The Dress Chronicles

In the months and weeks leading up to going dress shopping, I was more than a bit apprehensive. There were a lot of reasons for this, but a huge factor had to do with having recently lost a very significant amount of weight (100lbs significant, to be exact) and fear that everything I tried on would prove disappointing. I was also having an internal struggle with committing a lot of money to a dress purchase, when I had so many other ways I could spend the money and gain greater utility from the purchase. To make matters worst, I’m a wannabe fashionista on a domestic beer budget and in particular I’m a huge lover of just about everything JLM Couture makes including these beauties:

Jim Hjelm Style 8850

Alvina Valenta Style 9803

Lazaro 3861

Needless to say, such fine creations were not in the budget. However, I had done enough research to know that I really did not like a lot of the dresses produced by more affordable bridal designers. I started looking online for used dresses I liked, and I even contemplated ordering a fabulous bridesmaid dress in ivory.

Jim Hjelm 5824

Alvina Valenta 9837

Then I finally went shopping. I brought along my mother and four of my bridesmaids and we had a fantastic day of shopping. When we set out, I was convinced I would never have that moment and fall for the one, because I was dead-set against falling in love with an overpriced dress. We went to three stores in six hours in one day. I tried on several things I liked, far more things that I loathed, and a couple of dresses I considered contenders early on. All the while, my mother was encouraging me to stop fretting the price of the dresses and just try on what I was comfortable trying on. In my head I didn’t want to spend more the $200 on a dress. Seriously. I thought maybe I could see myself paying $500, and that $700 would be the absolute highest I could allow myself to spend. My girls tried damn hard to get me to fall in love with something, anything, but I was resisting even though the day was magically fun.

Somewhere along the way I started trying on dresses by Casablanca. I’d heard a lot of lovely things about the quality of the dresses as compared to other designers in the same price range and something about a lot of the dresses captivated me. Over the course of that day and the days ahead, I tried on tons of Casablanca dresses including these:

Casablanca 1908

Casablanca 1860

Casablanca 1872

I actually finished that first shopping trip convinced the last dress above, 1872, was the one. I totally fell in love with it the instant I saw it on me. It was beautiful satin with beaded lace appliqués and had fantastic box pleats in the back that gave it an incredible fit and flare shape. It looked great on and I loved how it made me feel. With that said, over the next few days the thought of that dress began weighing on me. Literally. It was by far one of the heaviest dresses I had tried on….and I could not imagine how uncomfortable it would be to wear it in mid-July. So a couple of weeks later, I returned to the same shop and explained what I loved about that dress and another Casablanca I had tried on. The shop owner turned right around and came back with just one dress.

Casablanca 1827

Turns out, this was my dress. It’s amazing beaded lace on netting. The train is short, the dress is lightweight, and it has a sweetheart neckline. It has a definite classic meets modern vintage appeal, which was high on my list of priorities. And there wasn’t a halter top, split front, sash, or a bit side rouching…all things that had been firmly on my list of dislikes in wedding gowns.




So, it’s confession time. How much did my gorgeous gown cost? $564 and change. Yes, seriously. My mother and I purchased my gown at a trunk show in the first week of January for 25% off and because it’s an older style for Casablanca the price is already much less than when the dress was brand new. My lovely mother only told me after we had found the dress that she had always intended to pay for my dress and had set herself a budget of $1500, so needless to say she was thrilled with the final $564 price tag. I am thrilled to have a dress that I love that didn’t break the bank, regardless of the fact that the bank ended up being the Bank of Mom and not the Bank of Cyd.

My advice to those of you who have yet to start the dress shopping process…

  1. If you’re in a shop you like, getting good service, trust the suggestions of the bridal consultants. They have an incredible knack to suggest things you’d pass over. Believe them when they say you need to try it on and avoid judging it on the hanger.
  2. Do your research. If you know of a style you’d like to try, call ahead and see if shops can pull some of your favorites before you get to your appointment.
  3. Know what you’re comfortable spending. Don’t waste your time trying on things you know you can’t afford.
  4. Once you determine a style does not work for you such as your basic A-line shape did not work on me, stop trying them on. You’re wasting time and confusing yourself if you do. Don’t try them on to be nice, let your shopping helpers and the consultants know you already know that shape doesn’t work for you and move on.
  5. Have fun. Don’t over-think it. Pack snacks and water and make a day of it. My girls and I had a cooler stocked with snacks to refuel between shops and we wrapped the day up with happy hour followed by dinner. It was an absolute blast.
  6. Do not let yourself be pressured into a purchase. Anytime I had people try to rush me into things by warning that “prices are going up in 2009” or “this style might be discontinued soon” I would mentally check them off my list of potential stores from which to purchase. This is your decision, not theirs.
  7. Consider purchasing online via ebay or sites dedicated to used dress sales between brides. However, do your research. Sometimes brides are selling their dress for less than they paid back when the dress was brand new, but for a price that is actually more than the current retail price. The week after I ordered my dress, I found two different sellers selling it online for more than $300 more than I paid.
  8. Have fun. (Yes, again.) This is about you, it’s about having fun, it’s about celebrating and anticipating your marriage to come. You’re going to be glowing and beautiful so try to check your insecurities at the door, as I had to do mine, and love the moment.