Two weekends ago, I drove down to North Carolina to meet up with my two older sisters, my niece D (who's getting married next June), her twin sister S, and her future sister and mother-in-law. The wedding venue and bridesmaid dresses had already been selected and we were set to visit three bridal salons in two days to help pick out a bridal gown. This was the first time any of the females in my immediate family had gone to a bridal establishment to purchase a dress. My eldest sister bought her white lace dress from regular retail. The other sister, the mother of the bride, collaborated 20-some years ago on a design that had the bride and I hand-applying beads and sequins to individual cut pieces of lace that our late mother then sewed into her dream dress.
The MOTB and her family live in New Jersey so a visit once a year is how I saw the girls and their older brother grow up. However, I had been following the bride's Pinterest board since the engagement and had seen every dress and wedding detail she pinned so I already knew her style. She had a clear idea of what she wanted; the majority of the dresses were sleeveless, fit and flare or trumpet-skirted, all-over lace dresses with sweetheart necklines, and either a keyhole or open back, sometimes with lace layered over the opening.
|NY Bride & Groom of Raleigh (actually in Garner, NC)|
D tried on the first dress, selected by her mother. It was a lace dress with a sequined v-neckline and a gorgeous champagne gold lining that looked amazing on her skin, however it had an illusion back that did not match her skin color and wrinkled when she moved, giving the appearance of droopy pantyhose. A disadvantage of this shop was that even though my niece is slim, most of the sample dresses that appealed to her weren't available in her size and had to be forcibly coaxed on and then would fit like sausage casings at the hip (and my niece doesn't really have hips!), which I'm sure made it very hard for her to judge. However, during this time, she did discover that she preferred a v-neckline, she no longer wanted cap sleeves, and she definitely wanted a low and open back. After she tried on the initial eight or so dresses chosen, I wanted to be sure that we saw everything that was available so I went up each and every row with what the bride said she wanted in mind: all-over lace or beading, sweetheart or v-neck, sleeveless but with substantial straps, fit and flare shape, and an open back or keyhole detail. You would think that vague description would mean I came back with more than just two other dresses but no. The majority of the dresses there were strapless, ball gowns, or a combination of both!
|The crew at NY Bride & Groom of Raleigh (bride is at center)|
We ended up with two final contenders, a champagne-colored fit & flare with a v-neck bead encrusted bodice by Kenneth Winston's Private Label by G with an illusion back and an embroidered and crystal beaded v-neck Maggie Sottero fit & flare with a sheer embroidered back that I chose in that last dash around the store. I later realized that its dangling crystal beading reminded me of Eliza Doolittle's own twinkly white gown in My Fair Lady. This was a reference that was lost on my crew...all those women looking for a fancy white gown and nobody got it? What!
Both dresses were brought to the store's wonderfully large 360 degree mirrored area for real contemplation and D still could not make up her mind. I think everyone would have been fine with either dress had they had open backs. However, each dress would have needed to be extensively altered to achieve that result.
|Maggi Bridal fitting room in pink.|
|The final stop - Maggi Bridal in Raleigh!|
|Here's a tease of "the one!"|
I am so happy I got to experience this with her. I didn't mention above but I was the family member helping wrangle her into that first group of dresses with their too tight fit and multitudes of tiny buttons on delicate net, and making the decision of whether she should step into the dress or put it on over the head. Oh how many times we made the wrong first choice on that last one! If that sweaty and awkward time does not cement a lasting aunt/niece bond then I don't know what else would! In fact, I am also consulting on her save-the-dates, wedding invitations, and other printed paper goods. For me, having been lost in retail for the last two years, doing something this close to what I did for a living is breathing life back into me.
In addition, I will be making the dress I will wear to the wedding and I decided that it was time to SEW SILK for the first time, so stay tuned.
* Please, watch this show to know what NOT to do!