I have a confession. I bought two wedding dresses. I changed my mind three weeks before the wedding and although it was a mild panic, I wouldn't have it any other way. The dresses were COMPLETELY different, like parallel universe different.
One morning I woke up and realised the wedding dress that I bought (and that I had been trying to make more 'me') wasn't the one. In fact, I realised that it was the one that I thought that I should wear...that in my mind, I was expected to look like 'a bride' when none of our other plans for our wedding were really fitting with tradition, so why did I have to?
Here is the story, perhaps my first real foray into being a Bridechilla, a leap that I took away from following the pack, where I decided not to settle because I thought I should and instead one sunday hit the shops with my dear friend to find 'the real one'.
My original Gown was a 'Wedding Dress' aka traditional
Originally I purchased a traditional strapless dress. Now, anyone that has listened to The Bridechilla Podcast or has read my book, The Bridechilla Survival Guide will probably know my feelings about strapless dresses, if not, here's a quick summary.
You don't have to wear a strapless gown...
Strapless gowns are not for everyone. I know that every Jane and Jill buys them, but if you’ve got a larger rack, bingo wings, a tummy, you’re short, you’re super skinny, the list goes on, they’re hard to pull off and, to be honest, they can look (and feel) pretty average.
My point is, you should wear what makes you feel gorgeous and comfortable on your wedding day. It’s your day to shine. It shouldn’t be about what everyone else wears, or what a magazine says you should wear. On your wedding day, you should feel like a jazzed-up version of you, not a character. You want to look back at photographs and think, “Gee whiz, I looked and felt smashing,” not, “Why are my boobs hanging out? Or squashed down? Why did I wear the same dress as everyone else?”
Whatever you choose to wear on your wedding day, you want to make sure that you feel fucking fabulous. I keep saying feel because a big part of looking fabulous is feeling fabulous; owning it and selling it. As a Bridechilla, I know you have personality. Let it show. Whether that means wearing cowgirl boots and colorful jewelry or a dress with a big skirt and pockets, make sure whatever you choose embraces and celebrates who you are!
The original dress, with me adding a belt and cardigan...anything to make it 'different'
What was 'wrong' with the original dress?
There was literally NOTHING WRONG with my original dress but then also EVERYTHING WAS WRONG.
My original gown was very pretty. It had a lovely big swooshy skirt, and it had pockets. When I tried it on, I thought, “This is how you are supposed to look, Aleisha. This is Bride Aleisha.” Bride Aleisha* did look pretty, and the dress was very nice, but every time I tried it on, I struggled with it. I kept hitching it up, and even though it was boned and rather sturdy, I felt like it was going to fall off, or that I’d be yanking it up all day. The more I thought about it, the more I worried. When I visualized our wedding day, I couldn’t see me in that dress. It was like someone had snuffed me out of my imagination!
We were getting married in the depths of winter, and I was worried about being cold (yes, I am a Nanna, but comfort should be considered!). Did I think perhaps the dress was lacking the wow factor? Maybe.
I wanted the dress to look “different,” so I thought, let’s add a belt!
Fourteen belts later, no go. How about a bolero? A sash? A funky cardigan? A wrap? A sequined throw? Waaaaaaaaaaaaa.
What if this dress is all wrong and I fell for the bridal industry bullshit about what I am supposed to look like, wearing a strapless gown when that wasn’t me at all. Ding ding ding. We have a winner!
Let's go emergency dress shopping...like now.
A month before our wedding I called my dear friend Julia and said, “I’m embarrassed to say this but the dress isn’t right and I wonder if you have a couple of hours to go shopping?” She was at my house within the hour. We went on a fast and furious shopping binge, visiting a big department store and picking every cream and white dress that we could find off the racks. Our venue was a ’50s house. It was stylized and chic. I love the Mad Men just-getting-married-at-the-registry-office look.
Why, why, why did I buy that big dress that ate me?
With every little vintage style shift dress that I tried on, I realized that the dress I had was all wrong. By three that afternoon, I had chosen a gorgeous cream Marino wool Jersey dress that not only made me feel amazing, but it also covered the bits that I wanted to cover and showed off the bits that I have worked hard for!
I loved it. It was $300, and I couldn’t have been happier! So, that’s how I came to have two dresses. It’s not that I didn’t like the original dress, it just wasn’t the dress that made me feel like me; the new one did. I donated the original dress to Goodwill. I hope that someone found it and loved it, and it made them feel gorgeous and special.
The second dress, the one- image by Louisa Bailey Photographer
How to buy the dress YOU want
Wedding dress shopping is an emotional and fun process (for most) but because of this pressure that we’ve collectively created as a society, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. We talk about it ‘being the best day of our lives’… let’s stop that! I had an amazing wedding day but I do hope that sometime within the next 100 years (cryogenics anyone?) that there’s a few more of equal awesomeness coming up.
Buy the dress you want.
Bugger the big price tags or what stylists or ‘fashion experts’ say… wear a dress, or a suit or a tutu that makes you feel fucking fabulous and go with it.
When it comes down to it, it’s not about dresses, it’s about you standing with your other chosen person, in front of your friends and family, committing to being an awesome team and having a great time. You could wear a bin bag and still rock the hell out of it. Trust me.
My Wedding dress shopping tips
- There will always be another dress. Don’t be compelled to make a decision on the spot.
- Be like Fonzie, act cool.
- For many brides, a process of elimination is your best bet. Try on a range of dresses, even those you don’t think will suit you.
- Don’t be afraid of secondhand and pre-loved gowns.
- Pick a dress that you love, that makes you feel fabulous. Forget trends and what looks good on waifs.
- Read more about Aleisha and Rich's wedding
Catch up on more Bridechilla Wedding Dress Blogs
Learning to Love My Dress- Bridechilla Chloe shares her story. She was disappointed with the wedding dress that she chose, but the process was too far along to change her mind. So after a private cry, she started brainstorming ways to personalize her wedding day look and regain the love for her wedding dress.
Why Renting Your Dress Makes Sense- Buying a wedding dress (or jumpsuit or suit) is a big decision. More often than not these are one wear only beauties that will be shoved in a much-needed storage space, forgotten about until you move house. In this age of sharing lifts with strangers and holidaying in other people’s apartments, there are also a plethora of start-ups that have launched offering premium rental services for wedding attire, that if considered just may save you money, storage space and the headache of what the heck to do with all this stuff after your big day, (like the brides in this article, who said their 'something borrowed' was made a heck of a lot easier with a rented gown).
How to Feel Comfortable In Front Of The Camera- Not everyone was born to be in front of the camera. But everyone can look like they were on their wedding day with the right photographer. On this episode of Bridechilla, I talk with Cavin Elizabeth', an international wedding film and digital photographer based in San Diego about how to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. During our conversation, Cavin gives tips on choosing the right photographer, how to pose, who should do your hair and makeup, and how to treat your photographer and other vendors right.