Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dear ESB: I don't like my dress

When I first started wedding planning, my grandmother offered me her dress to wear. It was too big for me, but it is a lovely old dress, simple and vintage, which is definitely my style, so I was very excited about it. Then my seamstress friend offered to alter it for free. Last week I got the altered dress sent it straight to the dry cleaners to turn it back from yellow to white. It was there for a week, and now, three and a half weeks before my wedding, I got it back.

And I don't like it.

Oh, it's nice enough. The silhouette is really pretty and it whitened up beautifully but-- I feel kind of awkward in it. It doesn't fit quite how it should, and the long sleeves make me feel really prim, and I feel sort of constricted in it. So my problem is this: I don't really have the time to find a new wedding dress, and even if I did, I'd feel like it was kind of a kick in the teeth to my grandmother and my friend who put all the free labour into it. I could try to get it further altered-- but can I do that in three weeks? Should I just live with it? Should I go on a panicked search to find a new dress? Maybe you just do feel kind of awkward in a wedding dress because it's a gown and when else do you ever wear a gown? I don't know. But I feel miserable.

Any advice?


Ditch the dress. Please.

Call in sick. Drive to Barneys or Bergdorf’s or Nordstrom or ANYWHERE and try on everything they’ve got.

(Photo: Steven Sebring courtesy of The New York Times)


  1. If it's just about the "feel" and not the look - it could be that you're just not used to wearing a wedding gown.

    When I put on my wedding gown, I knew I loved it, but it still wasn't the most comfortable thing I'd ever worn.

    Maybe if you went and tried on other gowns, you'd get an idea of whether you're generally uncomfortable in a gown, or if it is this gown/style in particular that is making you miserable.

    Best of luck!

  2. Consider wearing it for the ceremony and find a new dress for the reception? That way grandma and your seamstress friend won't feel jilted, and it'll probably be easier to find something more reception-party-fun at the last minute...

  3. If it's fine but just a bit tight here or you can't raise your arms or whatever'd I'd take it to another tailor/seamstress, quietly, and see if there's anything that can be done. And then of course as paiiige says you can change into something more comfortable for the party.

    My personal feeling is that between guilt and "dress misery" an hour or two of discomfort is the lesser of two evils.... lucky you for having a beautiful vintage dress! Hope you send ESB photos of whatever you wear x


  5. I agree with paiiige...

    Where it to make everyone happy for your ceremony, and then change. Yes, 3 weeks isn't long, but you can make it happen if you really want it (Cheesy, but seriously.)

    If you're into vintage, hit up some flea markets, or start calling around some of the vintage stores you know. Are you in LA? I'm a vintage crazed beast, truly, and I would be happy to help refer you to some people/vendors/stores who stock some FLY dresses.

    Am I wrong to think you want to at least love (if not melt over) what you're wearing on that big ol day?

    Good luck. Go boldly.

  6. So I won't comment on the emotional aspects of changing your dress because obviously that is baggage that you'll have to unpack yourself depending on your final decision. What I will tell you is that you can TOTALLY get a dress three and a half weeks out from your wedding. Granted, you officially lose the option to be uber picky, but if you know your measurements and keep an open mind, you'll be fine. I bought a dress off the rack at David's Bridal two weeks before our wedding and loved it (no judgments people, I was in a time crunch and on a budget. sometimes you have to sacrifice your morals).

    P.S. As a result of my second purchase, I've got a gorgeous ivory BCBG bandage dress that you can have for free (I had a little too much junk in my trunk to pull it off). Just sayin...

  7. Oh and as an aside, I'd blame this one on the cleaners. Tell you grandmother that they weren't able to clean it or something and then if you REALLY want to, incorporate the dress some other way.

  8. do the frenzied last-minute shop, especially at barneys. they have some fantastic RTW dresses right about now. you don't have to buy, but you owe it to yourself to try.

    i know, you see, because i was on the exact same quest four years ago when i freaked out about my dress two months before my wedding. five thousand dresses later, i ended up deciding that ditching my original dress made me feel even weirder than the idea of wearing it did (i thought the dress itself would be devastated; what can i say, i was raised by weirdos in california), but it was a good gut check for me, and i learned once and for all that it was what i wanted. maybe you'll find a dress that makes you shit with glee - i hear it happens - and maybe you'll learn that wedding dresses just give you the jeebers as a general proposition. knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

  9. Totally agree - blame it on the cleaners, buy/borrow a new dress that you like and feel great in.

  10. Ah feeling the wrath of ESB - look if the bride just plain hates the dress, fine. But I didn't get the impression she *hated* the whole dress, just some aspects of the cut and fit. I think a seamstress may be able to do something with it in time - hell, maybe the sleeves can even be carefully removed. Maybe. You don't know til you ask. My dress was altered within the space of a week by an awesome Polish woman/magician.

    It depends how nuts everyone is about the dress - like, is Granny going to be crushed forever, or not mind?

    Or by all means go for David's Bridal or J-Crew (kidding! Couldn't resist. Clearly have been reading ESB for too long :P)

  11. I'll share some of my own dress-hunt story in hopes you'll be inspired to take ESB's advice:

    Being a tomboy, I did not think I would get giddy when I found "the dress". I'm most comfortable in my Carharts and flannel, so I did not think a bunch of tulle and silk could possibly make me feel beautiful/confident/comfortable/even-more-excited-to-get-married-than-ever-before.......but I was wrong. I totally DID feel this way when I finally put on the right dress.

    I tried on MANY dresses before I found the one, because I had it in my head that I wanted something vintage-ish, with lace. I got frustrated because all the lace dresses I tried on totally overpowered me and drew the attention away from my face and down to the dress. They were also heavy and uncomfortable for me. Finally, at my mother's suggestion, I tried on something totally different: an a-line silk beading, no lace, very very simple. I totally sparkled in it. I felt like a bride in it.

    You should feel this way on your wedding day. I want this for you, and I bet your friend and Grandmother do too!! ESB is 100% correct: If the vintage dress doesn't do this for you, march out and start trying some other dresses on, right now. It's definitely not too late!!

  12. I can't tell if you're just looking for an excuse to ditch the dress (I was, and I ended up ditching my first dress and I'm muuuuuch happier now) or if a few changes (shorter sleeves, better alterations, maybe a nip and a tuck and a different set of accessories) might make all the difference in the world. If it's the first, you have time but can't be picky. If it's the second, get thee to a new seamstress asap.

    I'd say visit a seamstress asap anyhow, just to see if they can fix it into what you feel comfortable/right in. Three weeks is absolutely enough time. If it doesn't seem like you can get what you want (and definitely try it with your whole outfit/look to be sure) start shopping. You can do it.

    Off-the-rack tips: I found that most department stores have minimal stock these days. Their best stuff is online, but they have great returns and ship quickly. Call around, and maybe you'll get lucky (Bloomingdales was better then Nordstrom for in-store options where I live) Order every dress you're interested in and don't freak about the credit card bill because you can get a 100% refund before the bill comes due. Wedding salons also have samples that you can buy (call and check) and do a quick scour of Craigslist, Recycled Bride and Once Wed in your neighborhood. It's hit or miss, but it could be a hit.

    If you're in LA, there's also a shop called Unique Vintage in Burbank (and online) that has a ton of off-the-rack vintage-inspired options (on their online return policy). Dolly Couture may also have some cheaper returns or vintage-inspired samples laying around. Tavin in Echo Park (and on etsy) has some gorgeous vintage wedding dresses.

  13. I'm going to be wearing my grandmother's dress in just over 3 weeks - and up until last week, every time I put it on I felt a mixture of guilt and disappointment. And then we cut off the long sleeves and made them into cap sleeves, and hacked off the train. Ahhhhhh - HUGE difference.

    Yes, I think I might have looked better in something I bought just for me, but I love the vintage style and link to my grandma. I just like it a whole lot more now that it's been updated to my style. 3 weeks should be plenty of time for you to modify it similarly IF you want to.

  14. Okay here's the thing:
    I couldnt eat for a week before the wedding, but I knew that it was for the gown.
    I couldn't sit because it was so tight all over the place.
    I thought I was going to pass out and throw up in it all day because it was hot and it was so damn tight.
    BUT. I love it. I would not trade that dress for anything. And I FELT sexy, classy and elegant all at the same time. I knew that I looked good and it made the world of difference. You only get one wedding dress. (That's why I spent over half our budget on it. But my husband saw me in it and the first thing he said was "worth every single penny.")
    So there you have it. You have to feel gorgeous because everyone is going to tell you look it and you have to believe them otherwise you will regret it.

  15. If you don't think you'll be comfortable (physically or emotionally or whatever) in it, get a new dress. It's not like your grandmother would've worn it again had you not gotten it altered, and your seamstress friend should understand that it has nothing to do with her (but get her a thank you gift, maybe?). I wasn't 100% thrilled with my wedding dress, although it was damn comfortable and I am thankful for that, and maybe if I could do it again, I might get something else last minute.

    Also--is your wedding really formal? If not, you could get a rockin' party dress and wear the crap out of it!

  16. yes to:
    - is granny going to be *crushed*? maybe find out? i thought mine would be CRUSHED if i eloped, and she was all for that idea! worth checking.
    - wear something you are COMFORTABLE in. i know some ladies don't mind uncomfortable things (see: SO MANY SHOES) but i figure there'll be enough going on on the wedding day that you won't want to be distracted by not being comfortable.
    - you only get one wedding dress. if it'll help you, try on a shitload, so you can make an informed decision. know yourself. trust your gut.
    - at the same time, sounds like you could hack off the sleeves and have a professional do some minor comfort-related alterations quick smart, and it'd be fine.
    - either of the immediate above two options will be ok but pick the one that will make you feel BEST. not anyone else. YOU.

  17. you could wear the dress for the ceremony and switch to something more fun for the reception...

  18. go buy a new dress.

    i regret not ditching mine. there's still hope for you. SAVE YOURSELF.

    and it's not all about the dress being "the one"- but it needs to fit you and feel good (maybe not "comfy" good... but at least friggin hot)

    if granny and friend see you in the dress, they may agree.

  19. call in sick tomorrow.

    go visit a seamstress and ask them to make the alterations to make it more comfortable/modern.

    then go shopping.

    then you give yourself options.

  20. YES to what Beets said...

  21. I agree with esb... At three weeks out, you know that much of the wedding is about your family and friends. Let the dress be about you, you should feel gorgeous. And what an excuse for a sick day!

  22. I feel like I could have written this exact same email a few weeks ago. The only difference is, my mom wore it too and I've wanted to wear it my entire life.

    I am solving the situation by wearing the trouble dress to the ceremony and a dress I feel good in (that one of my friends offered to buy me for cheap cheap cheap) to the reception as a "party dress."

    You may find that a good middle ground as I did but if you absolutely HATE the thing, blame it on the cleaners. Let them know it can't be done on time. Something. Or just fess up and tell Grandma it's not your style.

  23. if its the sleaves you don't like then that could be easily altered. It could change the entire feel of it. Just take it to a professional.

  24. def go look for a new dress. high and low. try and make changes to the dress you have now. there is still time. exhaust all resources as suggested above.


    not everyone is going to get that feeling like ashley described. and i think that idea that wedding dresses should be like this fucking holy grail sends so many brides into hysterics when they *don*'t* get that feeling, i mean that is A LOT of pressure for one garmet. i bought a dress i loved early on then freaked out about it a MILLION times. it's not good enough it's not bridey enough it's not special enough whatever and i went and tried on more dresses. in the end i wore my original dress and i loved it but i also had to resolve with myself that is wasn't going to be like, magical.

    not saying you should wear your dress or not find one you love more, just presenting the other side of things that the dress might not be *everything*, you know? and that maybe that is ok?

  25. as usual, jamie hit the nail on the head. seriously. i keep thinking that if i had it to do over again, i would have chosen a different dress. there were some issues w/ it, and honestly? i felt like i looked like a sausage in it. i knew this going in, because i had a dress fitting where i had a complete melt down and the alterations lady pointed out all of my 'problem areas'. but at that point, it was too late to change dresses. so i wore it. and it was fine.

    but you have to do what feels right for you. and if that is getting another dress, then that is what it means.

  26. i hated my dress for the five months leading up to the wedding. i looked everywhere for a new one and then the week of decided to ditch the new idea and just have a few more alterations done ... by a different seamstress ... two days before i wore it down the aisle. it worked out fine and then i sold my dress and bought some shoes. all in all it ended pretty well.

    do whatever you need to do to feel happy. if you feel funny in that dress it is going to show and no one wants to see you uncomfortable.

    oh and ps - i hate the wedding world for making us feel like this is the last time in our lives we will be able to buy a pretty dress. not true.


  28. Thanks everyone.
    I don't hate the dress. I mostly just feel awkward in it, and I'd really like to feel, you know, beautiful.
    I think I'll both take the dress for more alterations (maybe get the sleeves removed and replaced with cap sleeves) and look for a new one. Only trouble is, I'm in Canada, and I don't know that we have any of the stores everyone's been mentioning. So I'm not sure where to look for RTW gowns. (If only I was in Portland... Elizabeth Dye's sample sale.) Thanks again for the advice and help everyone...

  29. Janie, where in Toronto are you? what's your budget? What about Holt's? There has to be something there that's ready to wear... Also, I've had dealings with White Toronto, and they might have something off the rack you can wear. Also, I know there's a shit ton of bridal stores in Mississauga...

  30. Have you looked on the Danforth? Some of those shops might have something off the rack. Between Broadview and Pape.

    Also, Winners is swimming in dresses this year. You never know!

  31. And there's BCBG at the Eaton Centre. I know several people who've gotten nice off the rack dresses from there.

  32. Hey, you're miserable, you don't feel right in it, and that's gonna RUIN your day (and it's gonna be immortalized in pictures with your stiff pose and pinched smile). So, move on, get something that makes you feel GREAT, and if you apologize (to grandma and the friend) only do it once. There's no need for guilt and remorse...there was no way you could foresee or prevent this. Offer to pay the friend for her time if it makes you feel better.
    You'll find something great...I know it.

  33. Dude. Don't hate me, but I have to say it....


    I thought I was going to care about how my hair looked and my make-up and all of the details. In the end, I just wanted to get out there and hang out with all of my favorite people WHO WEREN'T THERE TO JUDGE ME. I had a split lip, my husband had a gash in his forehead from a bike ride and a bandage on his arm (we are active/accident prone people). We were a wreck and in all the pictures we look happy and in love.

    The truth is, half of the reason you are having a wedding (and not just getting married) is because you love your family and want to share the experience with them. Make sure that you honor your grandmother and her gift to you in some way; it's not too late to get more alterations done, and if you chose to get another dress, at least make a handkerchief out of some of the fabric or something.

  34. I was going to suggest road-tripping to Buffalo as well. I don't think they have some of those higher-end stores mentioned, but they DO have a Macy's and a Lord and Taylor at the Galleria (for example). Seriously, how cute would something like this be as a reception dress? AND YOU COULD WEAR IT AGAIN.

    Also, make a day of it, drive to Williamsville, and go to Blum's. Then, when you're done getting some pretty lingerie for the wedding night, go get some cake at Butterwood (they have a cafe in Williamsville near Blums!). Bring your MOH or another bridesmaid (or trusted dear friend) and make it fun.

  35. tell your grandma it couldn't be altered to your specifications, buy your seamstress friend a gift or send flower and tell her thank you, but you are being a bride and you just don't feel that pretty in it, take a piece of lace or something off the dress and wrap it around your flowers and tell your grandma you wanted a little bit of her with you while you walked down the aisle. done and done.

  36. Aw man. That's tough. It's never good to let grandmothers down.

    Option 1: Wear your grandma's dress at the ceremony; switch to a new, cool dress at the reception.

    Option 2: Bring out your grandma's dress for a "cameo" outing during the reception... 15 minutes of wearing time, then back into cool, new dress.

    Option 3: Display your grandma's dress in the reception hall, somewhere significant and highly visible... maybe by the cake table.

  37. Dear East Side Bride and Everyone:

    New dress=found, at a used gown shop near my home
    Gift for seamstress fried=bought
    Talk with my grandma=hard, but she was very gracious. So thanks for the help and advice everyone.