I have a complicated and unique story about dress regret. My fiance and I had a short engagement, so soon after we got engaged, I went to a bridal shop with my sisters and mom. I tried on several dresses, but the store just did not have what I was looking for. My dream dress was natural and flowing, held up by straps of some kind instead of clinging to my body stiffly as many strapless dresses do. The bridal place had only strapless, but they could add sleeves by request. None of the dresses were even close to what I wanted, so after a bit I got a paniced look in my eyes and my sisters and mom whisked me away.
Our next stop was a fabric store. This was the original idea anyway, as proposed by my mother–she could make a dress for me. She made her one wedding dress back in the hippy days, and has done quite a bit of sewing. This would be quite a different task than her hippy dress, granted, but she thought she could do it.
We looked at patterns and found a beautiful one I liked very much. We wanted to make some changes to it, for modesty’s sake. See, this was the other difficulty: for years I had imagined a sleeveless gown, but my future husband was uncomfortable with sleeveless clothing because of his beliefs. I understood his perspective, thought about it for awhile, and decided I could add flutter sleeves to whatever dress I got and be okay with that. It would honour my guy’s beliefs (and my own conscience), and I did think they looked really pretty. I am a laidback, nature-loving girl who’s never been into fancy things, and I quite liked the flowy nymph-esque dresses with flutter sleeves I saw online.
So, my mom and my sisters and I bought the pattern, then bought the material. This is when I got very lost. I was not a seamstress, and my family was also a little inexperienced, so we went with what the salesperson advised us with what we got. Because of this, I spent more money on the material than I meant to, and picked a material for the sleeves that wasn’t the best for ‘fluttering’–chiffon with lace over top. This caused trouble later on when the length I imagined for the sleeves didn’t work because of the stiffness of the lace; they stuck out too much if short, and laid kind of funny if too long. I might have gone with just chiffon for the sleeves, but I didn’t want them to be sheer–again, for modesty’s sake.
The next problem in the adventure of making and altering my dress came with the collar. I say collar instead of neckline, because the back of the dress was part of the problem. My mother made the back closed, instead of slightly gaping as in the pattern. But the back came up so high that it stuck up funny behind my neck… just a bit, but enough to annoy me later. My mom sewed the V neckline a little higher, which might have looked okay, but it brought the sides of the neckline to close to each other. The final result was a neckline/collar that looked more like a stiff t-shirt than a dress, and didn’t lay against or hug my shoulders the way it should have.
The sleeves ended up kind of long, and because they were flowy flutter sleeves made with a non-flowy material, they also added to the baggy t-shirt effect. i think if the neckline had been wider, like a boat neckline, and the amount of material on my shoulders had been less, they would have looked beautiful. But as it was, the sleeves were one of the things that later plagued me.
Now, when I say “later,” I mean “later.” I fretted some about my dress as my mom was working on it, but I kept telling myself to wait for the finished product. However, the dress did not end up completed until basically the morning of my wedding. My mom was helping with a zillion other things, in this very cheap, very DIY wedding, and this was the hardest project she had ever sewn before, and she had to keep it out of sight of my fiance and out of reach of two toddler grandchildren. And to add to all that, I had been losing weight this whole time. I had already lost a lot of weight before getting engaged because of a stomach problem, but in the next 3 months I somehow lost even more. I really didn’t mean to–I guess the nerves just got to my appetite. Every time my mom had me try on the dress, I seemed to be skinnier. Already overwhelmed with the challenge of making a dress, my mom now had to figure out how to take it in… and take it in… and take it in…
So, on the busy day of my wedding, about half an hour before my ceremony, my sisters helped me into my dress, completed for the first time. They stuck a cute bow on the back my aunt had made, and we agreed we actually liked (though it later got crooked), buttoned up those pretty white covered buttons sewn onto that pretty, expensive lace, and rushed me off for my makeup. My wedding day was a joyful blur, so full of family and friends who loved us and special, symbolic acts of love to each other, I didn’t have time to think about how I looked.
In fact, it wasn’t until we got the photos a few months later that it finally started to bother me. Looking at the pictures, I realized: I didn’t really like how I looked. The lace and silk and chiffon were beautiful, the baby’s breath and veil in my hair were lovely, my smile was genuine… but my dress just didn’t fit. The fitted bust wasn’t fitted, but kind of sagged down a bit. The waist didn’t hig my slender figure as I thought it would. The shoulder fabric looked bunched up, and the “collar” in the back looked funny. It didn’t help that the hairstylist and my well-meaning sisters had pressured me into a hairstyle that I didn’t really think I liked, and that only seemed to accentuate my falling-apart, non-bridal look. I wanted natural and relaxed, but… not this relaxed.
The awful thing about this is that I feel I have no right to feel this way. I was the one who chose these modesty requirements (though with knowledge of what my fiance thinks), I was the one who bought the fabric, I was the one who trusted the dress in the hands of my mother–who waffled somedays between confidence and “Are you sure you want me to do this?” And for crying out loud, this dress was made by my mom! I mean, how special is that? One side of me wants to be proud of my dress. I didn’t buy into the appearance-centred, expensive, self-spoiiling mentality that drives some other brides. I didn’t give into the idea that more skin=more beauty, or that everyone has to see every good thing about my body. My husband loves my body, and enjoys seeing it in all its splendour quite frequently. Our guests were there to see us get married, not there to see my hips and bum. And the preciousness of having a handmade, mom-made dress–desgined through team effort and crafted on the same sewing machine my mom’s dress was made on–is worth a lot.
But… I have given into the idea that your wedding day is about looking like a princess. And feeling as if I didn’t look my best is, quite frankly, devastating. After years of low self esteem and mild chunkiness, this was the first time in my life when really, I looked hot. But no one can tell that looking at the wedding pictures of me in my saggy dress. This was the only wedding I’ll ever have, unless my husband dies and I remarry (which I sure hope doesn’t happen). This was, society tells me, my only chance to be the most beautiful I could ever be. And I feel like I missed it.
One or two friends told me how “perfect” and “beautiful” my dress was. But not too many others made comments, which makes me feel worse. To be honest, I’m not sure what to tell myself. Move on, of course. Get over it. The wedding day was glorious, and wasn’t just about you or how you looked. But in today’s world, where people relish in their wedding photos for years on end, keeping their pretty bridal face as their profile pic forever, all this is kind of hard to do.
Sorry for the long story, girls. I’ve shared my feelings with my husband, but he can’t quite understand me the way a woman could. Any comments or advice?