As a fashion editor, I take pride in knowing the very best of what’s out in the market each season, and not just because I enjoy it—it’s my job.
So, you’d think that this would lead me to conduct hours of runway research and create dozens of thoughtful Pinterest boards when it came to making a purchase as major as my wedding dress, but such was not the case. Most of my friends and family were shocked to hear that not only did I buy my wedding dress after a 40-minute session in one store, it was the second one that I tried on.
I am getting married in November, and while the planning process as a whole intimidated me, shopping for a gown seemed particularly daunting. I envisioned racks of froufrou dresses that are the antithesis of my understated personal style, and the designers whose work I have become familiar with over the years were far outside of my price range. Add this to my requisite body hang-ups and it seemed like a shopping trip that was bound to end in disaster—well, at least in frustration (with a side of tears).
My mom grew up in Brooklyn, and over the holidays we made an appointment at the same place where she bought her wedding dress: A slightly cheesy, very old-school—and very famous—bridal boutique. I went in with a bad attitude (sorry, mom) and a very clear idea of what I thought I wanted, but when the sales associate brought me just that—something long-sleeved and lace—it immediately became evident that I needed to abandon my expectations.
The style I had admired from afar—and on very tall, thin models—didn't flatter me at all. I looked uncomfortable and matronly, but worst of all, I didn't look like myself.
After trying on one awful dress, we went back to the drawing board. I gave the associate a laundry list of things I didn't like—rhinestones, tulle, satin, anything strapless—which narrowed down my options almost prohibitively. I told her that all I wanted was to look like me, albeit a more polished (and maybe a little bit cooler) version.
While she went to the back room to pull more gowns, I wandered the sales floor, when I saw it: A very simple, silk chiffon dress with a deep V in the front and the back that almost looked more appropriate for a beach party than for a bride. But I loved the way it was cut, the way it moved and its unique ivory shade. Considering the fact that I still had 75 minutes left of my appointment and exactly zero options, I tried it on. And that was that.
I think I tried on four more dresses that day, but we kept going back to that easy dress I pulled off of the rack. Even clipped into the oversized floor sample, I felt truly comfortable. At ease, even. I didn't feel like I needed to immediately start some trendy wedding diet and a bridal boot camp, which I think speaks volumes.
Initially, I almost felt guilty, like I was selling myself short. Had I gone into my shopping excursion too unprepared? Unlike what I'd seen on TV, there were no tears of joy. Plus, I'd had friends and colleagues tell me they tried on dresses for months before finding theirs. My dad made me promise that I wouldn't keep looking at gowns, just in case I found one that I loved more. I almost thought of it the same way I felt when I was searching for an apartment a couple of years ago: When you find "the one," don't let it slip through your fingers. Just sign the damn lease.
Despite the prominence of Pinterest and reality shows like “Say Yes to the Dress,” I took solace in knowing that not all brides are so precious about choosing their gowns. The “alterna-bride” seems to be having her day in the bridal market: Popular New York City boutique Stone Fox Bride stocks a small collection of bohemian and vintage gowns, and its slogan proudly proclaims “fuck weddings.” Similarly, the Reformation — an eco-friendly label that’s well-loved by downtown, model-off-duty types — just introduced a bridal category, including a wide selection of hip dresses for bridesmaids, or as the retailer puts it, “babesmaids.” No princess gowns here.
I purchased (and last saw) my dress over four months ago. To be honest, I haven't thought about it much since—aside from trying to decide what shoes I am going to pair it with—and I haven't peeked around the web in search of The One That Got Away. Still, I wonder if I should have spent just a touch more time before pulling the trigger, although I know there's no right answer.
Was your wedding dress shopping experience similar to mine, or drastically different? I'd love to hear your stories.