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Traumatizing Dresses

While the Dress was White, My Face was Red

By Stephanie Van OrmanPublished about a month ago 6 min read
Traumatizing Dresses
Photo by Anna Docking on Unsplash

You might begin reading this story about a traumatizing wedding dress thinking that is about how I carefully bought a wedding dress, poured all my little girl dreams into it only to have my groom horrifically betray me and for me to burn my wedding dress in an old oil drum at the dock. This is not that story, but I'd read that in a heartbeat.

You might think that this is a story about a wardrobe malfunction where I dressed with upmost care on the day of my wedding only for a strap to snap at exactly the wrong moment as I walked down the aisle with all my soon-to-be in-laws watching. I shriek and cry at my humiliation and have to make the bitter choice of getting married in one of the bridesmaid dresses while she wears my groom's sweater... or I wear the groom's sweater. Yeah, this isn't that story either.

Or maybe, it's a story about how my wedding gown was destroyed by a thoughtless guest who 'accidentally' spilled red wine in a bloodstain like splatter down my flawless white gown and I went bridezilla on her and made her switch dresses with me. The wedding gown was too small on her and bust at the seams and her dress was too large on me and the neckline gaped so bad I had to leave the reception three hours early. Well, I'd read that too, but this isn't what I saw on Mulberry Street. Too bad, that last imaginary incarnation would have been hilarious.

No. It was none of those things.

When I was getting married, I was grindingly poor. So was my fiance. I might have considered waiting until there was more money for a wedding, but I had been so poor all my life that I didn't believe wealth would ever arrive. I opted to get married even though I knew I would not be able to have the wedding dress of my dreams.

To begin with, I purchased a yellow going-away dress at a Salvation Army for $12. It had an empire waist, puffy short sleeves, and a lovely lace that overlayed satin. It fit well and that only sad part about it was that there was something stuck between the lace and satin at the hem. I couldn't get it out without cutting the fabric, so I didn't. So... there was something like dried flower petals trapped in the dress killing my joy.

As for the actual wedding dress... this is where the fun begins... or the nonfun begins.

While I was engaged, everyone knew I was too poor to afford a dress because everyone asked me about it. And then everybody rushed to their closets and pulled their used wedding dresses out of storage trying to find a dress for me to wear. A friend's older sister was a seamstress and so trying on dresses at her house was the least painful on my journey. That one is actually a nice memory.

Let's skip to the worst.

I was standing in my ex-boyfriend's living room. Looking at his face made me feel sort of sick to begin with, but his mother had a huge pile of old wedding dresses and do you know what? People who have been poor all their lives know that humiliation is part of the deal. They have worn hand-me-downs from other kids in their class at school, their older siblings, they've worn clothes of unknown origins, they've worn things that are too thin for the weather with holes, and been laughed at for wearing the same thing too many times.

So, I tried on the pile of dresses that were so old and ugly (triply so because they hadn't been pressed or steamed, but crushed in vacuum-sealed bags for years on end). I had to stroll out into the living room to show the gathered assembly what I looked like in the dresses.

My future husband was also there.

That's another thing about being poor. Poor people do not have room for romantic ideas like not seeing the bride before the wedding. My problem with the dress was not just my problem. It was his problem too. He didn't know anything about dresses. However, he did know that I was unhappy, embarrassed, discouraged, and he had no idea how to do anything about it.

I wouldn't wear any of the offered wedding gowns that had already been down the aisle.

What ended up happening was that my soon-to-be mother-in-law offered my mother a pattern for a dress she had recently made up. It didn't require a lot of fabric and if nothing else, it was unlikely to have a wardrobe malfunction as it had sleeves.

The choosing had been horrific. I was tired, hot, and down on my luck for weeks, so I bit the bullet and said I would wear that dress if my mother made it for me.

In the end, it was made out of taffeta. You don't see dresses made out of taffeta much these days. Instead, taffeta is used for the lining of dresses and not as the main fabric. So I had a dress made from a used pattern out of a third class fabric into a dress I rated as only good enough to not make me puke and die on the spot.

That's what you get when you decide to get married when you have no money.

I'm not sure who to blame for a girl's expectations about wedding dresses. It's not as though we can hide that nice dresses exist. Even little girls with no cash have enough money to watch cheap romantic comedies that have pretty dresses in them.

I suppose my reality was that I didn't want to admit how important having a nice wedding dress was to me, so I settled to stop the crazed search for a dress. I didn't care about much else with my wedding. I remember concerned people taking me aside asking if it was okay to have this kind of fake cake as a decoration. Thumbs up! What about this kind of cake on saucers for the guests to take? Thumbs up! Could this person wear this pantsuit without ticking me off? Absolutely! Could we dress this little flower girl in this thing? Sure. I remember remarkably little conflict. But when I look back on it, I'm still a little surly over my wedding clothes.

Do you know why?

Because it turns out that one of my strongest passions in life is formal dresses, and that makes the wedding dress situation sting all the more.

It's a good thing there's one other thing I feel quite strongly about.

My husband.

Damn it. I'd probably do the same thing over again just so I could marry him sooner. Bah...

ceremony and receptionfashion and beauty

About the Creator

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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