Friday, May 17, 2013

Frock Fridays: My Wedding Dress

a few of the dresses I've tried on over the past year

I've been a fiancée for exactly a year this week, dear readers!  (Remember the vlog we made last May to announce our  engagement?)  In that time, I've published 45 Wedding Wednesday posts covering everything from our budget (twice) to finding our photographer (and the wonderful engagement session we did with her in London back in September) to Jon's demand for a traditional wedding cake and my insistence on also serving a cheese cake to a little rant about bridal shoes - but not once have I talked about my wedding dress.  In honor of having worn this beautiful ring for a year, I think it's time I did!

Of course I'm not actually going to show you my dress.  I couldn't even if I wanted to.  You know why?  It's not been made yet!  But I'm getting ahead of myself; let's start at the beginning.

My price point, as they say on Say Yes To The Dress, is pretty low.  If you look at the updated spreadsheet I shared in February, I set aside 5% of my total budget for attire/beauty for myself and my maids.  This doesn't just include my dress but also Sarah and Ellie's frocks, as is the tradition in the UK, as well as whatever hair and makeup arrangements we make.  TheKnot recommends that you can expect to pay 8-10% of your budget just on the bride's attire, so even though I won't tell you where my max is in dollars, you can imagine it's quite a bit lower than average!  Part of the reason I don't want to spend a lot of money on my dress - besides the usual reasons that even brides who do spend a lot on their dresses can understand, like that I'll only be wearing it once and I'd rather put the savings towards cheese - is because I don't think there's One Dress out there for me that's worth thousands of dollars.

Is that strange?  I watch bridal shows like SYTTD often and feel like, even though I'm getting married myself, I can't relate to a lot of the women on the show.  (Don't even get me started on the Atlanta episode where the 20 year old bride made a big deal about getting to wear white because she and her fiancé waited for marriage...)  I know that these shows are made to hype up the process, but I never expected the magical moment that all these girls feel when they see themselves in The Dress.  I've known since the beginning what I wanted in my dress, but I didn't expect to find exactly that while staying in my budget - and, honestly, I didn't think our wedding would be any less glorious if I didn't. I was always totally content with the idea that I'd try on a few dresses, pick my favorite within my price range, and that would be that!

So when, last September as I was ordering Sarah's dress at the JCrew store, the saleslady asked if I wanted to buy my gown at the same time, I didn't laugh her off.  After all, I'd been browsing the website for months and knew the selection like the back of my hand - and they were having a massive offer of 25% off if you spent more than $150.  Why not?  Two weeks later, the JCew dress that was closest to the image I had in my head arrived on my doorstep.

I kept looking, of course, after confirming by email with a JCrew wedding representative that I could return the dress at any time, and ended up going to a store in New York with some friends in October, a bridal salon in London in late December with Ellie and Rose, David's Bridal with my mother in January, and a Loehmann's sale alone in early March.  But I didn't like anything I tried on more than what I thought the JCrew dress could be altered to become, so I made an appointment with a seamstress that my mother knew from her sewing classes to discuss options.

Mom and I met with Velma Lee at her house in late March.  I tried on the JCrew dress for the first time since September and, I will admit, I felt a little thrill.  I explained what I wanted, were anything possible, and Velma examined the dress, nodding and exclaiming as I talked.  She could do everything I asked for except make the skirt a bit fuller, but, since the cost of the dress plus the cost of Velma's work would come in under my budget, I didn't really mind.  After all, I knew that the shape of the skirt wasn't unflattering as it was, and since I didn't believe in The Dress... well, one detail didn't seem to matter.

But them Mom piped up.  "Velma, how much would it cost for you to make the whole thing from scratch?"  Turns out, getting a bespoke dress from this incredibly talented woman would only be a little bit more - technically putting me slightly over the maximum I wanted to pay, but the idea of getting to create my own gown was so exciting!  I took a week to think about it and then called Velma to say yes.

I went back a week later to be measured and had my first fitting on Wednesday night.  When I put on the bodice and skirt, which hadn't yet been sewn together, and Velma pinned everything up, I beamed.  I still don't think there's One Dress out there without which the marriage will be doomed, but I'm thrilled with the dress we're making!

Here are a few of the images we're using as inspiration - if you want glimpses of the session the other night, make sure you're following me on Instagram!

clockwise from top left: Amy Kuschel BreezeMoonlightWatters Escalante / Allure Bridal from SMP

57 comments:

  1. Aaaahhhh, so pretty! I love the silhouettes and how simple they are with the special details at the bust/neck - the perfect kind of dress to me.

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  2. haha you early bird! you caught me in the 5 minutes after I published the draft before I realized my mistake and took it down :P

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  3. Truth time: I very close to hated my wedding dress by the time the day rolled around.
    We'd originally intended to get married in December, and I bought a very simple duchess satin halter dress, as I wanted a cape/hood thing (like Little Red Riding Hood, in mint green... not like the KKK. FYI.) instead of a veil.
    Suddenly due to timing issues we moved it up to April, I felt guilty spending more money on another dress, and my suddenly very plain (without the cape idea) dress seemed drab, even in our low-key laid back spring wedding. I loved our wedding, but since I'd never planned and pictured any wedding growing up I had surprised myself at how much I took to the winter wedding idea... especially after it didn't happen.
    I still have it, but I really need to just get it cleaned and donate it.


    DOWNER COMMENT. Told you I was in a sleepy coma!
    But your inspiration images are GORGEOUS. I can't wait to see the final dress, especially since I think you are so remarkably in tune with your style!

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  4. I love the Amy Kuschel dress on your inspiration board – I actually bought one of her dresses last month, a sample, and I love it! Her designs are stunning in person, even more so than they are in photos.

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  5. wait, you bought it... as YOUR DRESS? eeee! (see, I've totally bought into the magic. haha!)

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  6. Yay! I love this post so much. I also watch SYTTD and don't believe there's one right dress to rule the world (or your wedding--whatever). I also think the "price points" on the New York version are ridiculous. I would have been laughed out of that store probably but had zero problem finding options in the good ol' midwest. :) I got married in Indiana, but I was living in South Carolina at the time. I basically had one weekend to shop if I wanted to go with my family so over Thanksgiving we went to multiple stores with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. I was sick, and I didn't have the Ah-ha, teary moment. I loved it, don't get me wrong, but at the end of the day there were several dresses I could have chosen. I had the front runner, and it was the one I ended up getting. It was strapless and I really wanted cap sleeves, so we had the seamstress add those with tulle that matched some of the dress (very similar to your moonlight picture above). I loved it and managed to have a wonderful wedding without having "the moment" or hitting a budget. However I still love all things wedding dresses. :) I can't wait to see the finished version of yours after the big day!

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  7. Oh my gosh yay!!! I love that you're having a custom gown! That top left picture is absolutely stunning. and I'm loving the lace details! I can't wait to see the final dress! I'm sure it's going to be absolutely GORGEOUS!

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  8. I still wish you would have gotten the ill fitting thrift store dress. ;)

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  9. Betsy, those dresses are absolutely gorgeous! I can't wait to see how yours turns out :)

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  10. Georgia ChristakisMay 17, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I can't even tell you how awesome this post is and how much I agree with you. After all, if you are going to spend an exorbitant amount on a garment to wear once in your life, why not wear a dress that is exactly what you pictured? I am sure you'll look gorgeous :)

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  11. So I know that choosing a debutante dress doesn't carry the same sort of pressure as choosing a wedding dress... But I ended up buying the second dress I tried on. I thought I would spend several weekends going to multiple boutiques, but I tried on this dress, and I just KNEW it was the one. My only concern was the price... It was 25% off, but I wasn't sure how much my parents were willing to spend on my dress. I tried on a few other dresses, and my best friend and I both agreed that we loved the same dress. I called my mom, told her I'd found the dress, it cost this much, could she come to the boutique immediately to look at it (and pay for it, if she agreed). She made me try on my second and third choices, and she agreed. The dress was it. The dress. She called my dad, told him the price, and teared up describing how I looked in it. Alterations bumped up the price a bit, but it was probably the least expensive of all the debutante gowns. I'm a lot thinner than I was at 19, but I plan on having my dress taken in and wearing it for my wedding one day.


    That was a longer story than I'd anticipated... ANYWAY. Can't wait to see the pictures of THE dress after your wedding day. :D

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  12. I can't wait to see the dress! You're going to look stunning!

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  13. I TOTALLY ALMOST PUT IN A LORD OF THE RINGS REFERENCE HERE - including a "one dress to bind them" pun about me and Jon being joined in matrimony. I think I love you. and YAY for having the same mindset! it also means I haven't really stressed about the process because it's not a make-or-break decision, you know?

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  14. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "ill-fitting" because it did bring a tear to everyone's eye, if you remember...

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  15. YAY THANK YOU! you are my shining example of beautiful bride, so :)

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  16. exactly! although I did absolutely fall in love with a few $2036272920272523493 Elie Saab dresses...

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  17. haha it's funny you say that because we had to wear floor-length white gowns for one of the graduation ceremonies at my all-girls high school, and I was joking with my friends that I felt like I had already gone wedding dress shopping! my mom told me I'd have to wear the Flag Day dress for my wedding because it was pricey (for 2004), which obviously isn't happening, but we did rent it to a girl in the grade below me and then we sold it to a girl in the grade below that because she wanted to make alterations. So I feel like that dress got its money's worth!

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  18. thank you for clarifying RRH v. KKK - I wasn't concerned, but thank you. haha!


    it is funny how much we end up caring even when we didn't think we would! I lost count of the number of times I said to Mom on Wednesday night, "this is my wedding dress!" even after swearing I wouldn't be too excited :) and THANK YOU. sticking with my style was really important to me, so thanks :)

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  19. I KNOW. I only just saw that image recently and I almost changed my mind about having a custom gown ahah!

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  20. ah, I can't wait to see the final dress!

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  21. I love this story. I love that you are getting a dress made. I love that you were so not overly obsessed with "THE ONE." YAY! Also...isn't "the one" suppose to be the boy and not the dress? Or so I've said as countless girlfriends have dragged me to countless boutiques all over Manhattan... Anyways, Friday tangent- I'm so glad you feel so beautiful in your dress!

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  22. there will be no margaritas at my wedding! however, there WILL be red wine, so maybe I'll write my own version of your post in 2 years :P

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  23. You are going to look so freaking gorgeous!!! I can't wait to see Velma's (oh how I love her name) final product, and see you looking all glam! (It's getting so close now!)

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  24. GAH!! How exciting is a bespoke dress! I can not wait to see it - you will look gorgeous no matter what it looks like, but I know it will make you sparkle even more!

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  25. And, fwiw, I found a dress that I just knew was 'the dress' and it was a mere $5,000. My mom said we could get it, but maybe I should sleep on it and go to one more store and just make sure it was what I wanted. Wouldn't you know I found a similar dress, but one I liked more, for less than $1000 at the next store, and I am so glad I didn't spend $5k on a dress I wore for however many hours in one day. And you know what? I felt beautiful dancing and chatting and enjoying my husband and it didn't matter that my dress didn't cost thousands!

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  26. YAYYYY THANK YOU! she's HILARIOUS. but I wouldn't want to mess with her. and eeeee just over three months to go :)

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  27. haha yes but it's not always as much fun to try on boys :P

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  28. I love love the last set of images. Looks like what comes together will be absolute magic and so lovely that it will be one of a kind, just for you! As a rather full cup sized gal, I'll be surely getting a dress with straps, so I was excited to see the design of yours. Sure it will be stunning. Congrats on the 1 year engagement!

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  29. Beautiful inspiration board! I love that you're building your dream dress, especially love that you're doing it for less. Can't wait to see the final results :-)

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  31. YAY thank you! it is very exciting :) and YES - I tried on lots of strapless dresses, but always with the plan of adding straps. I don't care how good the boning in the bodice is, I'd always feel like I'd have to hike it up if it were strapless!

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  33. Wow, I'm sooo excited for you!!! Being able to build your own dress is so exciting. I can't wait to see how it ends up looking.

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  34. "...and in the darkness fumble with the hooks A.K.A. bind them"

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  35. well, color me curious. I love your inspiration photos! and I'm sure that, no matter what happens with this dress, you're going to be a beautiful bride come your wedding day.

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  38. Oooh exciting! Love the inspiration photos - especially the lace back.

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  40. How amazing to make your own dress!!!! I can't wait to see it!

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  41. So so wonderful!!! Can't wait to see it!

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  42. I too have been engaged for over a year. 17 months to be exact! And I picked out my wedding dress a year ago. I actually went into the bridal store last week to try on my gown for the first round of alterations, which would be no big deal, but I waited in the lobby for fifteen minutes all the while pining over the season's newest selection of dresses! I totally hear you when you say there's not just one dress out there, but I still think the dress I chose lands in the top 1% category. :)

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  43. I really like the top two photos in your inspiration -- I really like the idea of breaking up the barrenness of the top of a strapless dress.

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  44. I couldn't believe that it wouldn't cost a fortune to do it this way! win :)

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  45. haha I love this expression. please use it on every comment :P and THANK YOU!

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  46. yes exactly! plus the no-hiking-up thing...

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  47. haha I hear you - when I saw that top left dress in the image above, I almost changed my mind about getting one made for me! I'll check out your adventure - thanks for stopping by :)

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  48. Oh yes. I had to wear strapless as a bridesmaid, and in half of the photos I'm hauling my dress up. (In the other half I'm looking down my cleavage to check/apply/reapply fashion tape...)

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  49. and it doesn't matter how secure the dress is! it's all in our heads. YARGH.

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  50. haha yes, it's MINE! but is it THE ONE??? eh, who the heck knows.

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  51. Ooh how exciting to have your dress made! I remember being completely disinterested in dress shopping, but when I tried on a dress I had blindly grabbed off the rack, it turned out to be the one that gave me that " oh my goodness, this is the one" feeling. It sounds like you are getting that with your custom-made dress. Too cool!

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  52. I love the tops on the inspiration photos, a bit of lace or chiffon on the top always looks so beautiful and romantic.

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