Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chapel Chatter: Fine Fittings

The appointment was set, and of course, we were late. We hopped into the car 15 minutes before we were scheduled to arrive, knowing that we had a half-hour drive ahead of us. Well, I didn’t know (Richmond is still very alien to me), but Mom informed me of our late status as we started to drive.

When researching dresses (Lazaro being my favorite designer, at the time), we found a boutique that supposedly carried his designs, more specifically, the one that I had fallen head over heels in love with:
...don't worry. I would never post pics of my wedding dress on a blog that I know T reads. See where this is going?

Unfortunately, we learned as we crawled down 95 after Friday in D.C., calling to make our Saturday appointment because, heck, we may as well be productive in a traffic jam, Jingles didn’t carry Lazaro anymore. We made the appointment anyway. Can't hurt to try stuff on, right?

Saturday morning, as we drove past multicolored forests lining the highway, my mind wandered. Mom asked me questions about Terry, about me, and about our plans. The next morning we were to walk the yard, figuring out just where the ceremony would be, where we’d put the food tables, the dance floor, the table that Terry and I would share for dinner (and probably not sit at for more than 5 minutes at any given time)...

We argued mildly over which exit to take (I was right), and had to backtrack a few miles, which put us farther away from our appointment time. I made a call on the road and was sweetly thanked for the heads-up.

Finally we pulled into the parking lot. Circling the complex where it was located, we found Jingles tucked away in a corner, and we parked right in front of a window sporting gauzy dresses and fall colors.

I wasn’t nervous. I actually hadn’t thought much about dress fittings. People had told me over and over that everything would change once I started trying things on, but I knew myself and my decision-making patterns. I knew what I wanted. I’m not one to waffle. I pick something and go with it, and seldom has this approach let me down.


The day was mild for November and we walked into the store unhindered by jackets and gloves. That may sound like a small thing, but not having to take a few minutes removing layers of thick staying-warm garmentage makes me feel light and breezy, which contributed to my experience of the first moments in the shop. As we rounded a decorated corner, dazzled by the rich colors and fabrics everywhere, we were greeted by Diane, who was tall and thin, with a feminine blonde bob and a soft voice.

We introduced ourselves and chatted about my ideal dress. I showed her the Lazaro image I’d printed and brought with me, and she commented at how prepared we were, then began to take us through their show room.
As Diane thumbed through the dresses on hooks and racks and mannequins, she talked to me about features of dresses and designers. We earmarked dress after dress as my head filled with names and fabrics and ribbons and chiffon and hand stitched rhinestones, and at the end of our tour along the dress-lined walls, I had 12 dresses to try. I didn’t fall in love with all of them upon first sight on the hanger, but it was the first time I’d done this, so I wanted to keep an open mind.

Diane ushered us into the dressing area. There was a flowery couch were Mom sat, a pedestal surrounded by mirrors, and a white wooden door that led to my dressing room, which had hooks and a rack to hang dresses on, as well as a large mirror. Diane made several trips back and forth as I watched (slightly nervous), bringing abundant armfuls of white fabric and lace, and before I knew it I was surrounded by white filmy beauty.

Trying on a wedding dress is an event all on its own. Each one was carefully taken off of the hanger and held open, so I could hold my palms together and dive in from the bottom of the skirt. Diane then raised the rest of the dress and layers of underskirts slid down my body and settled as the dress was slowly lowered and my head and shoulders emerged from the top.

note to first time brides trying on dresses: wear something substantial, like boy shorts. Trust me. It's embarrassing. And also one of those things that no one mentions til you're in naught but a g-string with someone you don't know...


The dresses at the shop are kept in large sizes, so a wider range of women can fit into them. Since they were much too large for me, Diane rigged the back with heavy industrial clips made of metal and rubber. We would button and zip, then she would stand behind me, pulling and clipping until, from the front, the dress was a perfect fit.

As per Diane's directions, I would first turn around, rustling, in order to get a look into the dressing mirror, then she would open the door with one hand and I would carefully take handfuls of skirts to keep from tripping as I stepped out to show my mother, Diane following, holding my train. I’d take the 3 or 4 steps to the pedestal, then step up onto it (doing my best not to fall over - fortunately, no cracked heads here...yet) as Diane bent to straighten my skirts as they fell around the base of the small raised circle.

Don’t get me wrong, being the center of attention and having people tell you that you’re beautiful is a pleasant experience, how could it not be? However, in my case, it was also a little embarrassing at first. I’m not used to everyone’s eyes being on me, and in crowds I tend to skirt the edges and sometimes even sneak away into quiet corners or side rooms. But I smiled and tried to be gracious, and soon the experience felt more natural.

Diane gave me a covered rubber band for my hair, so I could tie it back into a casual version of how I’m planning to wear it on my wedding day. It fell around my shoulders and down my back in soft curls (thank goodness I decided to go curly that day, my hair alone was a topic of conversation and the experience would've been totally different if I'd broken out the straightener), and my clavicles and shoulders glowed in the many lights shining from the ceiling, angled in toward the pedestal.

Dress after dress we tried on, retiring to the room, taking one off, putting the next on, sometimes with the skirts not falling as they should, so I’d snake a blind hand down the inside of the dress, tugging on thin lalyers, until they settled into place.

Some dresses were flattering, some weren’t. And I quickly got over the small amount of modesty I have, considering that I’ve never been accompanied by a stranger into a dressing room before. Diane was sweet and gentle, not to mention complementary, and we chatted about her Art History education and how, upon retiring, she and her husband had moved back South to Richmond after living in Washington D.C. I told her about my work and education (which sparked the familiar "what IS transpersonal psychology?" discussion), and she told me about hers and about her wedding, which was the last candlelight ceremony held in the William and Mary chapel (because of choice information given to school administrators by the fire marshal that night).

As I relaxed, my awkwardness went away and once, a couple dresses in, I emerged from the dressing room, stepped onto the pedestal, rested my hands by my sides and gazed into the mirror, feeling truly, for the first time, like a bride. My tanned skin shone against the contrast of the white dress. Rhinestones on the dress sparkled in the lights, and Diane brought over a long and sheer veil, which she smartly slid into my hair, just at the perfect spot. The falling chiffon framed my shoulders and arms in white, and I smiled at my reflection.
I’m getting married. All my life, I’ve thought about how this would feel, and here it is.
My hair rested against my shoulders and cheeks in dark curls against the lightness of the veil. Diane commented on the dress, and so did my mother. Was this the one?

As I tried on more dresses, we earmarked “likers” and quickly discarded the ones that didn't work.
There was a trunk show going on, so I got to try on a couple of dresses that the women at Jingle’s had never seen modeled before. From time to time Diane would call an associate to see a new dress and they would step into the doorway and smile.

Once, trying on a new dress, Diane pulled the back together as she started zipping me up, exclaiming that she couldn’t believe it! A dress finally fit! She attached a hook at the top, and I, for the first time since coming into the dressing room, moved with the confidence that comes from knowing your clothes won’t fall off!

She exclaimed over the dress, a very modern design, and I stepped out of the dressing room and up onto the pedestal. This one was gorgeous, and unique. I’d never seen anything like it. Colorful and detailed - and my first thought, when sliding into the dress, was about the hours that must have gone in to creating it.

Everyone loved this dress. But there was a problem. The rich colors on the dress absolutely clashed with the wedding design. No worry, they didn’t clash with the reception! This would be my reception dress for the second reception in Hazleton, a week after the ceremony.

In the end, there were three final dresses. We decided upon one for the wedding, and another for the reception and we left with notes and numbers and descriptions and prices. Months ago, I found that, by ordering online off of a few choice websites, you can pay about 1/10 of the cost of a dress that would run into the thousands in a boutique. So we searched the three dresses when we arrived home, and found that only two were available this way. No problem, the decision was made for us.

So my dresses are selected. The order will go in today. And things are moving forward.

Of course, I quickly discovered when comparing prices online that these particular dresses aren't anywhere NEAR as beautiful when you only see a picture. Pics don't do them justice, not in the least. However, for the blogger cause of exposing every bit of life to the public eye (btw, T, do NOT click on these), here are some teaser pics for the wedding and reception.

Yes, I know that I only went to ONE bridal shop, and that if I undergo more fittings, there will be more beautiful dresses, and my mind could change. But isn't that always true? I could find more options indefinitely and wind myself tighter and tighter into a know of stress and indecision. But I do love these. They're great. So why look further? Sooner or later, you have to choose something. And the wedding will be lovely, so why stress over things like this? So, dresses, done and done.

Later, thinking about the difference between what I’d imagined growing up and what I’ve selected for my dresses, I realized, in another way, that I’ve grown up. The gaudy and sparkling dress that I’d always pictured doesn’t fit me anymore. Now that feels like too much. Not to mention, pretentious and overdone. Of course, the ones I picked are still detailed, and still adorned with sparkles, but they’re not overkill. Not too much, not too little. Just right.

Today's quote:
"Follow the magic in your heart. It is the inspiration for your life." ~Adรจle Basheer


I got my first snarky comment as a result of this post.
Sweet! I've made it! Isn't that what they say when people start leaving anonymous mean words behind?
The comment was that, after the great service I received at Jingles, buying the dress online was "cold".
My answer:
1) I'd agree, except, as I said below, Diane told me herself that they didn't get paid on commission. So the great service she gave me wouldn't have shown up on her paycheck from my specific sale. In fact, she said that she knew it was our first trip to a bridal salon, and that
if we decided to purchase any of the dresses, we could call back to place our order and it wouldn't matter who put it in.
2) The reason I even found out about the online savings was because we weren't allowed to take pics in the shop, so I looked up the dresses online to see the images there so I could decide on one. While searching the designs, I found out that I could order them and save. If I'd gone to another bridal shop and they'd had the same dress for hundreds of dollars less, I would have bought it there. I don't see this as being any different.

Either way, Jingles had great service. But it was more economical to go elsewhere. So I'll always recommend Jingles, but who wouldn't want to cut their budget if possible? I think it was a great find!


passerby said...

ordering from a website after all that personal service? that's cold...

Anonymous said...

I think boutiques that charge customers ridiculous prices for dresses is somewhat "cold". Why pay more money for the exact same dress? Especially if you have already set a budget for your wedding. Charis - Beautiful dresses!

Charis said...

Passerby: Sure, it would be cold if the following weren't the case - Diane told me herself that they aren't paid on commission. If they were, my outlook would be different...

passerby said...

the store had the inventory of dresses, the traind staff, and all the other facilities to help you make choices. that has to be paid for somehow

didn't mean to be snarky... i liked your post mostly (found it while looking for roadtrip blogs) and your other writing is pretty cool. thougt that the online buy was ... anyway, time to move on. allbest wishes to you

Charis said...


Thanks for clarifying. I understand your viewpoint, and honestly, if price were no object for my wedding, I would have probably gone with Jingles and called it a day, even after I saw the less expensive dresses online. But, as I'm on a budget (probably like most other brides during this economic crisis we're in), seeing that option made my decision for me. I cut my price WAAAAY down, and not going with it, once I saw that it was a possibility, wouldn't have been a smart choice for my wedding.

However, as far as Jingles go, I loved it, will be a repeat customer, and will probably use them in the future, first choice (as well as recommending them). So I think it will probably even out in the end.

The Shabby Princess said...

How fun and wonderfully exciting. The dresses look gorgeous!!

Yeah, I wish someone had told me about the boyshorts thing when I was trying on wedding dresses!

Funny how they look almost ugly on the hangers and then when they are on you, they look soooo different. That's what I always thought was kind of funny--I'd hate every dress they'd show me--until I was wearing it.

You will be a stunning bride.