), so I had a few options. I bought three dresses. All in the same week. First a J. Crew Sophia, in a tall size which they no longer make. (I’m 5’10” — tall!) It was a steal.
I bought a fluffy meringue of a vintage gown which I adored but was skeptical about the length.
And I bought an ivory silk sample gown on a lark, and as the only bidder I bought it for a song. A song, plus shipping! Here’s a tiny peek. That’s it there on the left, next to the Sophia. Both fresh out of boxes and wrinkled.
The vintage gown was, alas, too short. I posted it for sale again, and somehow ended up making about $10 on the turnaround. The Sophia was lovely and comfortable and just not quite right. Pretty dress, but not quite it. I kept it — you’ll see it soon!
The silk sample gown, the impulse buy, is the one. It’s perfectly plain — strapless ivory organza over silk satin with a chapel train. I’ll probably wear it with an ivory sash. I could not be any happier with it. I don’t have a decent photo of me in it, which is probably just as well. I’m a haphazard photographer on a good day.
I’m not sure why I feel the need to end with a point — maybe because I feel like I’ve learned something here. My mom gave me a hard time about wearing a “used” dress, I think because it embarassed her. It took a while to make her understand that I wasn’t settling and that no one would ever really know or care. (Except all of you!) But I really love that dress, and I really love that I could have what I wanted for what I wanted to spend. Anyway, don’t let anyone else set your priorities for you. There are so many ways to end up married, there’s no reason to be regretful or in debt.