I'm not even looking. I just happen to have some extra time on a Tuesday afternoon to slip into a little vintage shop in town I hadn't checked out yet. The very chatty and hyper-active (she blames this on new allergy meds) shop owner keeps bringing me items she thinks I'll like, based on my current attire and accessories, as I casually peruse.
Then the question finally comes: "What are you looking for?"
"Well, nothing really," I say. Then on a whim I add, "Although, I'm getting married next summer, so I'm kind of on the lookout for a dress, not like a wedding dress, just a dress, something simple.
Oh, boy, that was all I needed to say. She is off.
"I don't have any on display now, but I've got tons in storage," she shouts as she runs to a large closet and pulls out a black plastic trash bag. Oddly enough, I'm not put off by this and figure it's worth a look.
She digs in, pulling out piles of yellowed lace, tulle, and froof.
I give my politest, "That's really pretty," as I shake my head no, but continue to play along since I have time to kill.
Then I see it -- it's short, it poofs just a little at the waste, and it has these delicate little soft pink flowers embroidered on the bodice. It doesn't look like my style, but for some reason I am drawn enough to this one to pick it up for a closer look.
She darts off to greet another customer. Facing me, I hold it out to take it all in. Then I spin it around, hold it up to my body to check the length, and happen to peer into a full length mirror in the changing room a few feet in front of me.
"Oh yeah!" she says as she grabs a few more and leads me to the unconventional changing room/bathroom.
And there I am, about to try on actual wedding dresses.
Some background about me -- I am the pinnacle of nontraditional. I have already gotten into a fight with my father (giving any mother-of-the-bride a run for her money) about not wanting a photographer. I want my wedding to be as unwedding-like as possible. No first dance, no shoving cake into each other's faces, and definitely no walk down an aisle in a frilly and expensive dress.
Before I slip it on I ponder how I even got into this position, and ask myself do I really want to do this?
More background on me -- I am a very slow mover. I take time to weigh out the pros and cons of every decision I make. This could be between toilet paper roll brands (is it cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and easier to buy an 8-pack of 3-ply or a 12 pack of 2-ply?), or more serious decisions, like moving across the country.
Having thought this out as an idea I am still behind, I slip it on. I try it on first, because it is actually only my second favorite dress hanging in the changing room, wanting to save a simple 1930s gown for last that looks more like my style.
I try to fit it over my head first -- that isn't going to happen. Then I step into it, gently easing it over my hips, careful not to tear the antique fabric. It goes up, barely. I try to zip. Not quite. (I'm slightly on the bustier side). I open the door, half hanging out of the dress.
"Oh yeah. That fits," she says as she comes in and tells me to stand normally as she zips it the remaining few inches. And it does, with only the slightest catch of my breath, the boning insisting on my very best straight-backed posture.
I kinda fall in love.
But what am I doing? Here I am standing in front of the mirror in a 1950s dress that poofs at the waist and has pink on it -- pink!
Another background note -- I hate pink! It stems from growing up with Pepto-Bismol pink bedroom walls. I have hated it since the first time I saw my new bedroom, standing before it in our new house, my parents telling me it would be mine "because it's pink" (my brother's happened to be blue). Even then, before I even knew what the word meant, I was a little feminist.
1950s! The very emblem of everything I do not want to be as a bride and wife. The decade that spawned second wave feminism.
"That looks gorgeous."
And it does.
As I casually ask the price, I find it is very in my range (my range being anything between an Old Navy and Nordstrom sales rack).
"You have good taste," she says as she looks at the label -- apparently a designer name for its time.
I see the disappointment on her face as she makes me slip on heels when I tell her I'll be wearing flip flops or hiking boots. I admit it does look better with heels, but that's not happening. I take one last look then gingerly pull it over my head and put it back on the hanger.
I'd like to say I buy the dress right then and there (or at least put down the deposit so she could begin the restoration process), but I don't. I take her card instead, and cross the street for lunch.
I would like to say I cross the street after lunch and buy the dress.
I need to mull this all over. Mull over this new idea of me as a bride -- analyze the pros and cons of appearing in a vintage 1950s wedding dress, the logistics of hiking to our remote location in it, and more, being the type of wife that wore that dress to her wedding.
Or could I just say f*$% it? F*$% it because it accentuates my body type, makes me beam when I glance at myself in the mirror, and feels good.
A month later, I'm ready to commit. I bring my mother back and we buy the dress, only after trying on a few of the frillier, froofier dresses to humor her and have a good laugh.
I'll be in a white hiking skort for the actual ceremony, taking place in the woods by a waterfall with a few close friends and family. The dress will be what I wear to my reception. Because, I believe, in life, and on your wedding day, you should have your cake and eat it too.
A big thank you to The Outskirts Vintage Clothing Shop in Farmington, Maine.