I’m getting married on April 25th, and I’ve been dabbling in wedding dress shopping for a while now. At first I wanted a short, sparkly dress that I could wear again for other functions. I went to places at the mall like Cache and BCBG and perused the cocktail dresses. When the salesclerks asked me “are you shopping for a particular occasion?” I’d say, “uh, yeah, my wedding, actually.” I could see their faces straining to hold back the surprise.
But as much as I like to be unique and surprise people, I couldn’t find anything I loved in the short, non-traditional category. Plus, I started to think that a long dress is going to look better in pictures. A wedding is only for one day, but the pictures last a lifetime (and that’s exactly what I’ll remind myself when we write the check to the photographer). So I started edging towards the idea of a more “bridal” looking dress.
I’d been avoiding going into an actual bridal shop, though, because I was afraid of the big, extravagant dresses and their big, extravagant price tags. But over the holidays I went with my soon-to-be-mother-in-law to a discount bridal store in North Carolina and tried on some bridesmaids dresses that could be ordered in ivory. I took an interest in a long dress with lacy cap sleeves. They didn’t have it in my size or color, and the neckline was too high, but my vision had now totally changed from something short and sparkly to something long and lacy.
My friends Jeni and Daniel (who are both writers) just got married, and Jeni (who thought she didn’t want a traditional dress) wore something long and white. They had a small ceremony for friends and family over the weekend, so I came to New Orleans (that’s where I am now!) to attend. It was great to see some of my writing professors from UNO and my writer friends from my MFA program and beyond.
It’s been great being back in New Orleans in general, and yesterday my friend Chana and I got eggnog daiquiris and then headed over to David’s Bridal so she could help me look for a dress. (The only way to wedding dress shop, I’m now convinced, is with a friend and a daiquiri.)
While Chana and I were waiting for someone to help us, we checked out the clearance rack. I pulled out a pink and leopard print number with lots of rhinestones that was basically the most insanely ridiculous dress I’d ever seen. Chana and I laughed about it, and I decided to try it on just for fun. In absolutely no way did I think it was something I would want to own.
And with the crazy dress draped over one arm, I described to the salesclerk my new vision: a long bridesmaid dress with lacy cap sleeves that can be ordered in ivory. They had two dresses that fit this description, so I tried them both on, and one of them I really liked and might end up ordering as my wedding dress.
“Okay,” I called to Chana from the dressing room. “I’m trying on the crazy dress now.”
It was absolutely the craziest dress I’d ever seen, but it fit pretty well and was… sort of awesome. Maybe the “so bad it’s good” type of awesome, but I stepped out of the dressing room, laughing, and said, “I kind of love it.”
“Oh my god, so do I!” Chana was laughing, too.
“Where would I wear this, though?”
“Anywhere,” a salesclerk said. “Absolutely anywhere.”
I was almost more excited about this crazy-tacky dress than my possible wedding dress. I had thought I was trying it on as a joke, but now… “It’s so amazing, I almost don’t want to take it off,” I said. Some of the other girls in the store, wearing their poofy white dresses, stared at me.
And guess what: I bought the crazy dress. It was on super clearance, and I will find something to wear it to. Maybe with a leopard mask to next year’s Burlesque Press News Years Eve Masquerade Ball (organized by my newly-wed friend Jeni). Or maybe I’ll just wear it around the house when I need a little excitement. I’ll find a way to make it work. And hopefully today I’ll make a decision about my real wedding dress, too.
I told Chana (who is kindly letting me stay at her house) that I was going to write about dress shopping, but I was going to find a way to tie it in to writing, so here goes…
First of all, when you start writing a story or a novel, you might have a specific vision, like I did with the short, sparkly dress. But over time, especially if you’re writing something long, the vision may change, sometimes dramatically. And that’s ok. It’s part of the process. Don’t hold on too tightly to what you initially thought the story (or dress) would be, and stay open-minded.
Secondly, sometimes it’s good to pursue a really crazy, ridiculous, pink and leopard print idea, even if it has nothing to do with what you’re currently working on. Follow your intuition. Have fun. Laugh a little. Let yourself get sidetracked creatively. Take a break from your novel to write a short story or a poem or to do something unusual that might inspire your writing later. Like love and life, you just never know where it might go.