Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It Is What It Is - On Bridal Attire and Loving Your Body

I have seen so many pictures of perfect brides. I actually didn’t realize that it was getting to me until people started asking me why I wasn’t more excited to get a dress. I really, really wanted to wear my grandmother’s wedding dress. My mom wore it too, and I just loved the idea of continuing that tradition. Unfortunately, the dress has seen better days, and apparently so has my weight. It didn’t button, which is kind of a relief, because if it had, it would have looked pretty frumpy.

And then I found the wedding blogs. I discovered all the pretty pictures of beautiful weddings where every bride looked so stunning it was hard to look straight at them. So I put off making dress appointments. I figured I would just wait until I lost some weight and felt a little more comfortable with being the center of attention for an entire day. So I didn’t look at dresses too much, and just tried to focus on losing the weight.
Honestly, I didn't really want to leave the "engagement phase", because it looked like this.
Which is to say very happy and wearing sweatpants.

On a visit home, my mom finally hustled me into a bridal appointment. I had the small store all to myself with two kind sales girls and I couldn’t have been more surprised to learn lesson number one (of three) about bridal gowns and self-image.
Lesson Number One – Designers make money by making you look (and feel) amazing
Wedding dresses are the most flattering pieces of attire that will ever grace your hips. Seriously. I very very very much regret the energy I spent worrying about losing weight, because these dresses are designed to make a woman’s body look fantastic. Until I entered the store, I’d only seen these dresses on bone thin models, so it didn’t occur to me that they might actually look good on normal people too. The regular rules do not apply in bridal land, because these dresses actually look better on real life women with a little meat on their bones. I do plenty of hating on the bridal industry, but trying on dresses convinced me, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are designers out there who care about (and study) women’s bodies and work hard to make a wide variety of dresses that will flatter them. In my experience, a great deal of these dresses were actually under $1000 as well.
So, I’m sorry, indie blog world. I enjoyed shopping for a dress at a regular bridal boutique. The sales staff was nice and down to earth and all the dresses were within a reasonable price range (no “surprise! Now that you love it, I can tell you that it is $30,000!).  Furthermore, many women complain about the fact that there are only strapless wedding dresses available. In the same breath, they complain about having to custom order a dress instead of buying “off the rack”. Here’s the thing: Strapless dresses are much easier to design (and alter) than dresses with straps, because women’s sizes differ so much. The wild thing about it, is that when you custom order a dress (which is the way they want you to do it), it’s very easy for the designer (or your seamstress) to add straps that will fit you exactly. Sometimes they even use scraps from your hem, which makes them virtually free. So seriously, stop complaining. I don’t know what boutique you went to, but I don’t think you looked hard enough to condemn the whole industry.
After I found my dress and learned lesson number one, I went back with a closer eye to those “perfect brides”. I was surprised to notice (after very close scrutiny) that they were not, in fact, skinny models, but real women who happened to be wearing flattering dresses. It didn’t seem like enough to account for how amazing they all looked. So I began to ponder. Finally, I stumbled upon lesson number two…
Lesson Number Two: Those women look amazing because they are happy. Because they are getting married.
Right? Duh. Happiness makes you look good. Especially when you have a professional photographer to photograph and edit your happiness. So I can’t imagine how I could possibly look bad on my wedding day. I have a flattering dress, and I am insanely happy to be marrying the Grige. Done and done, no diet or makeup required.
Three cheers for getting married!
So after all that, you would think that I wouldn’t be worried at all about my appearance. Sadly, I still have nightmares about forgetting my makeup. I worry that my awesome 40’s wedding hat will make me look like a cone-head. I’m afraid I’ll get a zit or that my arms will look flabby. Even once I was able to step away from the idea that I had to look like a model, I still wanted to look like the best version of myself. I wanted to weigh what I weighed in High School, I wanted to have the clear skin I had before work stressed me into acne and eczema, I wanted to have the toned arms I have when I fit yoga in every day and the long hair I had 2 years ago. I convinced myself that it was okay to judge myself against those standards because I’d had those things before. All I wanted was to be the best version of myself that I could imagine – was that so bad? It was. And as we approach the wedding, I’m finally getting a grip on lesson number three….
Lesson Number Three: You can only be who you are on your wedding day. Learn to love that person.
On the day I get married, I just want to be happy. Planning a wedding (and moving across the country) is stressful. I might miss yoga a few days a week. I might miss a few runs too.  I might not have time to cook healthy food. I probably won’t have time to get a tan, and I won’t be able to afford hair extensions. I definitely won’t be able to get botox injected into my armpits to stop me from sweating outside in August. The stress of all these things might make me break out. But you know what? That’s the person I’ll be on the day I get married. The Grige loves that person and wants to marry her. I always try to eat well and exercise frequently and manage my stress, but in the middle of wedding planning is not the ideal time to step all of that effort up, because you have other things to worry about. Like guest lists, and feeding hundreds of people, and whether or not your grandmother feels included.
So when the Grige and I say “I do”, I’ll be myself in a flattering dress that is hopefully not destroyed by tan lines. It probably won’t be the best I’ve ever looked in my life, but I bet you won’t be able to tell. I’ll be that happy.
Yep, this happy.
Photo: Jeanine Finch

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I loved dress shopping although I initially dreaded it as well. Buying a dress that costs $1000 (or more, or less) is not like going to Macy's and buying something off the rack to wear to that date party that starts in 2.5 hours. It's perhaps the best case EVER for "designer" clothing.

    Can't wait to see your dress!