Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Finding "The" Dress, Part One

Some brides-to-be dread dress shopping. They don't like putting on garments that are ill-fitting, undressing in front of bridal consultants, or searching through piles of satin and taffeta to find "the" dress that is supposed to be the absolute end-all, be-all of bridal gowns.

I am NOT one of these brides.

I L-O-V-E-D loved dress shopping! It was so fun seeing all of the amazing (and some, *ahem* interesting) dresses out there, and figuring out all the little things I liked and disliked. It was fun to feel pampered with bridal consultants bringing me dresses and catering to my needs. Getting helped into dresses by bridal consultants really didn't bother me, which I attribute to years of being involved in musical theatre with co-ed dressing rooms(!). And, for once in my life, I got to try on clothes that are actually made for women with more than a B-cup bra size!

I began on a mission to find a particular Jasmine dress that took my breath away when I first saw it online:

Photos via Jasmine Bridal.

This dress had all of the details I had had in the back of my mind since the beginning, all squeezed into one lovely, delicate pile of taffeta and lace. It is not strapless (although strapless looks good on me, I would like to try for something different); it has lace, but is not ALL lace; it's not all-satin; it has an a-line skirt but not too fru-fru full; it has an assymetrical waist; it has a nice train; and it doesn't have a sash (I feel like sashes only emphasize the shortness of my torso).

I had the pleasure of being accompanied by my maid and matron of honor, as well as Mama Cupcake, on my first dress shopping excursion. We first went to Bridal Sophisticate in Media, PA, where I tried on about six dresses. Although I enjoyed the experience, I really wasn't blown away by any of the dresses, and at the same time I didn't really know what I was expecting. Plus, the fitting rooms were smaller than some of the dresses I tried on, and I actually banged my knees and elbows more than once trying to maneuver into or out of the dresses!

After a nice lunch with my favorite ladies, we then ventured to Fantasia Bride & Cocktail in Delaware (hooray for tax-free shopping!), about 25 minutes away. This was actually the only store within about an 80 mile radius that had a sample of the Jasmine dress that I was a little obsessed with at the time. Fantasia was tightly packed with dresses, but we were the only ones in the store so we swiftly picked out about 6 dresses to try on. Although this shop wasn't as "posh" as Bridal Sophisticate, the fitting rooms were MUCH more spacious and I didn't feel like I had to squeeze into dresses that were bigger than the room I was standing in.

Strangely, there were no clips to be found to make the dress fit me, and it was at least two sizes too big for me.... and, we weren't supposed to take pictures, but we managed to sneak a few!

One thing that concerned me
was the width of the lace V-neck -- it doesn't seem as delicate as I pictured it to be. However, this may be cured by actually buying the right size and having a good seamstress fix it up a bit. Aside from that, I love the asymmetrical cut, I adore the V-back and my heart skips a beat when I see the train..... it's soooo lovely!!

I also tried on this dress, which I had noticed before online, and I'm pretty sure a bee has worn this before... it looked way better on her :-)

Although I loved this dress in pictures and on the hanger, it doesn't do much for me in pictures, and I'm not sure it's entirely flattering. (Kind of creates a una-boob, no?) Tan lines aside, I'm just not sure it's "me," and something about the lace details of the other dress really call out to me.

Enter "dress shopping extravaganza: day two." One weekend, Mr. Cupcake and I went to visit his parents, about a 2 hour drive from where we live. By early that Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cupcake started to feel under the weather and proceeded to take a nap, and since his naps tend to last for many hours, I knew I was on my own. Being kind of bored and knowing that FMIL (whose only child is Mr. Cupcake, and who also has 6 nephews and one lone niece) was chomping at the bit to go dress shopping with me, I proposed that we go check out a local shop I had found online called Taylored for You Bridal Boutique. (That's not a typo -- the owner's name is Taylor, which is why it is spelled the way it is!) I called the shop and Taylor herself said I didn't need an appointment and they would have some time to show me some dresses, so we got right in the car and ventured over there.

I really wasn't expecting to have as much fun as I did! Taylored for You is a cute little house-turned-shop that has a pink dress-shaped sign out front. Inside, the shop was tiny but clean, and overall it was a wonderfully friendly and professional environment. At first, I only found 3 dresses on the racks that I wanted to try on, but Taylor's employee, Leigh, kept pulling things out that she thought I would like. She ended up having a real knack for picking things that were flattering to my shape, and, even better, most of the samples fit me like a glove (albeit a slightly tight glove) so I could really envision what it would look like without clips all over it.

Now I know I went through this whole thing about not wanting a strapless dress, and not really liking satin..... but then, I laid my eyes on Lea Ann Belter's Olivia dress. It was one of the three that I had originally taken off the rack to try on, and when I put it on, I was shocked at how much I adored it.

Something about the subtle heart-shaped neckline was really flattering to my not-quite-petite bust, and just look at the waist it gives me! Believe me, that is not my waist, it is a complete illusion. The satin was the softest, most beautiful satin I have ever felt, and the lack of too much "poof" really suited my 5' 3.75" frame (yes, that 3/4" matters!). Granted, I am standing on a stool, but I just felt very tall and slender and.... bridal.

Did I mention that Mr. Cupcake's mom cried when I put this on? Granted, it was the first dress of the lot that I tried on, and the first time she had ever really seen me in a bridal gown, but at least she didn't think it looked bad on me. Definitely, definitely did not think it looked bad on me.

I also really liked this dress below, although it still doesn't have enough going on up top for me to love it as much as the Olivia, and it is not totally flattering to my chest. I actually don't know the name of this dress, but it is also a Lea Ann Belter. One thing I do love about it is the slimmer fit below the waist -- apparently that is flattering to my figure. Who knew?

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), both of these dresses were pretty much completely out of my budget at nearly $3000, so I really couldn't consider them as real contenders. But since I tried on such beautiful creations, I was not as set on my original Jasmine choice as I was before. I realized that I really didn't know exactly what I was looking for, and I needed to look further, not just for a dress that I love but a dress that looks good on me.

Stay tuned for my next dress shopping excursion!

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