When choosing a wedding dress, women talk a great deal about silhouette and embroidery and lace, and occasionally about comfort. But it's time to publicly address another important issue: How the hell do you go to the bathroom when you’re wearing a glorious, princess-level wedding dress?
Years ago, I served as maid of honor for a bride whose dress did not allow her to go to the bathroom unassisted. Along with another bridesmaid, we crammed into a bathroom stall (granted, it was at the Ritz, but still, close quarters) and us two designated assistants clumsily lifted about 2,000 layers of silk, tulle and crinoline up as high as possible and just hoped for the best. In hindsight, maybe I should have just checked with some experts for their advice beforehand. So this Bridal Week, I decided to go to the people who designed the dresses for a no-holds-barred discussion.
While the actual technique to navigate the ladies’ room may differ a bit amongst bridal gown designers, they all agree on one thing: “You need to take your bridesmaids,” Keren Craig, co-designer of Marchesa, told me at the spring 2015 presentation. “Yeah, you need to take friends,” agreed design partner Georgina Chapman. (They declined to elaborate more on the indelicate subject matter, possibly because they're British and very proper.)
If you're the bride and you're wearing a Lady St. Petsois JuJu-level pouf-tastic gown (sorry, another "Bridesmaids" reference), get over any shyness you might be feeling. "No privacy," Pamella Roland, who introduced her first-ever bridal collection this season, said laughing. "You will not be going to the restroom alone that day."
So on to the execution. One approach: take off the dress entirely. “Just push the dress down, while your friends or bridesmaids hold the sides for you," Kim Fusaro, Glamour's weddings contributor, told me at the Anne Barge show. "Step right out of it because you probably have Spanx on underneath, too.” Oh right, shapewear. Yet another factor to consider. “Otherwise, have a bridesmaid on each side as they lift the dress up and you reach behind and separate your Spanx,” she adds. She also points out that it's more of a "back-lift" technique. (Sorry for the TMI, but these are things you need to consider.)
Designer Elizabeth Fillmore is actually known for her sheath-like, ‘30s-style dresses that don’t require bathroom assistance (full disclosure: I wore one of her gowns and happily peed in solitude during my wedding, but to each her own). Still, she's a proponent of taking all it off. Fillmore suggested that the lucky bathroom aides also keep a hanger on hand to preserve the dress while the bride is taking care of business.
On the flip side, designer Jean-Ralph Thurin and his wife think leaving the dress on is the easiest, but you still need friends to help with the lift. “A lot of little accidents can happen if you try to do this yourself,” he warned.
A PR woman at Pamella Roland's presentation helpfully suggested sitting on the toilet backwards. That way, the train of the dress is trailing out on the floor, instead of being jammed up against the toilet tank. You'll still need your bridesmaids for the back-lift, of course.
Now it’s not just the poufy ball gown that requires support. If you’re wearing a figure-hugging mermaid or trumpet gown, conquering the ladies’ room shouldn’t be a solo effort, either. Thurin also suggested stepping out of the fitted gown with your bridesmaids holding the dress from top to bottom to make sure no part of it hits the nasty bathroom floor. “So the idea with that is also to pull the dress down, uh, do your thing and have somebody help you back into it,” he said.
And what do you do if your dress is held together by an endless row of teeny-tiny silk-covered buttons up the back? “You use a crochet hook,” Fusaro said, to help undo the buttons. “It speeds up the process.” (Gel nails = saved.)
Beyond the above maneuvering techniques, be smart and take care of business before you walk down the aisle. It also helps to acknowledge -- both to yourself and to your bridesmaids -- that going to the bathroom that evening will be an endeavor.
So if it wasn't already just a decent thing to do, brides: be really, really nice to your bridesmaids. They deserve it.