Category Archives: Dress

What I Learned From Dress Fitting Stress

[This is a post that is going to talk about weight, specifically me worrying about my weight and body size even though I am a thin person. So you might not want to read this if you struggle with disordered eating or body image problems or even if weight talk just makes your eyes roll. But it does have a happy ending.]

I bought my wedding dress in August. It fit snugly when I bought it. I weighed myself and I took my measurements and I said, “Self, if you are bigger than this, your dress won’t fit.”

Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for neurotic disaster? It was, and I wish I’d never done it.

Do you want some overly detailed background on my body image? I hope so, because you’re getting it: I think I’m probably a couple standard deviations right of center when it comes to body satisfaction. A big part of that is because I am thin, so society isn’t constantly telling me that I’m lazy, unhealthy, or a bad person, even though I’m usually at least one of those things. In my adult life I’ve weighed thirty pounds more than this and ten pounds less than this and at all points I felt great about how my body looked. [Granted, thirty pounds more than this at best puts me into the “in-betweenie” category. This isn’t that remarkable a feat of personal body acceptance, but sometimes it seems like any woman who loves her body has a supernatural resistance to the kyriarchy].

Losing a lot of weight was weird for me, especially because I didn’t try to do it. I was simultaneously terrified that I was sick, delighted by all the positive attention weight loss brings, guilty because I didn’t “earn” that praise, excited by my new clothes, mournful for my lost DD boobs, fearful that the weight would come back and I wouldn’t love my old body anymore, and immensely irritated because, really, what is so praiseworthy about being thin that a possibly sick person deserves credit for shrinking? [See also]

I wasn’t sick, at least not physically (anxiety can make you lose weight because you burn more calories when you are panicking. That stress is so much more likely to kill you than fat is. Thin != healthy). My weight settled into a happy place where the Wii fit doesn’t make my avatar flop like a wet noodle and I get fewer “eat a sandwich” comments (Sidebar: don’t say shit like that! You don’t get to tell other people what they should eat or their body should look like).

But weddings make you do the wacky. The spectre of my snug sample wedding dress made me worry about my weight in a way that felt foreign and wrong. I went on a new antidepressant and almost immediately gained five pounds. Five pounds which no one but me and the waistband of my jeans noticed. This brought on a minor freak-out that involved a lot of internet research about how much seams can be let out and trying to convince myself I could always buy a new dress (those attempts at rationality always ended in tears). And then, and understand I feel like a traitor when I confess this: I tried to lose those five pounds. I upped my cardio [I already exercise almost every day because a) It tremendously relieves my depression b) I like being reasonably “fit” such that I can lift heavy things and run up flights of stairs without getting winded c) I am mostly unemployed and have a lot of time to kill] and tried drink more water, less beer, and to snack on fruits and veggies instead of cheese and crackers.

I avoided weighing myself to try to hold body hate at bay. But with two weeks to go before my dress fitting, I stepped on a scale: I had not lost one pound. And I cried. I’m ashamed of that, but it is true.

But I somehow snapped out of it. I wore a really tight dress on my birthday, one I’d previously intended to return for being too small, and I felt like a million bucks in it. Maybe I actually was a little slimmer even though my scale number stayed the same. Maybe not. Maybe I just let go and got to be the person I normally am, the person who loves her body, so I felt the dress looked sexy instead of too small, even though nothing had changed.

I realized how much I missed the feeling of loving my body and feeling sexy without subjecting myself to judgment and fear. So even though putting myself through more cardio and dipping carrot sticks instead of pretzels into my hummus might have, possibly, made my dress fit when it otherwise would not have, it doesn’t matter. The moral of this story is not “I worried about my weight so I exercised a lot and then my dress fit, hooray!” The moral of this story is after finding out my dress fit, I realized the stress and the bad feelings about whether or not the dress would fit were not worth it.

I’m writing this and sharing this (with trepidation, because the last thing I want is to perpetuate diet culture and body hatred) so that I remember that over these next two months. I want to look good on my wedding day, sure, but I want to love myself for the rest of my life. So I need to let myself love my body regardless of what clothes it fits into.

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I Hate Shapewear

Spring is almost here, so Victoria’s Secret is pimping out its new bridal lingerie. I LOVE lingerie, so you’d think I’d use my wedding as an excuse to drop big bucks for something lacy and flimsy for sexytime.

But I don’t really have that impulse, maybe because I don’t usually need excuses to waste money on lingerie, so the itch is already scratched, so to speak.  Plus, the common anti-lingerie argument of “you have to interrupt things to put on a costume that you end up tearing off within five minutes” resonates when I think about my wedding night. I’ve said that I think we’ll be too tired after our wedding for sex, but if I’m being honest with you, I want “wedding night” sex so much I bet we’re going to TRY. But I also bet it is going to be terrible, terrible, LAZY sex. There is no way I’ll have the energy to put a costume change into the mix.

[I just realized that I can totally wear some lacy piece of “bridal” lingerie for the night BEFORE our wedding, which we are totally spending together, “tradition” be damned. Man, I’m so good at convincing myself to spend money.]

Anyway, which leads me to the original point of this post: “foundation garments.”

Victoria’s Secret’s “wedding day” collection is mostly lycra and boning and shaping/slimming/smoothing.  Just looking at this stuff makes me feel hot and bothered, and not in the good way.

I’ve worn shapewear before, because my gigantic dress collection involves some sheer or silky numbers that require it.  I think it is hot and uncomfortable. Wearing shapewear is probably the only thing I do in compliance with the beauty myth that I TRULY hate. Well that and plucking my eyebrows. So I only do it very rarely. And under protest.

Yes, I do have swamp ass.

The idea of spending a long, busy, day, with all that drinking and dancing and getting hitched and stuff squished into a spandex tube is really, really unappealing.

My preferred wedding-day lingerie is this:

And maybe those stick-on boob pads. MAYBE. (My dress already has those “bra cups” sewn in from when a model wore it at a bridal show.)

But some tiny part of me thinks “It’s my wedding day! Everyone will be staring at me! If my waist isn’t cinched and my butt isn’t boosted, they’ll JUDGE ME.” This is part is related to the part of me that worries over not fitting into my dress.  That part of me needs to be stopped.

Did you/are you wearing foundation garments under your wedding dress?  Do you want to preach it’s life-changing virtues to me? Or should I resist the siren song of shapewear, follow my instincts and go with lingerie minimalism on my wedding day?

[“Lingerie minimalism” just surged to the top of my search engine hits.]

The Games We Play

I don’t want Collin to know what my wedding dress looks like.   This makes July seem even farther away when it already does.  [Sidebar: Yes, I am grateful that I am still at the “the wedding is so faaaaar awaaaay I want it now!” phase and not in the “Holy Mother of Uh-Oh the wedding is only X number of days away! ACK!” part yet.]  It is going to be hard work for me to keep something I am so excited about a secret for so long.

Carrie pointed out the other day that I can’t say too much about what the dress is not like, or Collin will be able to deduce what the dress does look like.  She’s a smart lady.

I decided it would be more fun to answer every question about the dress with a yes.  And to otherwise volunteer false information about what the dress looks like.  So, for example, watching the original V miniseries yesterday, some 80s-riffic blouse appears, Collin and his buddy shouted, “What up SLEEVES!” and I said, “Ooh it’s just like my dress!”

Tonight we’re seeing Lady Gaga in concert, and I suspect the opportunities to point out sartorial misadventures that are “just like my dress” will be boundless.  My dress has shoulder pads inspired by medieval weaponry!  My dress is surrounded by hula hoops of glamour!  My dress is a direct response to speculation about my biological sex! I can’t wait!

Because Collin does read this blog from time to time, this should also serve as a warning that some of the things I suggest about the appearance of my dress may be less than truthful.  In my inevitable “here are 70,000 different bridesmaid dresses” posts, if I suggest that one dress is maybe out of the running because it will clash with the silver accents in my dress, that doesn’t mean my dress has silver accents.  It also doesn’t mean my dress DOESN’T have silver accents.  This blog no longer as any credibility, is what I’m saying.  In addition to lies about my dress, you can expect lots of posts about my fabulous career and my dragon-hunting exploits and my kung fu mastery.

Switching Articles

You might have missed this news because it was slipped in-between some eyebrow-raising photographs, but I bought my wedding dress on Friday.  I bought it that day instead of waiting in order to secure the floor sample and the shop’s August promotion of store-paid sales tax, because if I was going to buy the dress that was not inexpensive, I wanted to inch as far toward the direction of inexpensive as I possibly could.

But I admit on the drive home from Ohio I was plagued with doubts.  Not just about spending more, but about making a selection.  I knew, having just tried on dozens of dresses and having seen hundreds, that my dress was something special.  But was it special enough?

I wear dresses like other people wear blue jeans.  This actually increased the amount of pressure I felt about finding a magical, life-altering, perfect-in-every-way dress to wear to my wedding.  I felt like because I hear “I love your dress” so often (I just spent like five minutes trying to revise the beginning of this sentence to inject some modesty and couldn’t work it, so try not to hate me because my dresses are beautiful), for my wedding dress, the one dress in the life of a blue jeans type that everyone says “I love you” to, I needed to, as Dowdy Friend so memorably rapped in Teen Witch, “top that.”

But I got over it.  Part of that is because my wedding dress is pretty awesome, and will be unique after the extensive (and probably painfully expensive) alterations we have planned.  But it is also because I realized that my wedding dress is not the last awesome dress I’m going to wear in my life.

I’m going to go to other people’s weddings.  Life willing, I’m going to be a philanthropist and patron of the arts (you know, if all my money doesn’t go to buying my own mental health care for the rest of my life) and go to fancy fundraisers.  I’m going to find roof access to my friends’ apartment buildings and put on dresses for random photo shoots, because that is one of the things we do for fun.

When I turn 35, I desperately want to throw a huge inaugural ball themed birthday party, because my birthday was the date of George Washington’s first inauguration.  I haven’t decided yet it if we’ll wear period attire.  But either way, I will have an awesome dress.

My wedding dress is a dress.  It is not the dress.

The Rundown

I survived, as the t-shirt says.1  I did not buy a dress at the Running of the Brides, but I had a wonderful time, and I came to the realization that The Dress back in Pittsburgh had ruined me for all other dresses, so when I got back home I went ahead and bought it.   So the RotB was a valuable experience, and I’m so glad I went.

One thing I love about this sale, and a reason I’d recommend it to anyone shopping for a wedding dress, is that you can try on a LOT of dresses. When I went to bridal salons I told them I wanted a slimmer silhouette, so they only brought out those dresses. Here, I could try on a a floufy gigantic dress, be reminded of why I don’t want one of those, jump out of it and into something else entirely.  And it isn’t like you run out of appointment time.

I tried on a lot of dresses. Let me capitalize that for emphasis: A LOT OF DRESSES. I focused on the unusual. The group stationed next to ours commented on my ability to find “all the weird ones.” Some dresses were weird weird. Some dresses were AWESOME weird. Observe:

I was in love with this dress. I just didn’t want to wear it to my wedding. If I were having one of those daytime weddings in a park with “rustic festive” details, I would have bought this dress and skipped out of the store. Well, maybe I would have had a little pause because I think A-line skirts obliterate my figure (and people are always saying they’re universally flattering). Anyway, I didn’t want to buy this dress. But I wanted to find it a good home. I walked around the store in it, and other women kept saying, “What a cool dress!?” And I’d say, “Do you want to try it on?” They’d immediately say, “It’s not for me.” And I’d sigh, “It’s not for me either. But someone NEEDS to buy this dress.” Eventually, some girl tracked me down, saying she had seen me in the dress across the store and wanted to try it. I stripped down pretty much immediately. She kept thanking me profusely, and I was like, “No, thank YOU!” She tried it on and it looked gorgeous on her, and the pink and green beading match her wedding colors, and while she didn’t immediately go buy it and was still undecided when we left, in my imagination she bought that dress and will think of me fondly when she gets dressed on her wedding day.

This was another dress I thought was gorgeous but wrong for me. I can’t commit to the color red like that. If the swoopy gauzy part was gold or some color along those lines? If the skirt were more fitted? If the dress weren’t way too big on me? I would have been all over it. But the RotB is not a place for if-onlys.

Ok, let’s move on to gawking at the weird weird dresses:

Note: when this picture was taken, I was cheering for someone who just found her dress.

I believe this dress was made for a woman who grew up imagining she’d wear her mother’s wedding dress, but upon her engagement discovered to her dismay it had been thrown out during the last move/eaten by moths/destroyed in a fire/altered into non-recognition by a selfish little sister who just happens to be marrying the guy she’s in love with/never existed. Or maybe it actually is from the 1970s, and some Filene’s buyer found it under a pile of dust in a warehouse somewhere.

This is incredibly unflattering nightie is a steal at the sale price of $700! If I wanted to convincingly make one of my boobs look much smaller than the other and create a faux “baby bump” with prosthetics, I’d easily spend twice that much! In addition to being a convincing disguise, this sleepwear can also be worn at your wedding. For the bride who wants that just-rolled-out-of-bed look at the altar! (I was attempting to look like I just woke up in that photo, but I think I look more like I hate you.  Which might be true when I have just woken up. I can be kind of a bitch before I have my coffee.)

I tried on this dress because on the hanger I could not tell what it was supposed to look like. Putting it on my body did not clear up that confusion at all. Why this dress was designed is one of the great mysteries of our time. The mesh up top? The little strings around the shoulders? The waistline that plunged to about an inch above my knee? I think this dress might be a practical joke. And in case you cannot tell from the expression on my face: I am not amused.

Not pictured: The Dress with Superfluous Zippers, The Dress With the V-Neck That Dipped Two Inches Below My Breasts, The Short Dress That Felt Like It Was Made of Ivory Denim.  Also not pictured: the dress that I actually bought and am going to wear to my wedding (I’m trying to keep that bit secret from Collin).  If you really want to see another picture of me, check me out in the Plain Dealer’s slide show

1A note about the shirt: this year’s model reads “I survived…” on the front and “The Running of the Brides” on the back. The shirt is light pink. The words “I survived…” fall right on the bosom. From the front it really, really, really looks like a shirt about breast cancer.

Runner’s Stretch

I’m breaking my number one rule for the Running of the Brides, because everyone on my dream team save my Aunt Chris can’t get out of work or weddings and join me in Cleveland tomorrow morning.  I’m a little bummed about having only one helper, just because it is lonely and not as fun.  Although I’m sure Chris will be a one-woman dream team: she’s a savvy negotiator, she’s got Obama arms for carrying heavy dresses, and she’s got great style.  Plus I am looking forward to a girly evening of gossip and iron-on shirt-making in a hotel in Cleveland with her.

But I think when I see the giant teams, I am going to have wistful moments.  In particular because there will be MOMS everywhere.  Even though I am fairly certain that if my mother were alive she would not go within 500 yards of a Filene’s Basement Bridal Event.  Grief is rarely if ever rational like that.

I am also nervous that every dress will pale in comparison to THE DRESS which I saw two weeks ago, despite price tag differentials.  Collin told me to stop kidding myself and just go buy  The Dress.  I called him out on how his suggestion was partially motivated by him not wanting me to go to Cleveland, even for one night.  I reminded him of ways we could use the money I might save on a dress.  [I think in normal relationships I’d say something like, “We can have another hour of open bar at the wedding!” or “We could take a weekend trip!” but instead I’m saying things like, “We can pay off more of the mortgage!” because that is what speaks to Collin.]

Full report, hopefully with hilarious pictures, when I return!

Say “Not Yet” to the Dress

My Aunt Chris came out to Pittsburgh yesterday to go dress shopping with me.  It was my first time diving1 into Wedding Industrial Complex-sanctioned bridal gowns.

I don’t have any pictures of me in pretty pretty dresses for you. I can’t even link you to pictures of bridal models making bitch faces and holding their arms in tai chi postures while wearing dresses that I’m considering, because the only dress that is even worth writing about was as much designed by Donnie the Sales Consultant than whatever fashion designer is actually responsible for the base dress.

It’s funny, because when my sister went dress shopping for her wedding, she kept saying she didn’t want a strapless dress and the salespeople kept insisting that straps could be added to anything. They’d hold little triangles of lace up against her shoulders and insist after alterations it would look like they belonged there. I never believed them. But when Donnie2 took this dress and tucked some fabric and added some details, I believed it would work. And a dress I thought was pretty but not good enough suddenly became “the dress.”

The owner of the shop made all the other women come in and see what Donnie had done, saying, “learn from a professional.” They swarmed around me like birds and mice around Cinderella to pin all of Donnie’s innovations into place, oohed and ahhed and said they should send a picture to the designer.

I started to get a sinking feeling that I was wearing an outrageously expensive dress, but as it turns out it was reasonably priced. And the sample fit, so I could get a discount.

I didn’t buy it. I’m holding out hope for the Running of the Brides, in large part because I think I will have fun at there even if I don’t buy a dress. And because “reasonably priced” is not inexpensive, even if I get the discounted floor sample.

Before leaving the shop, one of the Ooh and Ahh Birds said, “So are you gonna get it?” And I said, “Not yet.” I think it’s going to be the dress that every other dress is compared to, which means chances are good it will be the dress I get married in. I’ll let you know in two weeks.

1I haven’t practiced my diving formation since Bill Clinton was president! I felt like a Girl Scout again. And all it took was putting on a bunch of dresses that are longer than a loveseat and heavier than a newborn human baby.
2Hearing all the Pittsburgh-accented salespeople say “Donnie” over and over again was a good source of entertainment.

Timing Is Everything

Now that the bar exam is behind me, I have much more time on my hands.  There are only so many hours in the day that can be spent looking over the same lack of new job postings, or reading creepy “job listings” on Craigslist that may or may not be solicitations for sex work.

But I’m getting married! Shouldn’t that fill up hours of my time?  Shouldn’t I be hand-crafting centerpieces or learning calligraphy or something?  Well, in case you haven’t been reading my blog lately, I’m mainly focused on finding a dress at this point.  And that worries me.

I worry that August 2010 is too soon to look for a dress to wear at a July 2011 wedding.  Having read more than my fair share of wedding blogs, it seems like a lot of people have wedding dress second thoughts, and I don’t want to.  I don’t want my dress to suddenly not fit either; I think staying the same size for a year is a challenge for many people, but for me it is extra intimidating because ever since I unintentionally lost a good bit of weight a few years ago, I’ve been expecting it to come back any day now.

On the other hand, I am, as mentioned, unemployed.  In addition to having time to fill, dress shopping while not confined by a regular workday has its perks.

Additionally, the Cleveland Running of the Brides is August 27, and I don’t want to rule that option out.  It might not be a great solution for me because I’m (right now) a lot smaller than a bridal sample size, which unsurprisingly seems to make up the bulk of the sale stock.  But just in case I do strike discount dress gold in Ohio, I’d kind of like to do a more traditional shopping trip before that, mainly for my aunt’s benefit; she’s been looking forward to this since I was a wee girl learning gender performance in my Superstar Barbie costume playset.

So… what does the Internet Jury say? Should I dive into dress hunting now? Should I put it off? Until what point?

If not dress hunting, what sort of things should a young lady of leisure do with her time?  (I will accept non-wedding related ideas, happily!)

I’m A Guest!

I’m a guest poster, that is, at Souris Mariage, where I relate the story of helping Collin’s sister Carrie find her wedding dress at Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides.

Go read it!

[PS: How cool is it that I had a blog post of mine go up while I was taking the bar exam?  I realize I didn’t actually do the posting, but I still feel like an internet ninja.]

Dress Input from a Dude

Last night I needed a study break, so I asked Collin to look over a “Runway Report” spread in a bridal magazine.1 I wanted a better idea of what styles Collin likes and dislikes so I can avoid picking a dress that he hates.2

You can probably guess how this went, but in case you can’t, an abridged transcript, with visual aids [that should link through to the designer, so general warning for horrible web design if you do click]:

Collin: “What’s going on there?  That dress has titty knapsacks.”

Robin: “Is ‘titty knapsack’ a good thing or a bad thing?”

Collin: “Are you kidding? A bad thing.”

Robin: “I actually really like titty knapsacks.  I pushed hard for a bridesmaid dress with titty knapsacks for my sister’s wedding.”

Collin: “Well then I love it too!”

Robin: “Collin, that is not the point of this.”

Collin: “Sorry.  I don’t know, it just looks really old-fashioned, I guess?”

Robin: “That’s what I like about it.  I think old-fashioned things look glamorous.  Plus our venue is old-fashioned.”

Collin: “Well, you can look old-fashioned without having your boobies in slings, right?”

Collin: “I like this one.  It looks like a nightgown.”

Robin: “Yeah, that nightgown costs over five grand.”

Collin: “Well why don’t you just wear an actual nightgown? That would cost only like thirty bucks.”

Collin: “Is that a dress for pregnant chicks?”

Robin: “No, that’s just an empire waist.  It’s a very popular style!”

Collin: “For pregnant chicks?”

Robin: “For chicks generally.  They’re really flowy and pretty.”

Collin: “They flow over your pregnant stomach, you mean.”

Robin: “You’re crazy.  I have at least one empire waist dress that you think is super cute.”

Collin: “I will think you are super cute when you are pregnant, though, so that doesn’t prove anything.”

Collin: “Get that dress, Patootie!  You can be my little cutie Moon Bride!”

[I’m just going to let that comment stand on it’s own.]

Then I saw a dress that I thought was particularly awesome, and as a test asked Collin to try to pick it out from the two-page spread it was on.  He passed.  We agree that it is super cool.  Then we agreed to try to forget it ever existed because it costs more money than God’s dress:

Collin: “That is pretty sweet.”

Robin: “Yeah, it’s awesome, but I can’t afford it.  To make myself feel better I’m focusing on how I’m not crazy about the ruffly bits on the bottom.”

Collin: “Yeah those are kind of weird.  But I saw them on a lot of these dresses.”

Robin: “I know. It’s a whole thing. Blame Vera Wang.”

Collin: “Blame who?”

1In hindsight, I never should have looked at these dresses, because none of them are remotely affordable.  Although I guess it is nice to know the name of the designer that will be ripped off by the dress I ultimately buy.
2I may still pick a dress Collin hates. Knowingly. I’m a free bitch, baby.