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the renegade bride

the wild, wacky adventures of a bridal industry insider +newlywed + new homeowner and (in practice)renovation-maven. Whee!

Ahh…. dress shopping. I had such a wonderful time trying on so much loveliness! I wanted to share the tale of my journey along with the gowns that I tried on and what I thought about them and why, and I will confess that one of these dresses is THE dress :) Future Husband, please do not read this blog post :D

Like any sensible bride, I started the day with a budget for my gown that I thought was pretty solid– up to about 2500. I say “about” because I knew I needed a little bit of leeway one way or the other. I gave a considerable chunk of our budget to the gown for a few reasons– one, quality is VERY important to me.  We are investing in several key things that are important in regard to how they translate in photography. I think a fabulous dress looks fabulous in photos, and I’m all about that. Secondly, I want to feel amazing in my dress– I am comfortable spending a little more to make it look freaking amazing on me.  I think that a more couture/higher end gown has better materials and is better constructed– plus, it’s essentially made for you. I have such a greater appreciation for wardrobe and the value of a well constructed, high quality piece of clothing now that I know the difference between them. Sometimes this knowledge is both a blessing and a curse– thanks WNTW.

Anyway, that being said, I also am a practical person. Budgeting such a huge chunk of our dollars in dresses makes me feel like I’m either on crack or that I’ve been dropped on my head a few times. I appreciate the value of our very scarce dollars, and so I want you to know, dear reader, that it is hard for me spending a small fortune on a dress. That being said, let’s begin.

The day started at 10 am. I came in wearing my foundation (ladies, I strongly recommend that you do the same when trying on– it really helps to smooth and make you feel a little more tucked in) I have the Spanxx Higher Power– a great little gem of an undergarment and a strapless bra. I was ready to rock it out! Anyway, I tried on about 10 dresses– and I tried on a variety of styles. I decided that since I like lace so much that I’d definitely try a few lace options, including a lace sheath that did not fit over my hips, and a few other lacey concoctions that didn’t work. I tried on a dress from the Monique Lhullier bliss collection– and while I liked the dress it just wasn’t for me. I tried on simple dresses, complicated dresses, dresses with lots of beading and embellishments, dresses that made me look 12 and dresses that made me look 50 and at the end of the hour, I had two major contenders.

Dress I was a Jim Hjelm. I found that I really like these dresses– designed by Franchesca Pitera, I’d spent the past few weeks cultivating a lil crush on all things Jim Hjelm.

Technically a ballgown shape, this did something pretty to my body that I really liked. It had a lil lace, it had a lil bling, and I liked both of those things. It also was cut with Satin, and I’ve found that looks amazing on me. The skirt was full and lovely.

And the second contender was another ballgown by Lazaro. Lazaro is in the same design house as Jim Hjelm (and I really like the J.H.), which seemed interesting to me that I was kind of drawn to the same house of designers. The dress had a sweetheart neckline and a beaded waist, along with a chapel length train. It was cut from satin and was oh-so pretty. I never thought I could look good in a ballgown, but this dress definitely had  the “Wow” factor that my peanut gallery, er, audience, er, entourage were really into:

At this point I realized that dress shopping was really hard. I didn’t have a “feeling” about either of those dresses except for that I looked pretty in them. I went to the next shop with a better idea of what I wanted to try and didn’t want to try– as well as a budget check: both of my “faves” were over 2500 from store A, so I knew I had to reign it in. I got way more attuned to looking at price tag first, dress second. We went through the racks, picked out some choices, and then launched into trying on.

I tried on a lot of dresses that I emerged from the dressing room with a mixed response. For the most part, I think everyone was comparing it to the way I looked in the ball gown. There was something fabulous about it that everyone really liked– a kind of grown up sophistication that made me look like the bride I was, not the bride I could have been at age 20. I was getting kind of discouraged. I groused to the assistant helping me that the stupid wow factor was getting in the way, and she  left and came back with two dresses. “I just want you to try these two on– you may not like them, and that’s ok, but just indulge me.”

I pulled the first one off the rack. It was pretty, but it was a trumpet dress. I’ve got an hourglass figure, but I have huge hips. They bow out and welcome the birth of future babies.  It was a strapless trumpet- scaring me into wondering what would happen if I were to pop out with the girls. I tried it on– and of all the dresses that day, it was the only one that was too big– so that when she came and tightened it up in the back, it looked the way it would look if it fit. I stared at myself in the mirror before I walked out. Was that me? I looked like a…well, goddess.

I walked out. The look on their faces said it– it was like, oh. Oh. OH. It kinda made you a little speechless. I stood up in the mirror and then asked the all-important question– can I sash it? The answer? Yes. We put an elepant (swoon) satin sash around the waist, accented with a brooch, and the look was…well, in short– it made the room feel like there was a little less air in it:

The designer? Alvina Valenta. (Coincidentally also in the design house with Jim Hjelm…interesting, no?)  Alceon lace detail in white with satin–  let me let you read this description, “ivory silk duchess satin soft fluted bridal gown. Strapless soft scoop neckline with winter white alencon lace on bodice and Ivory silk organza draping at empire waist. Deep border of winter white alencon lace surrounds hemline and inverted pleat at center back. Covered buttons and loops over zipper down center back, sweep train.”

The color combination are endless for the dutchess satin, but I love the ivory & winter white combination:


I found this awesome website — Your Dream Dress– for great sashes and brooches. They even let you order swatch samples!

and I found this amazing brooch:

Both of which I thought were pretty rockin.  When I looked at myself in the mirror– I felt like a woman, a beautiful woman about to embark on the happiest day of her life. The longer I wore it, the more I loved it. Then, the sad part  came– my sales associate wrote down the price.

It was 1,130 dollars over my max budget.

I walked out of the store with the great feeling of “finding it” gone. I kind of was bummed as we went to the last store– but I quickly recovered because It was my favorite store, with people there that I love and a sea of Monique Lhullier and other favorites. I was sure I’d find the right dress in the right budget. I was greeted with the warmth and love I expected from the fine women that worked there, and they had already pulled an assortment of lovely.

Now, ya’ll may recall my love affair with Edith by Monique L. Read about that here I loved Edith with all my heart, and the only reason I broke off our love was because she was a whopping 6400. I decided that I wanted to serve alcohol at my reception, so we had to let that dream die.

But, the ladies at store 3 knew of my love and were sympathetic toward it, and had approached finding dresses that would fill that void in my heart– of course, they did not know that the void had been recently filled with another dress I couldn’t afford– Alvina’s. Stupid Alvina. Anyway,  they had a recent acquisition of a dress named Juno from Augusta Jones.  Juno was definitely Edith inspired– Alceon lace instead of Chantiilly, but a very similar feeling:

It was sweet. It was pretty. I looked pretty in it. We added a sash and a brooch. The peanut gallery were kinda silent. They said they thought it looked pretty. I walked around in it. I did a lot of looking in the mirror to tell myself mentally that it was my second favorite of the day– and that I just needed to let the other one go.

Inside, I hated that I felt that way– from a practical standpoint, the dress was right on budget– 2000. It’s beautiful. It’s light and airy and perfect for June. It would look so pretty bustled. It is a great dress.

Outside, I kept smiling and looking in the mirror and saying to myself (and aloud) it’s perfect. It was so much like Edith in a lot of ways– it felt like it had the same bones of design, but it lacked some of the structure I so loved about edith. With the sash replacing the belt it had a great look & shape:

Sweetheart neckline– imagine a dark gray sash where the belt is:

And the back:

Thanks for the Ring Bearer for the Juno images

The main issue with Juno is not only that it contends with the Alvina dress– its that it has a different feeling. It makes me question– do I want to feel like a beautiful, sophisticated woman, or do I want to have a very sweet and traditional bride look? Do I want to look like a wedding goddess or a wedding princess? That’s a hard choice. The more I do with the design & concept of my wedding the more the goddess thing kinda comes out– the entire plan is more of an elegant sophistication that is classic as opposed to soft and whimsical and sweet.

So, I left shop 3 with the same kind of feeling I’d had all day– stupid money. Money makes the world go round. And then, MOG that joined with the shopping experience pulled me aside and told me that she was giving me money to put toward the dress. “I don’t want you to settle,” she said, and then she told me a story about how she once was in my very shoes and she settled and bought a dress that was pretty, but it wasn’t the dress. Her soon to be grandma-in-law pulled her aside and told her she didn’t want her to settle– so she bought her the dress that she really wanted. “It was a simple, sweet dress but I felt amazing in it, and everyone deserves that feeling when they walk down the aisle– to feel amazing.”

Her words made me get all teary eyed and emo, of course, and I couldn’t believe her amazing generosity. It should have made the decision easy, to say ok, you now have this money…but I still feel guilty considering spending such a tiny fortune on a dress I’ll wear once. So, virtual peanut gallery–weigh in. What do you think of the above loveliness–and if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

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