One’s wedding dress is something that you start to think about from a very young age. From the days of turning a pillow case into a veil or walking your Barbie down the aisle to Ken (or your Rainbow Brite with My Little Pony collection as ushers in my case) to the latest experiences of imagining it, it seems to be something that travels with us girls throughout our young lives like a strange ghost that’s sort of present but not at the same time.
I think Dad may still have the image of the younger me with a pillow case on my head in his mind though. When brain storming dress ideas with a friend of mine – which resulted in my (jokingly) making a whole outfit consisting of an old tutu, and whole other dress on my head, serving as a veil, Mum’s bunch of flowers (vase included) from the kitchen table as my bouquet with a butterfly pattered top and feather boa flung on for good measure – he walked into the kitchen and stopped saying “Ooo, that’s nice! Very you.” Without even the slightest hint of sarcasm. He genuinely thought this get up was ‘it’.
It’s only since actually having to find one that I’ve realised I had no idea exactly what it was I was looking for.
I figured a good place to start would be Vera Wang – not because I actually had any intention of buying one from there (because most of them are the same as a deposit on a house) but more that I figured; when else can you?
So Mum and I booked ourselves into the flagship store on Bond Street one sunny morning and made our way there full of pink cheeked excitement and expectation!
The store didn’t disappoint. It’s only 11am and we’re both on our way to being quite drunk thanks to the bubbles being sloshed generously into our glasses. I imagine it’s a technique employed to soften the blow when they hand you the final bill. I can’t deny that the dresses are amazing. Less dresses, more exceptional feats of
architecture. I look at myself in the mirror and gawk at the shape my body has become – I had no idea I could look so tall, so thin and so lovely!
“Why don’t you have a walk around and see how it feels?” said the lovely assistant lady, while topping up my 3rd glass.
“K.” I say, sheepishly and a smidge unsteadily.
‘Walking around’ involves me hopping off the three-foot plinth I’ve been winched up onto to display the dress; so off I hopped.
“Oh.” I say, somewhat deflated.
(Quizzical head tilt from Mum as to why I suddenly look so different)
I realise, having jumped down, that there’s a reason I looked so magnificent, and that is down to the effing jeffing WALL I’VE BEEN STANDING ON and, sadly, my 5’5” real life height isn’t quite cutting it anymore. Manoeuvring one’s self around is another story all together. I realise after about 7 seconds I’m carrying around an extra 5 stone of material and, what I am certain is, forgotten scaffolding – builders included, aloft and swinging their legs – underneath the dress.
Pretty soon I’m sweating, due to moving like one of those men who can pull a bus along the road with their bare arms, and the original vision of myself is crushed, cruelly, into the carpet as my short, now-feeling-fat body waddles and hoofs itself around the changing room, desperately trying to remain poised and ‘bridely’.
I fail, beautifully.
This, alongside the £11,200 (£11,850 if you want the sparkly bits) price tag I see as it’s swept, unceremoniously, away from me contribute to the definite conclusion that perhaps, on this occasion, Ms. Wang isn’t for me.
Next stop, a gorgeous little independent store in Portobello that restores and makes vintage wedding dresses. This place is amazing. The dresses, all hanging from the ceilings and walls, are so floaty and magic that you’re frightened to talk in anything louder than a whisper in case your decibels somehow permeate the fabric, making them crumble and dissipate into fairy dust – lost
forever because of your horrid modern noise.
“Oh, Jem.” Mum whispers. “Darling…oh, just look!”
My little sis has joined us by this point and is making similar hushed coos and gasps at the magical fairyland we’ve just stepped into.
“Definitely here” I think to myself, “I just KNOW this where my dress is.
The lovely lady who owns the shop is soon on the case; lampooning the various dresses we’re all pointing out to try on (all of them) from the walls and not long later I am in the changing room with a beautiful silk full length slip being flung over my head, with various other layers of silk, tulle and all manner of stunning sylph like costumes coming my way.
As my eyes sneak a peek in the mirror, I realise quickly that these dresses may have been built for people with a slightly more elfin type body. As the panic sets in, I start to see every lump, bump, crease and scuff my body has to offer glaring back at me in horrifying HD clarity. Wonky boobs, muffin toppage, bingo wingage and some ‘impurities’ I’d never even SEEN before – and with slightly greening face at the top which is serving to cap the look of ‘winner for most uncomfortable bride ever seen’ award.
(nb to all brides: choose your underwear carefully and strategically when trying on wedding dresses…and maybe don’t eat for the week before…no, wait – a month before)
After about 15 mortifying minutes, and just as the lump in my throat starts to rise to exit point, my amazing little sister – with the instinct and execution of a lioness – has burst through the changing room curtain and into vision, hands clapping, announcing to the owner, in a bordering-on-shrill tone that she thinks WE’RE DONE WITH THIS PARTICULAR LOOK and LET’S MOVE ONTO SOMETHING ELSE, while she simultaneously wrestled me out of the wretched fabric that was being so mean to my body, scrunching it into a ball and flinging it out of the room like a rag on fire.
(I love her)
Safely back in my regular clothes I wander around the shop without too much hope left in me thinking about how I’d actually just love to go for coffee and a cake now…mmm cake.
Back in the room, Mum has come across something we hadn’t noticed before, a dress from the 1890’s made entirely of lace. It’s so beautiful I’m frightened to touch it. But the lovely lady, with Mum’s help, carefully assembles around me and pretty soon I’m fully in it, with a gorgeous piece of equally ancient veil thrown over my head to complete the look.
Mum is now crying and Ames is gasping and the owner lady is adding her own bountiful offering of reassuring nods and praise.
As I approach the mirror, I prepare myself to be struck down by the reverential reflection of beauty that, I am sure, is about to look back at me, and brace myself to weep a little while staggering back – eyes delicately starry from my tears and all the while looking stunning yet ornate and fragile at the same time.
Taking a deep breath, I look up, as the reflections of the three expectant faces of the women appear around me, one by one – all eyes wide, smiling mouths open and nodding in glee waiting for my reaction…
…I look like Mrs Fucking Haversham.
An apparition with all manner of gossamer and web floating about me – in fact the only thing missing was the giant spider who’d seemingly caught me for his lunch but realised he didn’t have mayonnaise so had to save me for later while he popped to the shops.
But the faces…ohhhh, those little faces – SO eager. I can’t break their hearts. So I gave them what they needed in terms of reaction and asked the lady to hold it for me for a few days while I thought about it…I came, I thought, I let it go, and now panicking I’m never going to find one that’s ‘me’.
Desperately resorting to eBay for some inspiration a few days later, I’m sifting through the horror of some particular pages where synthetic material went to die, before stumbling across something in America that I like the look of and I can afford. Quick yelp on FaceBook to see if anyone is planning a trip that soon results in lots of kind offers to grab, but most significant one being from a very special family friend, Jane, who PM’s me to find out what I’m looking for. After sending some Pintrest bits, she pings me back offering to make my dress for me as a wedding present and I feel like the heavens have opened, and for the first time I leap up and say YES!!!!!!!!
More to follow