Skip to content

On Wedding Dress Shopping

2011 September 19

This Saturday, I went wedding dress shopping. My sister, my mom, my aunt, and my sister’s friend all drove down from Rhode Island for a shopping expedition. My sister got engaged a week before I did, and is getting married 4 months before I am, so it was a joint mission to find a dress for both of us.

When I was little, I lived for the J.C. Penney bridal catalog. I would pore over the wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, not because I was dreaming of my own wedding, but because everything looked so pretty to me. I hadn’t given much thought to what I wanted my own dress to look like by the time I was engaged, though. I started looking at more and more wedding blogs and designer websites after I got engaged, trying to pinpoint exactly what I wanted. I didn’t think it would be so difficult.

At first, I didn’t want to wear white. I wanted to wear something that stood out, and preferably had some color. But the more I investigated, the more it became clear that most of the options in my price range would look like a prom dress or a bridesmaid dress, and I did want it to be somewhat clear that I was the bride on my wedding day. Perhaps I could have persevered through this bit of thinking, but the white dresses just got me in the end.

One of the things that bother me most about wedding dresses is that they all look so similar. I wanted to wear something truly unique, something that would communicate my sense of style, something that I would feel comfortable in. This was not the strapless a-line white dress weighted down with ruffles and pearls and lace that I kept seeing in all the blogs I was reading. I pinned a couple of dresses to my wedding inspirations Pinterest board, but I found most of the dresses I was drawn to were vintage, hand-made, or designer gowns that cost well over $5000. In other words, they all seemed to be beyond my reach.

So basically, I was discouraged before I even started looking, and I had convinced myself that nothing out there was going to be what I wanted. Still, I wasn’t going to get married in a paper bag, so I made an appointment at The White Gown in DUMBO, a shop I happened to walk by one night after it was closed and looked up online to see if it was a bridal shop. It was, so I made the phone call, not having any idea what to expect.

When Saturday arrived, I was inexplicably nervous. We went to my sister’s appointment in SoHo first, which went really well, and she was able to get the dress she wanted, so we were all in pretty good spirits after that, but I was still apprehensive when we got to my appointment in Brooklyn.

I met my consultant, and she took me into a large dressing room and asked for an idea of what I was looking for. I didn’t have any pictures, so I just told her that I wanted something unique that wasn’t strapless, wasn’t pure white, and wasn’t too simple. With those few directives, as well as what my budget was, she pulled 5 dresses, and we went from there. I tried on seven dresses total, and really liked two of them. What most surprised me was that I actually felt pretty in almost all the dresses I tried on, even when I wasn’t a huge fan of the style.

When I put on the dress I eventually bought, I knew that I loved the style. It felt like me, and it had some detailing that made it a little more unique. My family loved it too, and after trying on my second choice again just to make sure, it was clear that this dress was “the one.” Is it perfect? Maybe not.  But I felt pretty and bridal and loved so many of the details that I couldn’t take the chance on trying to find something better. Maybe my “perfect” dress is still out there somewhere, and it may even be in my budget, but it just wasn’t worth agonizing over it for the next three to six months.

In the end, the process was remarkably painless AND I ended up spending a fraction of what I was willing to spend because the dress was  a sample and drastically marked down from the original price. I couldn’t be happier that I can now focus on all of the other loose ends of the wedding, like finding a photographer and choosing readings.

All of that being said, I thought it would still be fun to round up a few of the favorite wedding dresses I encountered during my online search:

Snippet & Ink

The Broke-Ass Bride


Wedding Bells 

Have you gone wedding dress shopping? What was your experience like? Even if you’re not in the market for a wedding dress, what are some of your favorites?


*image above: Monique Lhuillier


5 Responses Post a comment
  1. September 20, 2011

    I admit, I’m in love with the J Crew wedding collection. I’ve been married for a while, but if I had to do it over again, the entire wedding party would be outfitted by J. Crew. I got married in 1991 (I had just turned 23) and gowns back then were LOADED with puffs and sequins and cheap nylon lace. I wanted something simple, almost severe and the bridal shop people thought I was nuts. I found a compromise gown, simple for its time and with no sequins or lace. I didn’t love it, but, whatever. You should love your wedding day and getting fixated on everything being perfect is the way to ruin it completely. Now, with my 20 year anniversary approaching, I remember the fantastic music at my ceremony, the fun we all had dancing, and the dear friends who attended. The dress seems like a minor detail.

  2. Sandy permalink
    September 20, 2011

    Great essay, Jill. You are such a talented writer. Glad you got your dress. I have been trying to guess which one from the shop’s collection. lol

    • Jill permalink
      September 20, 2011

      Thanks Sandy! The dress isn’t on the website anymore–I looked. The dress was discontinued from the designer, so that’s why it was such a good price. I really got lucky!

  3. Mal permalink
    September 20, 2011

    I still can’t get that Christos out of my head, and I haven’t even seen anything that is remotely knock-off-ish. The Broke-Ass Bride recommendations were underwhelming, and I am slowly becoming obsessed.

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS