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Thinking Outside the Dress: What My Purchase Means

The Dress.

I cringe at the thought of buying The Dress: Thousands of buttons. Hundreds of yards of corset laces. Forty-seven outfits pinching, squeezing, or drowning my frame.

I continue to cringe as I think of all the obligations and people that would go with me, helping me try on a dissatisfying dress followed by a dress disastrously out of my budget. Dress shopping isn’t for me, and wedding dress shopping is a far cry from the joyous experience it is supposed to represent. And heaven help me, but just as the wedding industry says it must be a diamond on the ring, so they also say it must be a huge expense and a white floofy gown.

So I looked outside The Dress. I didn’t have friends and family comment on how I look in a white gown, or cringe as the alteration costs make the total skyrocket past the sticker price. Instead, I made an appointment with a local artist. And it was with a satisfying, “down with the system!” anti-consumerist smug look, I made my first appointment with a seamstress.

I chose a seamstress over the boutique experience for my own reasons at first: No awkward fittings. No worries about how I pick a dress when I live far away from family. No alteration surprises. But by the time I walked into my first designing session, I had chosen a seamstress for whole different reasons: 100% personalization, environmentally friendly processes, support for local artists, and ways to honor my family.

Petite. Oh, most people think that to be a petite size you rule the world—nothing could be farther from the truth! Straps slip down, tops are too loose and “fitted” just doesn’t work. No, being petite brings its own set of problems, one that was erased the moment I chose to have my dress handmade. Measured twice, designed once, my dress is made for a small top and wider hips. And the pockets! Did I tell you I wanted pockets? Oh yes, all the deep pockets a dress-wearer would want.  And a sweatheart neckline.  And an A-line.  And a simple, clean design. Having a personalized dress is a marvelous feeling.

Remember when I said I was smug when I made my first appointment? Add a +5 bonus to the smug look you’re imagining, because my seamstress runs an organic business, and will make my dress in untreated and ecologically friendly cotton and hemp. And this would be made—handmade—by a local artist. One of my larger wedding expenses would go 100% into the local economy.  Add +7 to my socialistic, anti-consumerist smugness.

She took scissors to my grandmother’s 70 year old, preserved wedding gown—and I let her.  Oh, it was a marvelous thing! I brought with me to my design sessions both my mother’s dress and my maternal grandmother’s dress. My dress incorporates the sheer top of my mother’s dress and the beautiful buttons and lace of my grandmother’s dress. Snip. Snip. Chop. Snip.  In a matter of minutes these beautiful dresses were forever altered and made useful. My dress will be three generations in one: very fitting, as I am my grandmother’s only granddaughter.

And now I wait as the seamstress carefully cuts, pins, and brings together my smug, down-with-the-system, personalized, eco-friendly, family honoring, dress.

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