I had been eagerly anticipating the bridal appointment like a little girl for over a week! Can’t believe my good fortune in spotting gowns I adored and could afford (with a small budget stretch if need be). BM R and I hiked 45 minutes in rush-hour traffic for our evening appointment at Priscilla of Boston. The salon attendants told us we could look around, but there was no need to since I had a list of gowns on my phone. The list ensured I didn’t overlook any in my excitement.
We were ushered into the dressing-room lobby, which we had all to ourselves! Erika, my consultant, explained the process and gathered a little information about me and the wedding. One of her questions, “What do you do for a living?”, was interesting. This telling question predicts with some accuracy what type of gown a bride will prefer. When she asked if I knew which gowns I wanted to see, I hesitantly explained that I had a list on my phone, if that was easier. She was impressed with the organization as she skimmed the list, noting none of her brides had ever gone quite this far before.
Up first was the Melissa Sweet collection, since the majority of my gowns were in this group.
Silvana (left) wasn’t available at this store. Artsy and definitely unique, but perhaps pushed the envelope a little too far. (Update: She has since been discontinued.) Olan (right) didn’t make it into the dressing room. Once I saw it up close, the lace was more obvious than I wanted.
Sasha (left) was nixed for being too flowy. Mr. P’s only request was no “toga dresses.” (Update: Also discontinued.) Cosimma (right) had the draping, but the apron-style drape across the thighs was odd.
Deanna (left) was a lovely fit-to-flare. The fabric was too heavy (satin), and the long feathers were distracting. They would get swatted at all night. Ambrose (right) was a size smaller than their normal sample gowns and bunched at my hips. The awkward fit was too much to overcome.
Dora was a Swiss-dot confection with a deep sweetheart neckline edged in tiny ruffles with a gently floating A-line of organza followed by a sweep train. (I’d tried on Dora before, and the fit failed to wow me. She went back on the list because this sample fit much differently.)
Fiesole was the one gown I’d been drawn to since the start of dress shopping. If I felt any dress was The One, this was it. The strong feelings remained after I tried her on. The 1950s silhouette fell beautifully, and the length was perfectly proportioned for my height. The horizontal net fabric embellishment looked like cake icing! It had bounce but was still grown up. Lots of whimsy and definitely a bold choice.
Oddly enough, a short dress was not what I would have chosen…but it works. The one thing I would change is the hemline, which would ruin its charm as well as being too much pattern. It was in budget and I loved it, but would I have regrets for not wearing a long, romantic, flowing gown with a sweep train? Something would feel missing. And this gown would need a veil—something I’m ambivalent about based on cost, aesthetics, and utility. My consultant pinned on a birdcage veil to show me veil alternatives. My lashes kept catching the netting! Flinching and blinking repeatedly is not becoming. I guess veils and I just aren’t meant to be…
Uma was another top contender: artistic, playful, and still romantic. It had a similar feel to the Watters Austin. The only distracting thing was that the petals along the bottom came across as feathers. I don’t want Mr. P clucking at me as I’m walking down the aisle. Oh, and it was stinkin’ expensive—we’re talking over $4,000.
After working our way through the Melissa Sweet gowns, we tackled the rest of the list: tulip skirts (just say NO), more toga dresses, plain ones, and smaller “runway” sizes that wouldn’t drop over my hips.
The appointment came to a satisfactory end with two great gowns: Fiesole and Uma. R had to make a call, so I milled about waiting for her. And that’s when I saw it. A gown that I hadn’t tried on because it wasn’t on the list!!! (Stupid list!) I was struck.
As I stood admiring the gown, my consultant walked past (arms full of my discards) and asked if I wanted to try it on. I declined out of politeness, but she kindly encouraged me. We had disappeared back into the dressing room when R came looking for me. R waited anxiously on the other side of the door to see which dress had compelled me so. I emerged from the dressing room, and her face broke into a huge grin.
The smile on my face when I saw the gown in the mirror said it all. The test walk showed great movement, and she passed the sit test. The detail on the train would be to die for in black and white photos. As R straightened the train, she observed it had the same visual appeal as the St. Pucchi gown. That sealed the deal. So how did I answer Erika’s job question? Realtor…with a graphic design degree. She nodded and said, “No wonder. Almost every gown you picked epitomizes texture.” Makes complete sense!
Spurred by a bridal sale on Melissa Sweet gowns, I booked a follow-up appointment. With me was A, who has a fashion degree AND the added benefit of seeing what I wear to work each day. She, more than anyone, understands what I like and why. Once we arrived, I took extra time browsing so she could re-immerse herself in the world of fashion. She handled the gowns with a mix of awe and reverence. Secretly, I was thrilled she was sharing in the experience, since her own wedding two years ago was planned quickly and with some regrets over design decisions.
All three of my picks were displayed on mannequins—did they do this on purpose?! I kept the same order as before, so the cute and delicately sweet Fiesole was up first. Coworker A loved it for all the same reasons I did, but we agreed it would take the style of the wedding into a design direction that I didn’t prefer: birdcage veil, (bold) heels, and a less formal daytime look for hair and makeup. We ultimately eliminated her because I couldn’t see myself in a short gown. If I needed to give myself permission to wear it, then the feeling wasn’t right.
Uma followed in all her feathery (I know, petals…but they look like Big Bird feathers) glory and sassiness. She still looked great on with the nipped-in waist and asymmetrical bodice. Still, Uma didn’t grab me the way Fiesole or Wallis did.
Not me, but pretty close! (source)
We saved Wallis for last; it felt right building up to the big reveal. I was beyond excited to show A my favorite long gown close up. Her reaction said it all. The unique, chic, whimsical, textured gown that I imagined was here, but there was no lightbulb moment or tears. Oddly enough, I was very logical about the gown, studying it in the mirror and asking to see what it would look like bustled. A nodded emphatically and grinned. She’d been with me through the entire dress-shopping journey, even if it was the first time she’d physically been there.
Before I could pull the trigger on Wallis, I had to call someone: Mom. If I made The Decision without her there, I needed her to be OK with it. Waiting would mean missing out on the extra discount. Mom didn’t hesitate: “Go for it.” Just like that, one of the most emotionally weighted decisions was made logically and quickly. I didn’t feel rushed because we discussed the three finalists several times in the weeks leading up to this appointment. No one can tell you how you’ll make decisions about your gown or how you’ll react when you find it. Knowing how I made other serious purchases (car and laptop) was instrumental in making peace with the process.
How did you know your dress was the one?
(all images from Priscilla of Boston unless otherwise noted)