While at home this weekend, I tried on my aunts' wedding dress. (Yes, that's appropriate pluralization; more than one of my aunts wore this dress.) I liked it a lot. My mom expressed reservations about whether the cut flattered my figure, and I could see her point. Do I love the lace at the neck enough to make up for the fact that the skirt makes me look a little thick about the middle? (Sometimes I think I do. From the waist up, this dress is everything I want in a wedding dress.) Besides, Mom said, "when you watch Say Yes to the Dress, they say that when you put on "the" dress, you and your loved ones just know, and it overwhelms you. I don't get that from this dress." I told her that was all propaganda. You can't take your dress-buying (or dress-borrowing, as it may be) cues from a show designed around the wedding dress industry.
For generations, didn't people get married in their mothers', sisters', aunts', or cousins' dresses? Or in pretty dresses they already owned, or in dresses they could afford? Back when getting married was simpler, women got married just fine without searching for "the" dress.
Or did they?
Over the course of the weekend, I heard stories from relatives who got married 15, 25, or 50 years ago, and they each had stories - though not in so many words - of looking for and finding "the" dress.
An aunt, who got married in the late '90s said that she went to one dress store, and tried on 3 dresses. The first two had been suggested by the saleslady, though she liked a different one. When she tried that one on, she loved it and she bought it.
My mom, who got married in 1982, said that she had liked the look of her aunt's wedding dress in pictures, asked to try it on, and knew as soon as she did that she didn't need to try on any more dresses.
My grandmother, who was married in the '50s, told me that she got her dress in a warehouse. Some friends from work had connections, so she was able to go to the warehouse to see dresses before they were distributed to stores. "As soon as I saw it, I liked it," she said. And that was the dress she got.
Now I'm torn. I really hadn't thought that I would try to find "the" dress. I would find a dress that I liked and that was flattering, knowing that there are probably hundreds of dresses out there that would fit the bill. I would not buy into the wedding dress industry-sponsored propaganda. I would not seek it far, seek it wide, seek it low and high. I would try on a couple dresses, pick the one I liked the best, and I would have a wedding dress. My wedding dress shopping would, ideally, hearken back to the simpler days of wedding planning. And now I learn that even in the simpler days of wedding planning (my grandparents' wedding didn't have RSVPs; they just planned to have enough food in case everyone they'd invited showed up) brides sought and found "the" wedding dress. Is my attempt to mirror days gone by actually a romanticized attempt to invent days that never were? What's a girl to do?