"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Monday, March 14, 2011

Running of the Brides: Exploring my Bridentity

On Friday, I went to the Running of the Brides, an event where sample bridal dresses are sold to the general public at a steep discount. The doors open at 8 am, and while some people are crazy enough to line up for hours prior just to get to run in and grab dresses first, I couldn't stomach this thought and waited to go around noon with a gal from the Offbeat Bride Tribe. The place was much emptier and calmer by then.

Why did I go? I'm not quite sure. From the start of the wedding-planning process, I haven't thought of myself as white gown material and haven't yet set foot in a bridal salon. Dress shopping has mostly consisted of ogling things online and trying on fancy dresses at department stores. In fact, sometimes I've worried that I'd end up like Carrie Bradshaw, who breaks out into hives when she tries on a wedding dress and has to be ripped out of it because she can't breathe. And yet I still felt drawn to go to this event, partly because I was curious and partly because I can't resist a bargain. I figured if nothing else, I'd meet a new friend, I'd get to try on different dress styles and see what looked best on my body, and hey, maybe I could find a plain off-white dress with a floaty skirt that lent itself to colorful embellishment by a seamstress.

My experience was interesting (and thankfully did not involve hyperventilation or hives, though I was quite nervous in the hours leading up to it) but ultimately disappointing. There weren't that many dresses in larger sizes. Many were size 10 or 12--but keep in mind that bridal dress sizes are larger than street clothes sizes because street clothes are vanity sized. So since I'm a 16 in real life (and yes, I am putting my real clothing size out there because SIZE IS NOTHING BUT A NUMBER AND SHOULD NEVER DICTATE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF! I am not ashamed of my size and never will be again, and you shouldn't be either, ever--you are amazing as you are!), I need a size 18 or larger in a bridal gown. Well, there were slim pickings for us zaftig girls. I don't know if there were just less larger dresses to begin with (my suspicion--the clothing industry is not kind to women with curves) or if all the curvy women came early and snatched everything up, but when I was there, it was hard to find things I'd fit into.

Also a problem was that many of the dresses, whether or not they were in my size, were sort of weird-looking or just plain ugly. Some of these made for fun as we tried them on and modeled them for each other. My companion tried on a polyester-type dress that had pink and white VELOUR floral accents on it. Yes, you read that right: VELOUR. It had a detachable train, with more velour accents, and a giant pink velour butt bow. Amazing!

 My dress is made of 100% Nana's couch!

I tried on a two-piece ensemble and had the first-time pleasure of being laced into a corset top. I felt like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. It doesn't show as much in this photo, but it was VERY gold--like shiny-like-foil gold. This photo is much more subdued and doesn't do the dress justice.

It's golden, baby! Oh so very GOLDEN.

Of the dresses that did fit me, a few had silhouettes that were quite flattering on my body and that I didn't dislike, but none of the dresses spoke to me. I didn't feel at all like a bride in them; I didn't feel comfortable in them. No matter how well they fit or how lovely they were, I just didn't feel like myself in any of them. They weren't true to who I am. The long trains and the white, the sea of white--just not for me. I showed Jeremy a photo of a dress that was flattering on me and he said, "That's the kind of dress a mom would want to see her daughter in."

If the photographer has to urge you to smile, you know the dress isn't for you.

I'm having a real struggle with the dress portion of our wedding. I think it's where I'm feeling the most disconnect between fantasy and reality. I'm having a lot of trouble seeing myself as a bride. I can envision myself as a wife, and this thought actually brings me a lot of happiness and fulfillment, because I am looking forward to being one half of Team Tridal officially. But I haven't quite incorporated the role of bride into my current identity--it doesn't feel like a part of who I am right now. I think that's why I felt a little let down after I got home from this event--or maybe I should be secretly rejoicing, who knows. I just could not identify with this part that I shared in common with all the other women in that room--a bride.

I seem so much NOT a bride. The woman dressed up in white with a veil and presented to her groom--it's so very much not who I am. It's so antithetical to everything about me. I am independent, vivacious, bold, loud, colorful, and in this white dress, I felt squelched, like I needed to be meek and smiling sweetly and faking innocence. I felt like I was shrinking into a shell of myself. The dress felt like a costume for a role in a play I did not want. I want to throw away that script and start over. I want to rewrite things my way, so they fit with who I actually am and what my real role is within this relationship, this wedding, this marriage. The white dress doesn't fit with any of that. In it, I felt imprisoned and subdued.

On my wedding day, I don't really want to be a bride is what this ultimately comes down to. I just want to be me, on a day when I happen to be marrying my dearest friend and entering into a partnership of husband and wife. I want to look beautiful, which Jeremy has assured me I will, no matter what I wear. I want to wear something that celebrates ME: me as an individual, as who I am before the wedding and who I will be after it. Me, all of me, the parts that make me an individual, the things that make me strong and weak, the good and the bad--but it must all be real. I don't want anything inauthentic about this day; I do not want to step into this marriage not feeling completely at home in my own skin and whatever it is I chose to wear on my skin. So even though my experience at Running of the Brides was probably rather different from what many women think of when they envision a white dress--romance, excitement, beauty--it did at least help affirm for me that I am absolutely not a white dress kind of gal. And I am 110% okay with that.

All aboard the crazy train.


Nina Alvarez said...

That white dress is EFFING incredible looking on you. And I really enjoyed reading this post, my friend.

Alexis Miller said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog because I had somewhat the same experience while going through the whole "bride" experience. I didn't see myself as a white dress wearing, bouquet carrying girl ... so I found a dress that fit and made my mother cry, and we picked up a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store before the wedding, and that was that. I had one shopping trip, and went home with the dress. Regardless of whether or not you choose to wear a traditional wedding gown, I must say, that dress looks beautiful on you.

Looks and Books said...

I'm glad you went and met a new friend and got to try on some different kinds of dresses! Maybe white isn't for you, but it's great that you're keeping all of your options open. That said, I hate to see you getting stuck in this stereotype of being a "bride." Just because reality tv dictates that all brides are narcissistic divas who've been dreaming of gleaming princess dresses since they were born doesn't mean it's true. There are as many different types of brides as there are women out there--just because you don't fit the "Say Yes to the Dress" mentality doesn't mean you won't make a lovely bride, no matter what color or style you're wearing!

Tricia B said...

Raquel you may not be the bride type, but I'm sure you are the celebration and party type; find yourself a fun, cute dress that does make you smile when you put it on and makes you want to get out there and have the best time with friends and family!