When my now husband and I decided to get married, I was determined to be The Anti Bridezilla. Our relatively short three-month engagement suited me just fine because I was not about to angst over details like designer shoes, what type of roses I wanted in my bouquet, save the date cards or even wedding favours. The more time I had, the more time I would have to be indecisive – and I have indecision hardwired into me.
The thing I least wanted to be precious about was my wedding dress. Not having a particular style in mind, I had every intention of saving time, stress and money, as well as reducing waste, by simply wearing my sister’s wedding dress. After all, it was a gorgeous gown and the two of us are a similar build.
Then I thought to myself, Is that weird, wearing the same dress my sister got married in? We have many friends in common, not to mention family. So then I was going to wear my friend’s wedding dress.
But after taking it up to Sydney from Canberra, I wasn’t sure it suited me and wondered, Maybe I should wear my sister’s wedding dress after all.
And thus began The Great Dress Stress.
The story of my wedding dress is actually an oft repeated story in my life as an Enneagram Type 9. Y’know, the one of me not knowing what I really want and being confused by the inner tussle between Mainstream Me wanting to follow conventional wisdom and Alternative Me wanting to defy conventional wisdom.
Introduction: “The Dress”
In perusing an old copy of Hello May and browsing wedding websites, I discovered there is a curious thing called “The Dress”. Have you heard of it? Apparently it’s an outfit that you know immediately, intuitively and beyond a shadow of a doubt is made for you and Your Day.
I came across this creature again at my first bridal boutique appointment, where the saleswoman attending me kept using the pronoun she to refer to dresses. She’d say things like, “She’s a size 6 but we can easily take her in at the waist and shoulders for you”, and “So you like her, but is she The Dress?”
The Dress. I knew I would never meet The Dress. She simply doesn’t exist in my Enneagram type’s world. She’s a mythical beast in a place where almost everything is passable and absolutely nothing is perfect.
Act I: My sister’s dress
I so wanted to be okay with my sister’s dress. It’s beautiful and feminine with a striking illusion back and buttons. It would have required minimal alterations. It would have been good for the environment and my wallet. My fiancé liked it (yes, I showed him).
But I’d have to wear flats as I’m a few centimetres taller than my sister. I went to two different dressmakers to get pinned and quoted for alterations, but it still wasn’t sitting quite right on the front.
After reluctantly concluding I needed to find my own dress, the floodgates of possibility opened up. Which, in my world where The Dress is a mythical beast, is a dangerous development involving too much time online reading about the right dress for my body type, browsing boutique catalogues and scrolling through Pinterest.
Act II: I settle on a dress
It was time to hit the boutiques. Not having a dream dress in mind from childhood, I went into my first couple of appointments as a blank slate, open to considering the recommendations of the experts.
I tried on some pretty fabulous dresses. Even the ones I would never have picked out for myself were fun to try on – and a surprising number of them were very flattering. It made me think I should consider wearing something different from what I might normally choose to wear. After all, if there’s one day to go glamorous, surely it’s my wedding day.
But nothing was quite right, quite me.
Unable to find anything amazing at the boutiques, I resigned myself to settling for an okay dress. Seven weeks out from my wedding day, after a total of about 6 hours in bridal stores, I tired of the shopping. (Yes, I have poor stamina when it comes to shopping).
That’s why, when I found a dress that the store attendants and my friends said looked great on me, I figured I should just get it. It had a little lace but not too much, with a little glamour thrown in. And, as far as wedding dresses go, it was cheap.
Since there’s no such thing as The Dress, all I needed was a dress that ticked a few boxes, right?
So I settled. I bought the okay dress, took it to the dressmaker who pinned me up and told me to come back in a week. Done.
But not dusted. I left with a niggling unease in my stomach that I couldn’t get rid of. On my fiancé’s advice, I asked the dressmaker to hit pause for a week while I considered whether to go ahead with this dress that I’d settled on.
Act III: I find not The Dress, but my dress
I went back to the drawing board.
The funny and frustrating thing is that there was a style I liked a lot (example here). It was an A-line with a little lace but not too much, timeless and elegant. Basically, Rosa Clara and the Spanish designers are my vibe.
Once I had that in mind, I tried using some of the features I liked as a guideline at the boutiques. It didn’t produce the desired results. That dress style was always either too expensive, or not available in my size, or simply not available in any boutique near me.
In the end, all I had to do was give myself one more hour to visit one more boutique. I’d given up after just three stores but found my dress at the fourth.
This photo on the website didn’t strike me initially but I actually had a good feeling about it as soon as I put it on.
A-line with a little lace but not too much, timeless and elegant. Spanish design at a decent price.
Even though my wedding day was five weeks away and I would need alterations, I didn’t buy it straight away. After the slightly traumatic kerfuffle with the previous dress, I wanted to give myself a little more time to think it over and be sure.
And as I got ready on my wedding day, as I posed for endless bridal portraits, as I walked down the aisle, I was sure that I had made the right choice.
The moral of the story
Believe it or not, what I’ve just narrated is a simplification of the ordeal. In between are stupid and frustrating details around the indecision, the pros and cons list, the grumpiness, the hours trying to figure out which boutique was worth visiting based on their website alone. My last minute moment of doubt around My Dress.
The point is that while I had every intention of being fuss-free about my wedding dress, I ended up being very fuss-full indeed.
I used to think that certain types of women were particularly susceptible to the bridezilla virus and that I was not one of them. Surely I was immune as an easygoing person who hasn’t been dreaming up the details of my wedding since childhood. I guess that’s the nature of this virus – anyone can catch it, though symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the person.
Ultimately, I cared way more than I thought I would, than I wanted to, about my wedding dress because it was a statement about who I am – or who I want to be, or be seen as. All clothing is a statement of identity, but none so much as what we wear on a milestone day in which more photos than ever are taken of us. That’s why I couldn’t wear just any dress.
But how could I find the right dress if there was no such thing as the perfect dress? The tension between wanting things to be perfect and wanting things to simply be done overwhelms me. That’s what indecision is for me: a tension that paralyses me by clouding my understanding of what I actually want.
I do have preferences that matter, though, even if my desires are sometimes elusive. Through the stress with this dress, I’ve learned that if I need more time to find something I’m happy with, I should take it instead of rushing into something sub-par. Even if almost everything is passable and nothing is perfect, giving up “perfect” doesn’t mean giving in to “passable”.
My Dress is for sale – tailored to about a Size 1, worn twice and in excellent condition. Contact me if you’re interested!
Another postnote: It turns out The Stress With the Dress has a sequel called How to plan a COVID wedding.
7 thoughts on “The stress with the dress”
This is fabulous!!!! Hope you’re enjoying a unique start to married life. Can’t wait to catch up x
Ps you looked utterly exquisite in your dress
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Thanks, Em? Unique indeed haha, feeling so very grateful despite the lockdown!
Firstly – I think the dress speaks YOU perfectly. elegant, effortless, gentle and discerning. the entire dress hunting experience sure sounded like a nightmare ? …but you did so well! I am very proud of you for not settling for the earlier options!
Awww thanks you are so kind? I am glad I didn’t settle either and have to give my husband credit for encouraging me in that when I just wanted to give up!
It’s a stunning dress Hsu-Ann and worth the angst. I’m just glad when I was shopping for a dress I didn’t have websites or social media to drool over. I had a couple of borrowed magazines and a trip to Canberra or Sydney to try them on. I think it’s probably easier to make a decision when you are standing in the real thing.
Thanks! I’d say it was worth it too, but a lot of the angst could’ve been avoided 😛 You’re right, there is too much choice but you can’t actually make a meaningful comparison until you put the dress on. I found lots of them look fantastic on a (tall, busty, hourglassy) model and weird on my petite body – or terrible on the rack but quite nice on! Did you keep your wedding dress or sell it?