Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The dress (unabridged)

And I do mean unabridged, dear Reader. This post is just for the archives, but I hope you enjoy reading about the dress-shopping extravaganza (minus identifying details about the dress itself, of course!).

I'll freely admit I was excited but also pretty nervous going into the day. I love the group I assembled for the trip, but I'm so not usually an all-day shopper with people crowding around me with feedback. I was nervous about getting cranky and grouching at the three wonderful people who had taken the day to be with me for this experience (and thus forever remembering the fun, special day instead as The Day When The Bride Got Freakishly Grouchy). I was nervous about not finding anything and then about finding The Dress that was out of my budget. I was trying so hard to not put unrealistic pressure on myself, but there was a whole lot of unknown looming in front of me when Saturday began.

Luckily (a happy spoiler!) I had worried for nothing, so rest assured that the remaining paragraphs don't echo the previous one. (Relief!)

My mom had booked 90-minute appointments at three stores around the Twin Cities, and by the way, she was amazing. She started the day by distributing carefully assembled and very humorous survival kits for each of us, containing tissues and snacks and chocolate! The whole purpose of this post is not to give feedback about specific stores but rather so I can remember the experience - so I won't name names, although I've given positive feedback offline in some cases. I'll take you chronologically through the day.

We got to Store 1, and there were a couple of other parties in there. Over the course of the day, we'd see brides with anywhere between one or two and ten women with them. I brought my mom, my sister, and my friend Sara, and that was a great group for me. We chatted with our contact at Store 1 for a few minutes, and then we all went around and grabbed dresses that might match my ideas. I tried on a bunch (13, I think) and found one that rose above the rest. I liked it a lot, even though it was different than what I expected I would choose. You learn quickly that you get surprised with how dresses look in real life and how they fit, including both dresses that didn't originally warrant a second glance and dresses you thought you would love. I had forgotten my high heels (oops) but it wasn't a problem because I could step onto a little platform that made me look way tall!

Our contact at Store 1 was great: patient and very helpful. She was right there next to me in the fitting room, getting me in and out of the dresses and giving good advice. She didn't give a lot of specific feedback, but she knew that it was our very first appointment and first time looking at dresses together, so I think she intentionally stepped back to let me process everything. I appreciated that.

At the end of our first appointment, I asked somewhat desperately if lunch or another appointment was next. I was tired from getting into the dresses - more intricate than anything I'd ever tried on before - and from making sure I hadn't missed the right dress among my choices. It was confusing at first because it wasn't like I had tried on wedding dresses before - heck, any kind of fancy dress! - so they all felt strange and not completely natural. I did get a much better idea of what I preferred from our first stop, and I had a dress I liked. I just wasn't sure if I was supposed to actually have that fabled  "OH MY, THIS IS THE ONE" moment, but I felt good.

After the ever-important lunch (fish and chips for me!), we went to Store 2. Right away, the energy and vibe were not matching our group's. People I love have found the right dress at this store (and had a great experience, too), so it's just an example of how visit quality can vary based on any number of reasons. But the bottom line was that I was neither comfortable nor relaxed, and I wanted to get out of there. I won't dwell on this part of the day too much, but our appointment was a short one. Besides the energy, my style (and my budget) also didn't seem to match well with the store's inventory, so I wasn't clicking with the dresses I was trying. Right at the end, though, I did try on a great dress that was on par with my favorite from Store 1.

I left the second store feeling depleted because of the lackluster visit but truly content with my top two choices. I didn't feel torn. I felt like I could pick either one and be happy about what I chose.

We went into Store 3, and there were literally dozens of women milling around in the main reception area, and all I could do was laugh and kind of nonsensically start talking about Little Women with my group. Luckily, we got called to a quieter room that we had all to ourselves (with my changing room across the hall), and we met our contact there. She wanted to hear about our whole day and what I was looking for, and she made us all feel comfortable right away. She gave me a heads-up that she expected some fatigue from us, given that it was our third stop. Man, she was right on. All of the dresses in the first group were blurring together, and nothing seemed quite right to me.

When she came back to our room, I surprised myself by launching into a weird, convoluted monologue about what I was looking for and why the other ones weren't quite working. It was totally vague and didn't contain what I perceived to be specific feedback but did include broad tangents about who I am and how I see myself in a wedding dress. When she and I returned to the changing room, I said, "I'm sorry, I don't know if that was helpful at all" and she said, "Wait, I have another idea for you." She brought back a couple of dresses, and I tried on one and said, "Oh!" I went into the room with my group, and then onto the little stage with mirrors all around me. I had found the right dress for me.

It's hard to express this without unabashedly embracing a tired cliche, but the feeling I got wearing this dress was entirely different than trying on all of the others. I wanted to keep wearing it! It made me realize that the other dresses were wonderful but also not quite right for me, in contrast to feeling natural and comfortable wearing this one. I felt like myself in it, instead of someone wearing a pretty costume. (Also, I think I had a seriously tell-tale perma-grin going on the whole time we were inspecting it.) I guess all I need to say is that I learned that it was possible for me to know when the right dress came around after all, and it was thrilling. (And yes, when our contact gave us privacy to "talk about the dress" amongst ourselves, we started taking pictures with each other and me in the dress instead, and I said dramatically, "I'm going to say yes to this dress!" and we all squealed. Ha!)

I was so happy - and yes, relieved - that after trying dozens of gowns, we had found a dress I loved and in our budget. I am so grateful for my group for offering great feedback and support all day - for making the day fun! - and so grateful for our contact at Store 3. Josh and I have met a lot of people through wedding planning so far, and some of them just go above and beyond their job description. She was one of them. She was so genuine and helpful and honest, and she really listened and responded to our feedback - but was also knowledgeable and creative enough to bring out a dress that I don't think I would have flagged on the hanger or in a picture, which of course ended up being the dress I ended up buying on the spot.

I can't wait to try my dress on again later in 2013, and I really can't wait to get married in it.


  1. YES!! Loved reading your recap. I loved that moment when you asked if lunch was next; ha you were so fatigued and hopeful we would get food. It was a great moment among a very great day. Also, you left out how all three of us GASPED when we saw you in THE dress. Yay!

  2. We DID gasp and then fell silent. Sara and April probably wanted to scream but withheld their enthusiasm so as to let YOU feel your choice! I cannot even put into words what a change came over your face..you looked like you had napped for 3 hours AND had another round of fish and chips! There was a literal "glow" about you! This "feeling" of seeing your daughter in the right dress..it's darn close to the birth experience and difficult to capture in words. Not kidding. What a memorable day!