The Wedding Dress Saga

The Wedding Dress Saga

My wedding dress shopping journey started before I was engaged to be married, but when we had been seriously talking about a life together. I went thrift shopping with my friend Lydia, because I’d heard rumor of a certain thrifting chain in Manhattan having wedding dresses, and it was a dream of mine to find my dress at a thrift store. Beyond the obvious perk of saving money, it’s just such a me thing. I mean, thrift shopping is basically my whole personality. Besides, I never could decide exactly what style of dress I wanted, so I figured if I found a cool one at a thrift store and didn’t have to sort through hundreds of options for it, it was a win! So like I said, we went thrift shopping; it takes lots of time to find treasures so I thought I’d start early. The first store we stopped at had quite a lot of dresses, but only one that fit me. It was a cheap polyester, but it looked nice and was only $25, so I bought it to take pictures in, if nothing else. Maybe an engagement photo-shoot. We only meant to go to the one store, but while there, another customer tipped us off to another store up toward Harlem that had many more dresses. So we took the train up, and lo and behold, there was the perfect dress. Heavily beaded from head to foot, kind of a twenties vibe, with a modest front and a dipped back and looking very expensive, it was perfect. Sure, it was a size 22, and I am not, but I could get it altered and still pay less than a regular dress, since it was only $25. I bought it and happily hung it on my closet door at home, where I could regularly examine it or wear it around the house as I pleased. 

When Ian proposed to me, I knew I should get started on the alterations, so I booked a consultation with a tailor recommended to me. She examined the dress carefully, and finally said she wouldn’t be able to alter it. Apparently, the dress was so handmade that the beads were sewn right over top of the darts, and the beading would have to be taken out and redone to take the dress in, which would make it far more expensive than I could afford. Disappointing, but oh well, I could surely find something else I loved.

So the search restarted back at the beginning. I looked into a few bridal salons, but most of them charged for appointments and all of them were well out of my budget. Besides, all my bridesmaids were far away and I didn’t want to go try on dresses alone. So I took my search to the internet, our best friend and deepest foe. I found one from a Mormon site that was GORGEOUS and unusual and expensive – twice my budget – so I put it out of my mind. I tried Etsy instead and found a number of beautiful and promising dresses, but one in particular that I thought I could be happy in. It was a princess dress – perfect for the huge sanctuary we are getting married in – and it looked like a fairy tale. Smooth A-line skirt with beautiful sheer bishop sleeves, with lace vines growing up the bodice and sleeves. Nothing at all like the first dress I had loved, but I am nothing if not flexible. I deliberated for weeks, then finally bit the bullet and bought it. The seller offered custom sizing, and the dress was coming from France, which was very cool for a Francophile such as myself. 

The shipping date came and went, with only vague assurances from the seller that she was working on it. At one point, I went to look at her shop again, and the link appeared to be broken; nothing was there! I reached out to her in a bit of a panic, and she assured me that her husband was sick and she needed a break (never mind Etsy has a feature for putting your shop on break which is NOT removing it entirely) but that she was still working on it. “I’ll ship it next week!” When the week passed, “I’ll ship it next week!” And again, “I’ll ship it tomorrow!” and nothing. Finally, long after promised, she said she shipped it, but even then the post office didn’t receive it for another week or so. Still, I wasn’t complaining. I didn’t want the seller mad at me while she was sewing my wedding dress. I did tell my sister Rosie that if, when the dress finally came, it didn’t fit, I would have a meltdown. She calmly told me that if I melted down, at least I would then fit into the dress. Touché. 

Finally, finally!! the package arrived and after worrying about its safety all day, I came home from work to find it safe and sound outside my door, where nobody had stolen it. I opened the package, and shook out the dress inside. Hmm. Something was a little off here. First of all, the dress was a brilliant blue/white, not like the cream pictured. Second, this was not a smooth A-line waist, but a puffy, obnoxious skirt, full of huge pleats the whole way around. Third, the belt was not sewn in the waist as pictured, rather was just thrown in loose so you’d have to tie it around. And finally, even with my custom sizing, I could barely zip it, and when I did, it was scratchy and uncomfortable. 

Well. That was disappointing, but I did not melt down. I reached out to the seller, letting her know my concerns and asking if she would work with me on the price. Crickets. After hearing nothing for about a week, I reached out to Etsy, asking if they would help me with maybe a 50% refund or something, since this was not what I ordered. I didn’t want the seller to lose all her money, but I really was trying to make myself be happy with something that was falsely advertised, and that I didn’t feel great in. Etsy promptly replied, and unlike I had asked, immediately refunded me 100% of the cost. A free wedding dress! 

And then, oh boy, did the seller ever suddenly come to life. “You thief!” she yelled at me. “You stole that dress and how can you walk down the aisle in a stolen dress??? I am going to write to your family and tell them you’re a thief. God will repay you.” I repeatedly told her this was not what I had asked for and to take it up with Etsy, but nothing placated her berating. She demanded I  Paypal her, which I wasn’t about to do outside of Etsy, and I ship the dress back. Again and again I directed her to contact Etsy, but eventually I had to block her when she wouldn’t stop howling. I still don’t know what Etsy will choose to do with that situation. 

I tried the dress on multiple times, and I tried to like it, I really did. “It’s just a dress, and it’s just one day and it’s not a big deal,” I told myself. But I felt like a mega snow beast in it, with those horrid stiff pleats puffing out, and I couldn’t move my arms comfortably. Finally I asked a couple trusted people to tell me what they honestly thought, not what they thought I wanted to hear. And they agreed – snow beast. I could get it altered, but even so, the color was not what I had pictured and the alterations wouldn’t change that. And I couldn’t get that unique Mormon dress out of my mind, even though it was far too expensive for me. It was clearly time to move on. 

Well. Two dresses down and the search continued. Sigh. I hate making decisions, especially ones that hundreds of people will examine closely and my grandchildren will critique. But here we were, back to the drawing board for the third try at this decision. I looked at used sites like, I looked at Amazon just in case, I scoured Etsy and eBay to find something, anything in my budget that I actually liked. The problem is, I despise looking like everyone else (I would rather walk down the aisle in a flannel nightgown than look like every other bride of the 2020s), and also, I wanted something dramatic, to match the dramatic, huge sanctuary. Neither of those things fits well in a small budget. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a very beautiful dress on eBay that checked the boxes. Completely different from both the others, but slim and beautiful, with a graceful lace cutout train. I placed a bid, and set an alarm for early in the morning to make sure I won the auction. And guess what. I DID!!

Hurrah!! I promptly paid the $350 due, which was a steal of a price, and rejoiced in my solitary apartment. But about an hour later, I received a message from the seller. “Cancel the sale.” When I asked why, she nonchalantly said she had already sold it elsewhere and didn’t have it anymore. Too bad, so sad.

And then the promised meltdown finally came and I cried alone in my apartment for about half a day. Lol. Nobody told me how hard it would be to plan a wedding hundreds of miles away from your family and friends, and NOBODY TOLD ME it was so hard to find a proper wedding dress!!!!

Somehow my sister-in-law Melissa got wind of my distress and texted me, ready to fight the fight with me. “We are going to work something out,” she told me. I will help you look, and I will also talk to our mutual friend who sews wedding dresses in North Carolina. When I protested that I couldn’t be flying back and forth to NC for fittings, she assured me that this friend was quite capable of making it just based on my measurements. So she reached out to her, but alas, this friend had just started a sabbatical and wouldn’t be available to sew my dress. My other sister-in-law who also sews wedding dresses had already told me that she wouldn’t be available to do mine either. 

Slam, slam, slam, went all the doors. Weep, weep, weep, went little Rachel. 

Melissa and I scoured the internet together. She sent me loads of helpful links, none of which were quite the thing for me, and then I stumbled upon a beautiful dress, a DRAMATIC dress, and affordable and hot and stunning. I sent the link to Melissa and my friend, and was wisely advised to research the site a little bit. Sure enough, it was a scam website. Naturally. Why wouldn’t it be? Why ever would a dress actually work out? 

After a long walk down the water-front promenade to restore my soul, I resumed the search and finally ended up finding several dresses I sort of liked, on a website that lets you try them on at home for a small fee. I placed an order for three to try on. My hopes were pretty low, but at this point, it seemed to be between these and that dratted flannel nightgown. 

The order came, and when I unboxed the dresses they were soft and luscious and felt like good quality. I tried them on in my tiny apartment, attempting without luck to button them and spread the trains by myself, but regardless, I promptly fell in love with two of them. I have friends coming this weekend who will sit through a try-on with me, bless them, where I will show them the whole sad history of luckless dresses I’ve bought, and they will help me decide between the two that I love.

This is the end to this long and distressing tale, at least for now. I’m still not entirely sure that if I decide to buy one of these, I won’t come home someday and find my apartment burned along with the dress, or a sewer pipe above them burst, or some such disaster. ‘Twould be my luck. But come to my wedding in October and you’ll see if I managed to escape any further disasters. If I appear in a flannel nightgown, please just tell me I look nice anyhow. 😀

The moral to this tale is this: unmarried girls, if you happen upon a dress you love, BUY IT. I don’t care if you don’t have a fiancé or a boyfriend or haven’t seen a male human in two years. Buy it. Your future self will thank you.

The end.


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4 thoughts on “The Wedding Dress Saga

  1. Now I’m dying to see the dress! You would look good in a flannel nightgown anyway …I really hope that the one you settle on is a perfect for the special day!

  2. Rachel! I was feeling all anxious and teary-eyed at your neverending saga of woe until I got to the part “or haven’t seen a male human in two years” and then I bust out laughing. I’m so sorry for the stress, but you come from generations of sturdy resourcefulness and I have no doubt you will look splendid!

    1. Well thank you! I have passed the point of crying and reached the point of ridiculousness, so join the fun. 🙂 If not for the sturdy resourcefulness, I’d have eloped by now, most assuredly. Still might, we’ll see.

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