Five months ago I got engaged and it has been a beautiful, crazy and shimmery whirlwind. Amidst the excitement and uncountable number of sparkling wines a question began to pop up…
‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WEAR??’
A valid and good question, one I had pressured many of my nearest and dearest to answer on the spot as they prepared for their wedding. Within a matter of weeks ‘the dress’ had already forged its way to the central feature of wedding planning and suddenly it became stressful, alienating and something that no longer sparked joy.
I had three requirements in my search that I felt were pretty easily attainable:
1) Under $2000
2) Compliment my figure
3) Feel like me
Simple right? The wedding dress is probably one of the biggest crazes that modern day women will encounter but I was pretty certain I was a level headed, low fuss lady – convinced I would not succumb to wedding dress craze. Well let me give you some context as to how the wedding industry, gender stereotypes, a little bit of history and all of the ‘shoulds ’resulted in my eventual implosion.
We need to sit down and have some real honest chats about how much is spent on dresses. This hidden grenade of a price tag was never shared with me, the information kept secret deep within the sisterhood. So I set out all doe eyed and optimistic that I could find a dress for under $2000 – which I thought was a lot of money. Climbing up on my high horse I proclaimed I would not be one of those women who spends $5000 on a dress. What I very quickly learnt is that $5k is actually on the lower end of the dress scale. Overtime women came out of the woodwork, essentially chanting ‘one of us’ as they confessed the real price tag to their wedding dress. Not only are dresses the price of a car, you have to pay up to $150 for a 1 hour consultation to try them on.
I was horrified.
Important to note that when you are planning a wedding money starts to morph into a mystical entity, you’ll go from terrified at the cost of everything and then eventually rebirthing into a world of “Ohhh $7000 that’s not that bad!!” Which leads me to my search for a custom dress. I researched designers in Sydney, country towns as well as formal gown not wedding gown designers. Custom gowns start at $4000, which started to sound not that bad but I soldiered on my $2000 quest instead looking for a pattern and a piece of material that I could give to a dressmaker rather than designer. I was unable to crack the Google algorithm and could only ever find the option of alterations or designer.
I am all boobs and booty. Don’t get me wrong, this is a delightful thing and the world has come a very long way in how we talk about women’s bodies. When I started looking at the plethora of wedding websites all I saw was the same type of model: tall, skinny, no boobs. I couldn’t picture how any of these dresses would look on my body, as if they weren’t even marketed to me. I felt disheartened and also if I am honest, terrified to try anything on. Would I be one of those brides from ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ having a change room breakdown thinking I was fat or unworthy to wear such a precious and beautiful gown.
This feeling compounded by multiple comments I had toward my body since getting engaged. Here is a list of comments that came from multiple people – including one of them from my very own mother.
“Oh well you’ll lose weight before the wedding”
“All women lose weight before the wedding so get something tight”
“Will you do a boot camp in the lead up to your wedding”
My head circling with thoughts that I was a ‘before picture,’ not yet ready to step into any type of figure hugging gown that celebrated my curves, I turned my search to alternate gowns.
All I wanted for my wedding day was to wear a nice dress that made me feel like ME. So I set out on a quest to find a mustard autumnal masterpiece. Upon telling my mother of this plan I was bestowed another peal of wisdom…
“You do live together already so I guess you can’t wear white.”
That’s correct, I had been deflowered and am now not allowed to wear white.
A quick history lesson back to the days of black and white photographs, many women simply wore their nicest dress on their wedding day until 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert and wore a white dress. Before her, royal brides wore wedding dresses in a variety of hues, with red being one of the most popular.
Online you will find helpful poems like the below to help you decipher the meaning of dress colour
Married in White, you have chosen right
Married in Grey, you will go far away
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Blue, you will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Brown, you will live in the town,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.
This white dress was a revelation and symbol of luxury as laundering clothing, especially white clothing in the 19th century was an ordeal. Queen Victoria’s white dress became a symbol of wealth and it would take years for the white dress to be commandeered as a symbol of purity and virginity.
May I very quickly point out there is no symbolism in suit choice…. dive into that as you will.
Once Hollywood picked up the craze of the white dress it was a runaway train cementing in the tradition. Today, even in cultures where white wedding dresses are not the norm, some brides change into white dresses for official photographs.
Amidst all my anxiety and stress on my body and my wallet I was presented with a lot of ‘shoulds’ because its my wedding day…
“I should wear white”
“I should pay whatever it costs”
“I should get the ball gown”
The closing argument was always, because its only one day and you should.
After a brief moment of succumbing to the ‘should’ I did some soul searching about what my wedding day actually was to me.
Stand by for some profound thoughts.
At the end of the day, I want the ritual of community, bringing the people I love the most in the world together in the one room and saying nice words to the person I have chosen.
With my WHY solidified, the SHOULD melted away.
I went back to my initial want, which was to get a dress that felt like me, fit my body and under $2k. Back to Google and I found a wedding dress shop called The Barefaced Bride in Cronulla that sells second hand designer dresses and factory seconds to eliminate the fast fashion element and the exorbitant price tag. For transparency to my sisterhood reading this, it does have a consultation fee of $60 for 90 minutes which covers a ‘gown discovery’ session where you can try on as many dresses as you want within that time to find what style you are after for your body. Plus that $60 comes off your purchase if you do get something from there.
I found the dress that felt like me, fit my body and was under 2k!!
My final words of wisdom – get caught up in the craze, enjoy the wedding ride but stay true to who you are and what you want. Ignore the ‘shoulds’!!!