24: The Perfect Dress

24: The Perfect Dress

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Perfect Dress

Why should we all dress after the same fashion? The frost never paints my windows twice alike.

~Lydia Maria Child

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we lived in a tiny cabin off the grid, with no running water or electricity, in the Vermont woods. He was a guitar builder, and I was a potter. We parked our truck at the road and hiked the half-mile through the woods and over the stream, carrying our groceries and laundry on our backs. We were young, and it was fun. We were poor. We were in love. We were happy.

Planning the wedding was fun, but also stressful because we didn’t have much money. We decided to have a real Vermont wedding that would include a potluck buffet and an outdoor setting. The music would be performed by our friends. We had a couple of friends — professional photographers — who offered to take photos for free. One of my bridesmaids was a baker who decided to make the wedding cake as her gift. Another friend agreed to do my hair, and Andy and I would make all the gifts for everyone who helped with the wedding. We spent days in the pottery studio making candleholders with hearts carved on them and our names engraved on the bottoms. Inexpensive to make and a keepsake for all our loved ones.

We saved so much money! It was all going to be within our modest budget... except for one thing. The dress. This was the one area where there was to be no compromise. The dress mattered to me. A lot!

I took two of my bridesmaids with me to bridal shops and felt like a queen, a princess, a fairy and The Good Witch Glenda, all in one. We liked or didn’t like the dresses we saw, and we figured out the perfect style for me. Once I knew what I wanted, I went to the best seamstress in town, and we designed the dress.

My mother-in-law came with me to pick out the fabric. We held every variation of white against my skin. Although white had never been my color, we were able to find one called Snowdrop White that would work. They ordered it and assured me it would be in the next week, just in time for the deadline my seamstress had given me. When we got the call that the order was in, my mother-in-law and I hurried to pick it up. I couldn’t wait to see the yards and yards of Snowdrop White and imagine how it would look as my dress. My wedding dress!

I should have realized even before the saleslady opened the package that something was terribly wrong because right there, on the side of the box, was the word, “Banana.” What did that mean? I didn’t care; I just wanted to see my Snowdrop White wedding silk. The lady lifted the flap of the box and pulled out the fabric. My brain couldn’t register what I was seeing. It just went blank. When I was finally able to focus, I looked at my mother-in-law in horror.

“What’s this?” she asked the saleslady. “This isn’t what she ordered.”

The reason it said “Banana” on the box was because that was the color of the silk! It was not white. My head spun. How long would it take to order the right one? Would it come in time? How could it when my seamstress needed it right away?

The saleslady turned pale, and I felt like I might cry, but my mother-in-law was pulling out the banana silk and holding it up with a curious look.

“You know,” she said, her voice soft as if she was discovering something, “it’s actually quite beautiful.”

Huh? What’s she talking about, I wondered, and how am I going to get my Snowdrop White in time?

“Look at it,” she said. Look at what? I was starting to feel annoyed.

“Honey, this silk is gorgeous. It’s not banana; it’s gold. It would be beautiful against your skin. It’s a much better color for you.”

And that was when I was finally able to shut off my mind and see what was before me. She was right; it was perfect. Gold, shimmery silk. Much better for me than white.

The wedding was a grand success. The photographs were great, and my hair curled and piled on my head as if a professional had done it. The food was fantastic, the music a blast, but most important was the moment Andy and I caught eyes as my parents walked me down the grassy aisle.

“Forever,” his smile said to me.

“Forever,” I smiled back, blinking away tears of pure joy.

When my parents hugged me and took their seats, Andy leaned in close and whispered, “Nice dress.”

I was so happy with my low-budget wedding and have never regretted sticking with the not-at-all-low-budget dress.

“Wow, a gold dress. It’s perfect,” was the comment I heard most that day, maybe even more than “Best food I’ve ever had at a wedding” and “You two make such a great couple.”

The dress has been in a box for fourteen years. My daughter says she wants to wear the golden dress at her own wedding some day.

“I’m so glad you didn’t get white,” she says, leafing through our wedding album. “Gold is a much better color for me.”

~Lava Mueller

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