Okay, obviously I’m not going to post a picture of the one I’m actually going to wear – it has to be a surprise! But keep reading to see some of the options 🙂
Two weeks ago in Texas, my parents, sister and I went to the Nordstrom Bridal Suite (the Nordstroms with bridal departments are so few and far between we had to go to the one in Houston) and BHLDN, the bridal store associated with Anthropologie, of which there are only 3 stores in the country, and luckily one of them is in Houston also!
I tried on lots of pretty dresses, and I was contemplating one at BHLDN and one at Nordstrom. However it is shocking and disheartening how different a dress can look in the mirror versus in a photo. (Sorry dad for getting annoyed at all the photos – they were quite helpful in the end.) For instance, the one that I liked at BHLDN was a V-neck, ivory colored, sheath style with art deco-patterned beading. It was different than what you might consider a traditional wedding dress and looked great in the mirror. It was definitely the best one I had tried on during the day and because BHLDN creates sizes that you purchase and then have tailored at your own seamstress (as opposed to many bridal collections where the designer makes a dress to fit your measurements and then has fittings to get it just right…a process that can take over 6 months), the size 4 pretty much fit me and probably only needed an inch off the hem and tightening of the straps. I was so excited to maybe have found THE dress! Later in the day, I asked my dad to show me the photos he had taken of the various dresses, and I was distraught when I saw the picture of this dress. The golden color, the empire waist and the very delicate beading on the bodice made it look like I was wearing a huge, nude-colored maternity bra! Ew! Not flattering! I will spare you an embarrassing picture and let your imagination run wild with this. How disappointing that #1 in the mirror actually looks like poo in the pictures.
At Nordstrom, I tried on all sorts of cuts, from sheath to A line to modified ball gown. Surprisingly, I really liked the full organza skirting and sheer straps on this Anne Barge “Emmanuelle” gown (this link will only get you to the collections page, then you have to hit “Anne Barge” under “Fall 2013,” scroll over to the right 7 clicks, and then the Emmanuelle style will be the dress farthest to the right at that point…the model is wearing a flower and net fascinator), which isn’t the style I was anticipating liking going into the day. I think the wide cummerbund-style waist was very flattering, but the $3000+ price tag was not as attractive. Next.
Here are some of the others I tried on that day:
This was the first one I tried at Nordstrom, and I really liked it for the beading and interesting sheer cut out pleats at the bottom. The straps were thin and delicate so as to show off the back. Contemplating the dress later, however, I didn’t love it, and I wouldn’t want to face buyer’s remorse, seeing as I have more than a year until our wedding. That’s a long time to change your mind/find something better.
This is the first one I tried at BHLDN. Sort of a ’20s art deco style (as were most of their dresses this season) with the silver beading in triangle patterns, translucent buttons down the front leading to a high front slit and flouncy cap sleeves. I liked this for the artsy styling, but I don’t think it flattered my body all that well, and I would have nixed the cap sleeves, although looking at this photo now, I kinda like them.
Not feeling 100% confident about any of the ones I tried on that day, I figured I would keep thinking and keep looking, probably back in Baltimore next time I was home.
My sister came to visit this past weekend, and she said she wouldn’t mind, and would even be happy, to keep looking for dresses in Ann Arbor if we could get appointments. I knew there was a gown shop on Main Street, but after looking at their website, it seemed that most of their dresses would be out of my price range. They even said on the website that there is a separate showroom for dresses under $1500 and that most of those are short dresses or samples. Not wanting to spend thousands and thousands on a dress, I didn’t get the most promising feeling from this shop’s website. And how icky to separate out those of us whose budgets might not be all the huge? I still want to look at the crazy-expensive ones!
The weekend after our Texas trip, I went to NYC for a friend’s birthday party. Her good friend went to grad school at UMich and suggested a shop called The Brides Project. She said one of her friends found a dress there. The Brides Project is a volunteer-run shop of “pre-loved” dresses that are donated by previous brides, as well as new dresses donated by boutiques and designers that have overstock. All the proceeds from the sale of the dresses go to support “families touched by cancer through the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.” I thought it sounded like a place I should check out – at the very least because I knew the dresses would be reasonably priced.
My sister and I made an appointment for Saturday morning and were met by two super cute and friendly girls about my age. The volunteer wedding stylists run the shop out of donated space so it’s not the fanciest of bridal salons, but it clearly serves the purpose of warehousing many many many dresses. After washing our hands (because the dresses on the racks are the ones you buy – there’s no making dresses to fit your specifications here – and they don’t want them to get dirty), we started combing through the racks and racks of dresses, sorted by size. We pulled anything that caught our fancy, no matter the size, because The Brides Project works with a seamstress who discounts her rates and apparently can work miracles resizing, tailoring and changing the dresses.
I really liked this one – especially the neckline and straps, – and would go so far as to say it was my runner up. But it was a bit heavy for a beach wedding and I would have had to make some semi-major changes to the waistline, ruching on the front skirt panel and taken out some of the extra skirt material.
Here is another one I liked for the lower waistline (after realizing that empire waist is not my jam and just makes me look preggers) and low V-neck. Also the back was beautiful with a little bit of draping falling to the waist: see the second photo below.
The straps would have had to be taken in a bunch and there was some weird stiff puckering in the boob area. It would’ve been too much of a risk to see how the tailor could have managed that since you have to buy it first before tailoring.
Then I tried on a dress that seemed to be perfect (or as close as I’d gotten to date)! It had the details I was looking for: V-neck, not too long, very tiny train. That’s all I will divulge, except that I do need the tailor to do a bit of touching up and shortening of the straps. There’s no label in the dress, so I have no idea if it was handmade or what its story is. I do think it was worn though and not a new overstock designer dress.
I also tried on an Amsale gown and a Pronovias dress (two well-known wedding designers that would have been a lot more expensive in a traditional bridal boutique), and apparently a Vera Wang gown recently came through that was obviously bought quite quickly.
My dress was $300, and I couldn’t be more excited about it and the fact that I’m helping a great cause in the process! Also, they said they are always looking for volunteers to be wedding stylists in the shop and that they only come in 1-2 times per month when there are appointments (they are open by appointment only), so that may be a super fun volunteer activity for me. The only downside would be if I saw some other amazing dress come into the shop. Although at these prices, I perhaps could afford to change my mind one time! 🙂