Found the Dress: Ordering!

Watters Lasara dress

Lasara, my dress! The photos below are some other Watters dresses I tried on. All photos from Watters.

When I ordered my dress at S2 Bridal, the girl took my measurements to figure out what size dress to order. This was its own little puzzle! The dress was going to be too long when it came; I’m 5’3″, I knew that going in. It was the rest of the measurements that were awkward.

Watters’ size chart starts at 33″ in the bust. My bust was… less than that. By more than an inch. My hips are 37″ – I’m pretty sure Watters called that a size 4 or a 6. I wasn’t too concerned, because my dress is free in the hips. The girl measured my waist a few times to see if the measurement changed, but it kept coming up as 25.5″. That was the sticky part – Watters sizes are in whole inches. That meant I could order a size 0 if I had a 25″ waist, or a size 2 if I had a 26″ waist. What to do if you’re in between?

watters delicias

Watters Delicias – the top was nice, but I wanted a less-plain skirt. And there’s a wee little bow in the back that I didn’t like for whatever reason.

The girl in the store said it was up to me to decide – I guess so I couldn’t blame them if I made the wrong choice. I tried to think about how Watters would compile their size chart – is 25″‘ the actual waist of the dress, or the size of someone who would fit in it? Even in something like a wedding gown, you will have a little bit of ease. If your garment’s waist measurement is 25″, a 25″-waisted person will not necessarily fit.

I thought about ordering the 0 and hoping I’d fit in it. I thought about the 2. 0. 2. 0. 2.

In the end I bit the bullet, and ordered the 2. My reasoning was that the dress was going to need to be altered anyway, because of my off-the-charts bust (not off the charts in the Pamela Anderson way, the opposite way!), and it is always easier to take in a larger dress than it is to let out a too-small dress. Cinnamaid A also mentioned that it would allow me to put on stress weight! Also – I may have a small bust, but my ribs are quite large for my size, if finding bras and shirts that fit in both places is anything to go by. I blame it on my French horn-playing years. My ribs are somewhere where I physically can’t lose any inches, short of removing bones. And I need those!

watters reynosa

Watters Reynosa – I tried this but couldn’t get over the fact I thought I looked fuzzy (like a Muppet!) from far away.

I have to admit that one of the things that helped me make the final decision to buy Lasara in the first place was that my friend J, who works as Dresser/Wardrobe Mistress at a theatre I work for fairly often, offered to do the alterations on my dress. She did make the offer sometime after midnight at the bar we went to to celebrate our latest opening night, but when I brought it up the next day she still seemed keen! That took off some of the weight of ‘I’m buying a really expensive dress, and alterations are going to be EVEN MORE!!’. At least this way I can cross the ‘EVEN MORE’ off our budget, although I think I may try to pay J something, if she’ll take it, especially if the dress needs more than just hemming. I’m a teensy bit worried she might think she’s getting an invite to the wedding just because of the dress thing, but she’s been on the list since we made it in June!

watters sabine

Watters Sabine – pretty, but by this time I had my heart set on flowers.

I don’t want this post to come across as complaining about my body – I’m naturally small and I know I’m lucky. I just can never believe the range of sizes ‘they’ (whoever the ‘they’ is who makes those charts) think I am. By Watters’ logic, I was a 000 bust, 0/2 waist and 4/6 hips! That’s a range of 6 different sizes (the imaginary 000 and 00, 0, 2, 4, 6).

I do wish that, as these dresses are made when we order them, a little more care could be taken to match them to the measurements of each bride. Not complete custom tailoring, but at least the ability to say ‘Can you cut the top in a size 0, and the bottom in a size 6?’ Also, who decided that ‘0’ is a size?!

Was picking the size of your dress this traumatizing for anyone else?

Search For the Dress: I get my butt back in gear.

Over two months passed until I decided to dared to go dress shopping again, and I was still searching out dress photos online during this hiatus. I still liked Lasara, but I was horrified that I could like a dress that cost that much money. I was starting to wonder if I only liked it at the time because Cinnamum and Cinnamum-in-law liked it so much. I remember them saying it flattered me, but looking at online photos, it didn’t look terribly flattering on the model’s waist, and it looked a little like it was falling down around the boob area.

Watters Lasara dressPhoto from Watters.com

I got this crazy idea in my head that it looked like too much like my grad dress. For the record, my grad dress did have flowers on it, had a fitted top, and it did go all the way down to the ground, but the similarities end about there.  From what I remember, the flowers were flat applique in grey and pink…

grad dress

Grad date cropped out to protect the innocent. ;)

My plan for this round of dress shopping was to meet Cinnamaid A at S2 Bridal to show her the two dresses I liked most so far. Then we’d hop in her car and head out to two more bridal stores that I hadn’t been to yet. I wanted to show her the top two contenders and get her honest opinion, before she knew anything about the price of them. I came out of the dressing room in Lasara, and the answer was ‘Wow.’ That reassured me, and made me think that maybe I didn’t just like it because mum and MIL did. I’ll admit it, I think I was worried that the dress might be ‘mumsy’. I also tried on Watters Carmen again to show her – the verdict was nice, but not as nice as Lasara.

From there (fastest bridal appointment ever!) we zipped down south to The Bridal Centre.

Now, in the two months between these appointments, I’d been looking at dresses online, and I thought my tastes were changing: I was looking at Grecian goddess gowns. I knew that no matter what I got, it would need to be flowy. I had a few favourites from LaSposa (pictures from LaSposa’s website):

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LaSposa Dahir

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LaSposa Lancaster

I loved the streamers coming from the shoulders on these, and they are super-flowing. Then, I found the the Holy Grail of flowing wedding dresses:

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Amy Kuschel’s Ashbury

Little birdies burst into song when I look at these photos, even now. It flows, it’s a little bit hippie, it’s got a great back, it’s got a kind of a sweetheart neckline…. Plus, Amy Kuschel is based in San Franciso, and the dresses are made there too! We got engaged in San Francisco, so it must be a sign!

This Amy Kuschel dress was the reason I booked the appointment at the Bridal Centre. They are one of 2 stores in Canada that carry Amy Kuschel, the other one being in Toronto. I had to send in my appointment request online, and I mentioned this dress in the ‘comments’ field.

When A and I got there, we waited in the lobby for a bit. The Bridal Centre is big. Like really big (they also do tuxes and grad dresses too). We were having fun giggling at a neon pink and black PLAID and boa-draped grad dress when our consultant came for us. We were taken upstairs, and the lady asked us all the questions you see asked on Say Yes to the Dress. Budget, shape, everything. I stressed that I wanted flowy, not huge, I told her there was already a dress out there for me that was a small A-line, and I mentioned Ashbury again. She said she’d go grab a dress to start us off with. Now, the Bridal Centre didn’t allow photos. They also didn’t leave the labels in the dresses (I looked!). The first dress was…. ENORMOUS. I couldn’t move. If I’d knelt down, the skirt would have swallowed me. It was your typical Disney princess ballgown, which is great for other people, but not me. Not what I’d told her. After that she was better, and pulled (mostly) smaller dresses. I kept asking about Ashbury. Finally, she came back and said that they didn’t have that particular dress in stock. Wah! She did pull an Amy Kuschel dress for me, called Margherita.

Margherita

Picture from Amy Kuschel

This dress is made out of the softest material A or I had ever felt. It was silky and gauzy and amazing. I couldn’t stop petting it while I was wearing it! A and I agreed (when the consultant was off getting more dresses) that it bumped the Watters Carmen out of second place. But, it was much more expensive than Carmen, and if I was going to spend that much on a dress…. I’d get Lasara.

I probably tried on about 10-12 dresses there before we left. We had planned to go to a third store next, but instead decided to go for bellinis. In our defense, Cactus Club was exactly opposite our third bridal stop.

In the third store, I wandered the racks, and everything just looked the same. Big white dress. Big white dress. Big white sparkly dress. I picked a few out, and the shop lady laced me into them. I was in the second dress when I lost all ability to form opinions. What did I think of this dress? All I could come up with was ‘it’s white?’ and then ‘I’d like to get into my own clothes now please’.

A and I walked out, and she said she could see it on my face before I said anything. We agreed to call it a day, leaving the option open to continue shopping on another day, if and when I felt like it.

I took a couple weeks to contemplate. I kept wishing I could try on Ashbury, I kept thinking it might be the dress. And I kept remembering A’s face when she saw me in Lasara. Cinnamum and Cinnamum-in-law’s faces when they saw Lasara. How they both encouraged me to go for it, no mind to the price. I fantasized about flying back to San Francisco to try on Ashbury. I wished I’d looked for wedding dresses when we were there, the day after I got engaged! ha!

I realized that I needed to let Ashbury go, because I was not going to buy it sight unseen, and after two weeks of wrestling with this inner monologue, I was leaning towards Lasara. I let myself imagine for a week that Lasara was my wedding dress, and at the end of that week I was still happy, so one Monday afternoon around 5pm I headed over to S2 and plonked down a nice chunk of money. Then I went and got groceries, as it’s right by our Safeway. I had fun talking to people the next day at work:

“What did you do on Monday?”
“Oh, you know, bought milk, bananas, butter, a wedding dress…

It was a long trail to get my dress, going to a total of 6 or 7 stores and trying on dress after dress. I had to come to terms with my guilt about my apparently expensive taste, guilt over spending other people’s money on a dress I’m only going to wear once. Guilt over the thought that if Cinnamon Bun’s mum hadn’t offered the balance of the money, I don’t know if I would have ponied up the extra myself. Wasn’t that one of the things I hated about Say Yes To The Dress brides?! I even had a bit of guilt about not buying something from the lovely Phyllis. When I was at home fussing over what dress, I even got the courage to tell Cinnamon Buns how expensive the dress I liked was. I think it surprised him, but he was supportive of what I wanted. Knowing I had his support really helped me.

This is the story of how a reluctant-to-pay-that-much bride learned to let guilt go, and love the dress that was meant for her. :)

watters lasara back

The back of the dress I chose – photo by Watters.

Search for the Dress: The Dream Store

I call this store my dream store because Mr Cinnamon Buns and I used to drive by it about once a week. There’s just one mannequin in the window, and she’s always wearing the most gorgeous dress you have ever seen. Years before we were engaged I’d steal sneaky looks at the window as we drove past. I always hoped for a red light on that corner!

On my wedding dress shopping day with the mothers we met at our house, went for a nice brunch, then we walked to that first bridal appointment. Then we decided to go back and see Phylis again, also walking distance. On our way there, I realized we were passing close to the dream store, and this might be my chance. I pulled out my iPhone (I’m addicted), got their phone number, and phoned to see if there was room for us in their appointment schedule. It turns out they only take walk-ins! So, we backed up a block and headed to S2 Bridal.

The ladies immediately asked what I wanted, and I said no huge ballgowns, no pick-ups, not tight in the thighs/bum. I have a large rear, and JLo has done a lot for my confidence, but it gets shown off every day when I wear jeans. I didn’t want that at my wedding. Plus, I hated the constricting feeling of the one mermaid I tried on.

My mum went downstairs to the bathroom while I started getting into the first dress the girls picked out. She zipped it up, clipped me in, and I went out to see Cinnamum-in-law. She loved it! It was gorgeous, it looked like this (this store definitely didn’t allow photos):

Watters Lasara dress watters lasara back

It’s a Watters dress, called Lasara (photos from Watters). This store is the only one in Canada that carries the full Watters range!

I kept petting the flowers, and the store girls were telling me how it was all silk (!). Cinnamum came back upstairs, and loved it too. The detail was amazing, and totally different than anything else we’d seen. I’m not big on the sparkle, but I wanted detail, so this was perfect. Then, it happened. Cinnamum asked how much it cost. As soon as she said that, I realized that no one had asked about our budget. We just stormed into the store (we were the only ones in there at 1pm on a Saturday!) and started picking out pretties.

The girl gave a price that was almost exactly double the budget mum and I had talked about. I almost fainted, and the girls also realized their mistake, asked the budget, and went to take away the dresses from the fitting room that were too expensive. That was all but about two of them. Mum stopped them, and reminded me that I knew how much she and dad were contributing to the wedding in total, and that I could spend that how I wanted to – including 25% of it on a fancy dress. I tried on a few more dresses, and liked this one:

Watters WToo Carmen

Watters WToo Carmen (picture from Watters)

This one was actually under the budget, if only by a little. It was quite nice, I loved the flowers on the bodice, and the “saddlebags” (as I called them) were surprisingly flattering. But no one could forget about the super-expensive dress. I showed off my waist, which I wanted, it had detail, it had a sweetheart neckline, which I discovered was way more flattering than square, but it was double the budget. Any time anyone said something nice about it, I pointed out that it was horrendously expensive.

After a lot of talking, we left the store and continued on our way to see Phyllis. Cinnamum and I showed Mr. Cinnamon Buns’s mum the dresses I’d tried on previously, and I tried on a new one that was a semi-hit with both mums:

boob bow1

It had the sweetheart, it would be tight in the waist when I got the right size, it had the layers I liked from the fairy dress, it was flowy, both mums liked it…. but it wasn’t the expensive dress.

At that point we called it a day, and for the rest of the evening I thought about the expensive dress. I remembered telling Cinnamon Buns that my #1 priority for wedding spending was a great photographer. This dress would cost as much as we were planning on paying a photographer. It was 25% of the wedding funding my parents offered us. It was pretty. It was silk. Why did it suddenly matter that it wasn’t polyester? I hadn’t even thought about that until they told me it was silk. But now I only wanted silk. The embroidery would take time, a machine couldn’t do it, so that was proof of real people working on it. Did those people get a good wage? At that price I hope so. Would I be to scared to wear it because it cost so much? Surely I can find something nice for cheaper. Why couldn’t I love one of Phyllis’ dresses that much? And on and on and on and on….

That was my state of mind when I fell asleep that night. I can’t remember if I dreamed about dresses and dancing dollar signs, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

After mum left that weekend, I tried to stop thinking about dresses. I was so horrified with myself that I was even thinking of choosing a dress that cost that much that I just ignored it. A week or two later, I went for lunch with Cinnamum-in-law, and she surprised me by saying that if that was the dress I loved, she would pay the difference between what mum and I had originally budgeted and the actual cost of the dress, which was almost exactly 50% on the dress’ cost. It was an amazing offer, and I thanked her profusely, and then I stopped thinking about it again. The fact that I might actually end up wearing a dress that cost that much, a dress that cost almost as much as the food?! My little brain couldn’t handle it, so I ignored it. I continued to look a dresses online, hoping I’d find something wonderful and cheap that I’d love even more, for about 2 months.

I hope I’m not the only one who has put a wedding task on hold because it was too overwhelming to think about!

Search For the Dress: What was out there

I booked an appointment at a bridal salon for the Saturday mum was visiting. I’d also asked Cinnamum-in-law and Cinnemaid A to come along. Sadly, A had a wedding shower to throw for her brother’s fiancee that same day so she couldn’t make it.

On the Friday, Cinnamum and I found ourselves at a loose end downtown after I’d finished work, so we decided to go to Echo Bridal, a store that just opened up in a newly renovated building downtown. We had no appointment, but it was 2:30pm on a Friday, so we weren’t expecting crowds. When we got there, there was no one in there but Phyllis the saleslady, so we dove in! She gave us some clothes pegs, and told us to mark the dresses I wanted to try, and she’d collect them up for us. Echo also does evening wear – those ball gowns are mainly on the top floor of the building in their other store, but there were a few coloured dresses in the wedding shop that Phyllis said could be ordered in any colour, including white and ivory. I was drawn to one of those, so that got a peg. I searched for short dresses, and there were only a couple in the whole store, so they got pegs. Mum was picking big dresses. :) The first thing we noticed was that most of these dresses were well under $1000. We hadn’t talked budget at that point in time, but my only experience with wedding dresses was Say Yes to the Dress (which I may or may not have bought on iTunes) where the associates struggle to find things in the $2000 range.

Eventually, I started trying things on!

fairy dress1 fairy dress bust

I’m not sure why the first one is a photo of me in the mirror, not a photo of actually me. Cinnamum being an arty photographer?

Many of Echo’s dresses are from Turkey, and we never learned the designer’s name, so right now we’ve just got these few photos, my memory, and descriptive prose. :)

The one above was way huger than I ever imagined, but the bottom layers of the skirt were cut into points, which made me feel like a fairy or an elf, which was fun. This one was discontinued, so we could have only bought the sample. The frill at the top of the bodice was coming undone, and it was much too big. That was something I wasn’t prepared for after hearing other brides talk. Everyone talked about how only mannequins and the tiniest of ladies could fit into sample sizes. Now I’m not delusional, so I know I’m small. I wasn’t expecting not to fit into dresses, I was expecting that most would be in my size. I turned out that all but one of the dresses I tried on all weekend were too big, and needed major clipping in the back. Dress length was exactly what I was expecting though – miles too long. Most came right the way down to the ground when I was standing on the step in the store. Now I know why those steps are there!

sari dress1 sari dress2

Please excuse the ‘durrrr’ face in the first photo! (You can see Phyllis holding it tight in the mirror in the first photo).

This was one of the dresses that could come in any colour you wanted. I loved the one shoulder strap, and the crinkle fabric that was inset  in the middle of the skirt. It was soft and flowy and lots of fun. It made me feel a bit like I was wearing a sari, and a bit like a princess, probably because of this dress:

princess di

(source)

I think I only ever told mum I felt like a princess, I never mentioned that I had a specific princess in mind! The problem with the beloved purple dress was that if I wanted to see it in white/ivory… I’d have to order it. As in, pay for, sight unseen. That was a little hard for us to do, so we left to think about it, plus we still had the next day’s appointment at another place! Mum and I both agreed that we liked Phyllis, and I wanted to be able to get her her commission by buying a dress there.

Saturday, we went to Ethos Bridal, which has some polar opposite reviews available online. I chalked up bad reviews of dress places to brides being really emotional about their dresses, which is fair, but not unbiased. I felt comfortable there, and didn’t have a bad experience. That said, I didn’t find a great dress there either. I did find my first real, live, in-person tea-length dress though! I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to take photos, so I took some sneaky ones with my phone in the dressing room. I don’t remember there being any labels in the dresses either (THAT is annoying!). Because I took sneaky pics, all the clips had been taken out of the back, so the fit isn’t the greatest.

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This was by far the biggest dress I tried on in my wedding-dress-trying-on career. If I had let go of the chunk of fabric I’m holding onto in the back, it would literally slip right off me and onto the ground, with the zip done up! Now I may be a size 2 from the waist up, but Queen wrote my personal theme song, so I was quite impressed at how big that dress was – I’m happy to see stores carrying more dresses that everyone can fit into. Even when it was clipped, and the lady brought a birdcage veil (this was the only place I visited that did the veil and accessories thing)… I was underwhelmed. It made me feel very very young, like I was 12. That was the moment when tea-length thing left the building.

Everybody liked the lace though, so the lady brought us this:

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In contrast, this was the only dress all weekend that actually fit. It was also a sample, and quite nice. We asked about what buying a sample would entail – there was a rip around the zip in the back, and obvious signs of wear. The lady kept reassuring us that they could fix it, but we were all skeptical. If it had been two sizes too big like all the other dresses, sure. But there was no spare fabric in it, because it fit like a glove! I also think the shop lady sensed weakness at that point, because she did up the pushiness. It is her job though, so we left it to go walk and think.

As we were walking I realized that we were near my dream bridal store. I hadn’t booked an appointment there, because Cinnamum and I wanted to go somewhere that had Pronovias dresses. That was the brand of dress she wore on her wedding, and I liked some of their designs I saw on the web. Ethos was the only one listed in Calgary that sold them, although Echo did too. But with dress fail at Ethos, we thought we’d try the dream store.

I don’t think it was the lady’s fault we didn’t find a dress at Ethos. At that point I was still in the tea-length mindset (unless it was the purple dress!) and when that was blown out of the water, I was left with… nothing no idea what I wanted. I think it is good I was shocked out of that early, but it was definitely a jolt to the brain.

Next up: the store of my dreams!

Search for The Dress: What I Thought I Wanted

Soon after our engagement, while on a plane, I was flipping channels on the TV to get to my customary Food Network (we don’t have it at home, so I need to get my Iron Chef fix where I can!) and I found a show that had ladies in wedding dresses. I stopped. I watched my first episode of Say Yes To The Dress. And then I watched 3 more, because it was a marathon! Was this a sign, or what?

After watching for a couple hours, I thought I’d decided some things:

1. I did not want a ball gown. I’m only 5’3″ and I’d feel like it was eating me.

2. I couldn’t stand the bride that went in with a set budget, then tried on something twice the budget, then whined for the rest of the show about how that was the best dress and could mommy please cough up more money. I asked myself “If it is that important to her, why doesn’t she pony up the extra $2000?”

I also thought I wanted a vintage, tea-length dress. It was all the rage on the wedding blogs, and looked so romantic, and you could show off cute shoes! I love shoes! Cinnamon Buns liked the idea of me wearing a dress like that because it meant that he could be less formal than a tux. These were a couple of my inspirations/aspirations:

Gorgeous vintage dress, with some colour!

Dress made out of doilies!

I loved that look, and that was what I wanted. Period.

I started searching vintage sites, mainly Posh Girl Vintage, and found a few contenders (long since sold, sorry!):

yellow and white too small dress

I wasn’t necessarily searching in their wedding dress category, because I didn’t think I wanted white either. I loved the lacy one with the interesting neckline because it was different, and I loved the yellow one because I immediately had the perfect accessories in mind:

bonzie bolero frye maya teal

A bolero from Bonzie (I’ve been coveting one of these for at least a year!), and Frye Maya Vintage Stud shoes, which I’d already drooled over at my local shoe store, Gravity Pope.

Plus, I was also set on a birdcage veil – set enough that it was birdcage or nothing, in my mind. I loved these two dresses but… it’s hard to buy vintage online. Buying new is easy but I feel that I need to inspect vintage things closely, I want to feel them in my hands, check with my own eyes for stains and rips. So, I didn’t buy them. I really wanted to, but Cinnamum booked her trip to come visit a couple weeks after we got engaged, and I knew she’d want to go dress shopping, and I did kinda want to go and try on hilariously enormous dresses and laugh. I also wanted to share that experience with my mum, as she doesn’t live in the same city. I thought it would be fun to play dress-up. I also looked forward to the chance to try on some tea-length gowns in person, and maybe even find The One. I knew that there were new dresses out there in the style I wanted – I had found pictures of this Priscilla of Boston dress online, and had been drooling over them regularly!

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Picture by Priscilla of Boston

We’ll see how well the search turned out next! Did anyone else have very firm ideas from the start? Did you stick to those ideas, or did they melt away?

PS: If I was still looking at Posh Girl Vintage for my dress, I’d be obsessing over these babies:

Pink! Streamers on the shoulders!

Irises. I love the idea of a patterned dress!

Lovely lace again!