3/23 Real Bride Elissa: A Dress that Impresses

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You guys. I officially have my dress, and I am so. excited.

I actually bought my dress in August of last year. I’d finally found a day that two of my besties were available, and had scheduled a few appointments at L.A.-area salons. My BAB strategy was to find a really gorgeous floor-length bridesmaids dress, and order it in ivory or Champagne. I had picked out a few amazing styles that looked almost identical to actual wedding dresses, but were averaging around $200 to $400 – sometimes a full $1k less than their bridal counterparts.

The first salon was supposed to carry a few of my favorite styles, but it turns out those “Find it in Stores” features are not at all accurate. They only had three dresses under $1k in the whole store! I did find a strong contender, but was excited to get to the next salon, who actually had the Watters bridesmaid dress I was thinking might be The One. It was completely on the opposite side of town, so after an hour’s drive in traffic, I was more than ready to get my dress on. Once I told the owner my budget, though, her welcoming attitude disappeared. She did let me try on two bridesmaid dresses, but refused to let me even touch anything else in the store, including the sash that she physically held around my waist. She tried to push onto me the ugliest dress I’ve EVER seen (a short-sleeved, heavily beaded mock turtleneck), saying it was going to be the only “real” dress within my budget. The whole appointment lasted no more than 15 minutes, and I had steam coming out of my ears. To add insult to injury, I hadn’t even liked the dress I’d been fantasizing about for weeks.

mockneckSeriously. Imagine this covered in beading and a full skirt. (Image via http://www.undershirtguy.com)

I knew I’d spend the rest of the day seething if I went home then. We passed a David’s Bridal on the way to the previous salon, so we stopped in to try a few more things on. I did NOT want to buy a dress at David’s; I’d bought my prom dress there and remembered how generic so many of their bridal options were, and no one wants to be generic on their wedding day. I knew they were one of the few places that would take a girl on a whim, though, and I needed to try on a few more gowns. I think the third dress in was the one that gave me tingles. It actually ticked off all but one of my requirements, and when the salesgirl told me that it was on clearance, I took it as a sign and bought it on the spot. Never say never!

For the next few weeks, I obsessively stared at pictures of myself in my dress. My non-refundable, final sale dress. I looked it up online and found that there were over 100 other brides who had reviewed it, over 100 other women who were going to be the same as me. Had I made a huge mistake, been blinded by a bargain? The more I looked around, though, I kept coming back to the details that drew me to the dress in the first place (so many tiny buttons!). I had to accept that I loved this darn dress, along with all the other women. The missing requirement though was straps, which I knew are a relatively easy addition to strapless dresses, and a way to make the dress even more “me.” After months of Photoshopping over my lunch breaks, harassing my beleaguered bridesmaids about “which strap design looks more vintage,” I revisited a dress I’d pinned ages ago, before I was even engaged. After a quick Photoshop mock-up, I decided my latest idea was going to be perfect, and took the dress and photo to my seamstress in late January.

I went in for my first official fitting this past Saturday. After weeks of anxiety about trusting my vision to someone else’s brain, I pulled my dress out of its bag and slipped into the straps. I turned to the mirror; it was not what I’d envisioned. My brain took a few moments to reconcile the idea with the reality, even as my best friend gasped in excitement. I’m being purposely vague about the changes I made to it in case my fiancé reads this, but I decided it turned out really, really great. Much more unique than I had even imagined. For only a few hundred dollars, I’ve basically got a custom dress that has all my ideal elements: straps, pretty skirt, all the tiny buttons, and best of all, individuality.

So fellow BABs, I think I’m hooked on tailoring now. I also brought in an ivory maxi dress that I hadn’t yet figured out how to wear, and am having it shortened to a midi for my rehearsal; the combined purchase + alterations cost is still half the cost of the J.Crew clearance dress I originally splurged on for the day before the big day.  With just under three months left before the wedding, I can think of a lot of places to use that extra money!

reaction shot

My bridemaid caught this moment after I saw my altered dress for the first time. Otherwise it’s under wraps until June!
Elissa Stooker
Elissa is currently trying to figure out what possessed her to go back to grad school, all while working full-time as a college advisor and planning her totally awesome garden wedding. Blogging for The Broke-Ass Bride is her much-needed break from writing papers about communication theory! A Southern transplant to the West Coast, her favorite things in life include Mexican food, useless trivia, and her snaggle-toothed rescue dog, Pickles. If you like pictures of flowers and puppies, follow her on Instagram at @socalliss, and on Pinterest at socalliss for all things wedding.