80: A Simple Wedding Dress

80: A Simple Wedding Dress

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

A Simple Wedding Dress

Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.

~Mason Cooley

My wedding wasn’t exactly a typical wedding. My fiancé and I, young college students at the time, wanted a simple wedding. There was no rehearsal, no processional, no dinner, and no dance. We didn’t go on a honeymoon. Instead of a warm Saturday afternoon in June, we set aside a Wednesday evening in November on what was sure to be a cold Wisconsin night.

We decided to get married in a Thanksgiving Eve church service. We’d stand at the altar and take our vows before the sermon, then enjoy the second half of the service as husband and wife with much to be thankful for.

With so few details to worry about, you’d think I would have had a goof-proof plan in place. But I haven’t told you about The Dress yet.

Since this wasn’t going to be a conventional wedding, I figured I could skip the traditional white gown and buy something nice that could be worn again.

And that was my first mistake.

I kept my eyes open wherever I went, looking for that perfect dress. One day, I was browsing through a sewing store and happened to see a dress pattern that I loved. The envelope showed a long, flowing dress with pretty, petite flowers printed on a pale pink material. It featured a fitted bodice and bell sleeves that flared gently from the elbows. I began to imagine myself walking down the aisle in this dress. I grabbed the pattern, bought it, and sang, “I found my dress! I found my dress!” all the way home.

That was my second mistake.

Now, who would sew this dress? I briefly thought of my sewing skills, but since a wedding dress is slightly more complicated than a throw pillow, I decided to ask my future mother-in-law. Not only was she excellent with a sewing machine, but it could be a nice way for us to bond over the coming wedding. Never mind that she lived 600 miles away, which would make fittings and alterations difficult.

That was my third mistake.

When it was time to purchase dress fabric, for some reason that understated pale pink flew out the window. In a fit of temporary insanity, I chose a smokey blue damask that would’ve been quite lovely as a set of curtains in our new home. But no. This was it. My dress material was promptly packaged and sent to my seamstress.

That was my fourth mistake.

It was October before I held the dress in my hands. Though not quite finished, it was close. Trembling with excitement, I took the dress into my bedroom and stepped into the blue folds for my first fitting. With my soon-to-be mother-in-law looking on with a tape measure and hopeful smile, I just couldn’t say what I felt.

The dress was all wrong. Gaps of extra material at the waist coupled with seam-popping tightness in the arms. I looked like a cross between a large blue pear and a matronly lady-in-waiting. Something Maria von Trapp would have sewn had she married Robin Hood instead of the Captain.

Swallowing tears of disappointment, I asked if the arms could be let out at all as they were “a little snug.” Pinching the waist on both sides, I suggested maybe “bringing this in a little.” She promised to try, but didn’t know if much could be done. “Whatever you can do,” I said, hoping for a miracle.

That was my fifth mistake.

For the next month, I worried. How would I ever walk down the aisle in that dress? And what was I thinking with that blue material? The smallest drop of sweat would stain it dark and quickly spread. To say I was anxious would be putting it mildly, but what choice did I have? I couldn’t turn back now, especially after all the hard work his mom had done.

The final weeks melted away, and soon it was the day before our wedding. My in-laws arrived in town, and so did The Dress.

The first thing my mother-in-law said to me was, “There’s a problem with the dress.”

A surge of hope raced through me. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, I was doing some hand stitching, and I pricked my finger,” she explained. “Some blood got on the dress.” This sounds promising, I thought.

She continued, “I wanted to get the blood out, so I used some of Dad’s orange goo cleaner.” She held up my dress. In the middle of the blue bodice were two washed-out grayish smudges. “It took the color right out!”

My hand flew to my mouth. To hide a relieved smile. I wanted to jump up and down and celebrate at the top of my lungs. I didn’t feel nearly guilty enough that she was obviously misunderstanding my reaction.

“It’s okay.” I hugged her. “We’ll figure something out.”

Later that evening, with less than twenty-four hours to go, I went out to buy a wedding dress. At the first bridal shop we came to, I pulled a beautiful white satin dress off the rack and tried it on. It fit like a glove, cost $100, and I loved it.

That was my lucky break.

As for the original wedding dress, for which I had a sentimental fondness, I passed it on to my sister. Not to be worn at her wedding, of course, but as an excellent costume for her annual trips to the Renaissance Fair.

~Debra Mayhew

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