Today I made a big step in the road towards bridehood. I put down a deposit on my wedding dress. "But (Ari)Ella," I hear you cry in protest, "How could you possibly have put down a deposit on a dress that has not even been whispered about yet? Did you not bring 18 friends and acquaintances to Kleinfelds to tell you how beautiful you look in a pink tutu and laugh at the dress of your dreams until that sassy gay man tells them to cut it out and guide you through the path of self-actualization until you shout 'YES!' to your dress through a veil of tears?" "No," says I, "I did not. That show scares me." (and plus, Max hasn't let me watch it in years).
The calm and ease surrounding the acquisition of my wedding dress is a gift from my mother, whose creativity and brainstorm method allows her to come up with the strangest solutions that actually make the most sense. In this case, her idea was getting a custom gown made. "But (Ari)Ella," I hear you interrupt again, "Won't that cost an infinite number of dollars? Why would you do that?" Well, as it turns out, no. Getting a dress custom-made is shockingly cost-effective, especially considering, you know, it's custom, so I can get exactly what I want and have it love my body like nothing I've ever owned.
When you buy a wedding dress through the usual route, you shop through dresses until you find the perfect one, or until you get fed up and just choose one. For some people, like my friends Chelsea and Monica, this can be an incredibly easy process. I think it took Chelsea a week from proposal to purchase, and Monica fell in love with the first dress she tried on. Other girls just really enjoy the shopping process, so don't care how long it takes them to find their dress. Those of you who have been shopping with me know this is not me. My process is usually to go to Target, find three things I like, and then pick the best color or pattern (or two or three) and get out of there. Alternatively, I fly through Marshall's flipping through dresses and tops like they're pages of a 300-page book I forgot to read for the paper I have to write due tomorrow, grab my allotted seven items, try them, and then toss them or buy them. Sarah admonishes me when I refuse to try things on because I just want to get to the kitchen aisle. Joey has even admitted that shopping with me is an unpainful experience. This ruthless efficiency, while good for Joey when I need a new skirt, makes the prospect of appointment upon appointment to try on sample-size wedding dresses fills me with dread. Make that filled me with dread. With a custom wedding dress, I just sit down and talk to them about what I want, then go in for a few fittings. No shopping required.
The other thing is the cost. Wedding dresses are expensive, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone. The average cost of a wedding dress before tailoring and veiling and embellishments and all those extras is upwards of a thousand dollars. Part of what you are paying for is the name on the label. Vera Wang, Panina... that's all I know. Also, you want your dress to fit perfectly so you're going to pay for alterations and tailoring on top of that. And even then, you end up with an edited original. With a custom dress, I get something that is designed to work best with my body. The woman at the shop pointed out things that would make me look good and steered me away from things that wouldn't work with my shape. The alterations as we go through the fittings will be made by the original seamstress so she'll know exactly how best to work with the dress to achieve the desired result. And, because it's being made by Han in Metairie, it's a lot less needlessly expensive than something made by Panina (well, Panina's minions) in Manhattan. Also, making the dress fit perfectly is part of the process, not a paid extra.
A few weeks ago, I got the name of a workshop from the lovely Kim Coleman, beautiful fashionista and Maid of Mid-City (to those of you not from New Orleans, that means she rode in a Mardi Gras parade). I knew she'd know the best places. I went in for a consultation with them that basically consisted of flipping through Brides magazine and talking about what I liked and didn't like, and what would and would not look good on me. We sketched out a basic dress and talked about fabric and that was about it. I sent the sketch and inspiration dresses to my bridesmaid and maid of honor and they approved and gave a couple helpful suggestions.
Today, I went back in for measurements and to put down my deposit. I'll go in once more for to make a muslin rough draft of what the dress will look like before I leave New Orleans, and then twice more for additional fittings before it's ready for me to bring home. As my mom pointed out, having to go to New Orleans is not the worst thing in the world. Also, it will make me happy to have a little NOLA with me as I walk down the aisle.