Dress Shopping Alone and Finding “The One”

One of the first wedding tasks I was faced with was finding my dress. Unlike most brides who dream of the day they can finally start trying on their fairytale dress, I was not really looking forward to dress shopping.

I had no idea what I wanted in a wedding dress and hadn’t even peeked in a bridal magazine until after the engagement. I felt like I was behind the game compared to the other brides that had started looking at dresses long before their engagements. I was a dog in a lab.

Dog in a Lab

Most of all though, with no mom to go dress shopping with and two of my best friends in completely different states, I was not looking forward to the idea of going dress shopping alone. I tried convincing myself that many brides before me have had to go dress shopping alone and it was completely normal, but somehow, after trying to catch myself up to speed on wedding dresses with Say Yes to the Dress marathons — where brides showed up to appointments with entourages of at least 10 women — I was not convinced that any bride was as lame as me, with no one to do their dress shopping with.

On the other hand, as lame and disappointing as it may have been to go dress shopping alone, those same Say Yes to the Dress episodes that were filled with an entourage of fun company did convince me that I was better off shopping alone anyway. While I can’t argue that having a best friend or two to join me for appointments and give some input might have been kind of fun, I decided to just be grateful that I didn’t have a gaggle of friends and family members to tag along for my appointments, each one armed with an opinion of what my wedding dress should look like.

Dress shopping by myself ended up being not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, but it also wasn’t that exciting either.

The first shop I booked an appointment at was a small boutique in downtown Denver called Blue Bridal Boutique. The consultant spoke with me about the type of gown I was interested in and when my wedding was. It was currently October so I was several months out from our August wedding, but on a good schedule to make sure I got my dress in time. Luckily, I didn’t learn too late that you should order your dress several months ahead of time. Some dresses can take up to six months to arrive and then you might need several alterations after that.

For this appointment, I came ready with pictures of several dresses that I liked and I had hoped this would give the consultant a good idea of what to pick for me. The consultant looked through the pictures and handed them back to me and the look on her face might have well said “well that’s nice dear”. Little did I know, the method of the consultant picking out dresses for you is more of a Kleinfeld TV show thing because they have so many dresses to choose from that it would overwhelm the bride trying to sort through them.

At this bridal boutique, I was instructed to walk around the room and pick about five or six dresses that interested me and the consultant would take them off the rack and put them in my dressing room. The dresses only come in one size, which is usually a really large size so that it can fit most girls and then they cinch you in with all kinds of clamps. The appointments usually last about 45 minutes to an hour, so they estimate that you can squeeze into about six dresses in that amount of time. My consultant should have known better that my appointment would not last nearly this long since I didn’t have to stand around twirling and showing off my dresses for an entourage of friends, so I probably could have tried on all the dresses in the entire store and still had time to spare! More on that later.

As I sifted through the racks of bridal gowns, I felt utterly lost. I had no idea what I was looking for and I thought I would know when I saw it. But I didn’t. One thing I did know was that I didn’t want a ballroom gown and I didn’t want any shiny stain gowns. But even with the little criteria I had, I still couldn’t find anything that excited me.

After picking out a few dresses, the consultant helped me step into each gown in the dressing room. It was very anti-climatic to step out of the dressing room to an empty seating area with a mirror. There was no one there to “ooh” and “aah” or to confirm my opinion that the dress was awful or wonderful. The only comfort came from other brides’ entourages that would look at me as I stepped out of the dressing room and would give welcome compliments here and there. I must admit that I liked this attention and wished it had been coming from people I knew.

One thing I had not considered about going dress shopping alone was who would take my picture in each of the dresses. This ended up not being a concern at all since the consultant cheerfully offered to take my photo before I even had to ask. It ended up being very helpful to take pictures. Without friends accompanying me, I didn’t linger around in front of the mirror looking at the dress and analyzing it. I would not have remembered later what the dresses looked like during my short time in front of the mirror if I hadn’t taken pictures.

The one good thing about dress shopping alone was that it didn’t take long to jump into six dresses and decide whether I liked them or not. This was a great thing for me personally, because I hate shopping! I was definitely striking out with gowns at this appointment anyway. I was in and out of the first bridal boutique in about 15 minutes!

Although I definitely did not find any dresses that day that were contenders for The One, it did give me a good starting point of what wasn’t going to work for me. With that appointment, I decided that mermaid dresses were not my thing!

The next day I tried on more dresses at another boutique in Denver called Little White Dress Shop that had a bigger selection. This time, one of my fiance’s friend’s wife in Denver was there to accompany me. While I would have felt more comfortable and excited showing off dresses to someone I was closer friends with, I greatly appreciated the company and second opinion for this second appointment.

This second dress appointment was much more successful than the first appointment because I was actually finding dresses that I liked and even had a hard time deciding what I liked best.

I tried on a playful number with ruffles by Badgley Mischka called Castellano. I thought I was in love with ruffles, but I was wrong. The ruffles just seemed too immature and too much and I figured it wasn’t a timeless design that I would still love several years from now.

One important thing I found out while initially dress shopping was that, although I hated dresses on the rack with sequins and rhinestones, these dresses lent themselves really well to photography because those sparkly details helped make the dress pop. This dress would have been a lovely choice if I had been doing an elegant indoor wedding.

Then I tried on a gorgeous Matthew Christopher gown called Uma that had the most heavenly, feathery texture.

I also tried on two gorgeous lace gowns and at this point, I was finally getting a sense for what I liked. I was falling head over heels in love with lace because it was such a timeless design. I would not look back and regret this choice like I might with a tulle ballgown.

I left the appointment feeling so madly in love with the texture from the Matthew Christopher gown, but also loving the simple lace of the Robert Bullock “Firra” gown (pictured above). Unfortunately, the price tag on the Matthew Christopher gown was just way over our budget and this was a deal breaker. Seeing the dress in photos later helped confirm that this was not The One anyway because it was a little too grand for me. I really did like the simplicity and timeless style of the lace.

This second appointment at Little White Dress Shop was quite a success. Out of about seven gowns, I found three that I had really adored. I went from thinking that I would be lucky to find ONE gown I liked to finding several gowns I liked. I realized that the dress shopping thing was going to be harder than I anticipated.

We had planned on going back to Denver another time for me to continue trying on more dresses, but in the meantime I figured I could at least try some gowns on locally in Albuquerque. I was very skeptical from the start that Albuquerque shops would have anything I liked, but after trying on dresses at two cute shops in Denver, I was even more skeptical. Long before I was engaged, I would pass by dress shops and be so awed by the sparkly dresses on mannequins in the window, but it wasn’t until after I was engaged and began to seriously consider what I would wear, that most of the dresses in the windows of chain stores like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo seemed to look so cheap, prom-y, and unsophisticated.

But I decided I would give these stores a chance. I had nothing to lose! I searched online to find all the bridal stores in Albuquerque and it seemed like all I could find were chain stores with horrible reviews.

David’s Bridal has a great website that shows you everything they have available so I figured it was best to just scope out everything online before I wasted my time in the store finding out firsthand why their stores had such bad reviews. Thankfully, I found nothing I even remotely liked.

Next, I tried Alfred Angelo, which had a shop located in a nice shopping center. They also had bad reviews but I figured that maybe they had a couple of decent dresses since the store always looked nice from the outside when I had passed by it in the past. My appointment here ended up being exactly as I expected. Their dresses were mainly satin dresses with lots of sequins and ruffles. And not a single dress with lace. I took several pics during this appointment even though I went alone, but somehow lost all of these pics in my attempts to hide my dress shopping pics from my fiance.

This was one of the only somewhat decent dresses and was still much too prom-ish for me.

Well, I tried.

A month later, my fiance and I made a return trip to Denver. There was a lot of pressure on me this time to find a dress because I knew we wouldn’t be back up to Denver any time soon to look at dresses again. I had so much success shopping for dresses during my second appointment that I was certain my dream dress was at the Little White Dress Shop.

On this second outing in Denver I crammed three appointments into one day. Insisting that I wouldn’t find anything at the first two appointments, I made Little White Dress Shop my third and final stop for the day where I would probably purchase my wedding gown! I would save the best for last!

My first appointment of the day was at d’Aneillis Bridal. I read so many great reviews of this place and the first time I tried booking an appointment in October, they said I needed to book an appointment further in advance. Not only was I so excited for what this place would have to offer, but Bryce’s cousin offered to accompany me for my appointments this day and his aunt was also going to join me for my two later afternoon appointments. I was stoked and so ready for this day! I had originally planned to be accompanied by an old friend that now lived in Colorado Springs an hour away from Denver, but she ended up bailing at the last minute. I was a bit disappointed that I would have to do dress shopping alone again and might even have to purchase a dress alone, so finding out that I would be joined by two other women definitely picked up my spirits!

At this first bridal shop of the day, I focused again mostly lace gowns and tried on a few others that the consultant suggested. There was one dress in particular I had been eying online that was not lace but had a very unique texture that I knew this bridal shop carried. I was so excited to try it on, but when I saw it on the racks, I completely changed my mind about it and didn’t even try it on. I felt like I was already off to a bad start with this appointment!

This bridal shop had a huge selection of dresses, but most of them were so cookie-cutter and unoriginal. I was surprised at how few dresses I wanted to try on after thumbing through the many racks. Dress after dress that I tried on, I was not wowed.

Eventually, I tried on this lacy Watters gown. I was head over heels in love with this dress!!! And it was a great price! I was certain I had found The One!

It was hard walking away from the store knowing that this dress was The One and thinking nothing could compare. I didn’t want to rush this decision, so for peace of mind, I decided I would still at least go to my second appointment of the day to make sure there wasn’t something better. Since I knew there was nothing that could compare to this at the Little White Dress shop where I had already tried on dresses during my previous visit to Denver, I called and cancelled this third appointment I had scheduled for the day.

Before I went to my second appointment of the day we stopped for lunch and my fiance joined us. This gave me time to ooh and aah at pictures of me in the gown that was The One….. only this wasn’t The One. Every time I looked at pictures of it I liked it less and less and it wasn’t long before I simply hated it! The dress did not look flattering on me at all.

I started second guessing myself and even decided that a lace dress I had tried on in October at Little White Dress Shop looked stunning on me and might be The One after all! I was so confused! Only 10 minutes after cancelling my appointment at Little White Dress, I embarrassingly called and uncancelled.

My second appointment of the day was at Anna Bé, a cute local shop in a trendy area near downtown Denver. The moment I walked in, I was so in love with the place… and just about every dress I laid eyes on! The shop had such an adorable brick interior with amazing soft lighting. This was a huge contrast from the bridal shop I had just been at, d’Aneillis Bridal, which had horrible lighting that reminded me of a department store dressing room.

I knew that Anna Bé carried very high-end, expensive dresses, so I had to tread lightly in this store. It was difficult walking past the racks of dresses and resisting trying on every last budget-busting dress! Every dress was from an amazing designer and guaranteed to have a unique design with to-die-for texture you couldn’t find any where else. You could tell that this boutique took great care in the dresses they handpicked for their shop. (In hindsight, I kinda regret not having fun with this appointment and playing dress up, because when else would I be able to try on a gorgeous $10k gown!?)

Among the dresses I tried on was this lacy number called Belle by Augusta Jones. I couldn’t decide if I was really, for real in love with this dress or if it was just another fling like the others I had fallen in love with. It was very difficult knowing which dress was The One since everything in this store seemed great at first. It didn’t help that I felt pressured to choose a dress so quickly when I would have preferred to sit on the decision overnight and make sure I didn’t change my mind later after looking at photos of it. But truly, this one seemed amazing and I absolutely adored the fringe on the bust!

But there was another one I had spotted from across the room the very moment I walked into Anna Bé and I could not take my eyes off this dress. It’s cheesy, but it truly was love at first sight! I knew this dress was out of my budget, but I had to try it on. I was partially convinced that I might hate it and therefore needed to rule it out, but also partially convinced that it was The One and I couldn’t pass it up, no matter the price tag. Perhaps I should have walked away to begin with knowing that I was setting myself up for trouble.

I indeed fell in love with this Kendra by Modern Trousseau. Real love this time! The texture and details of this dress were TO. DIE. FOR.

Still, it was a really tough decision. I still liked the Augusta Jones dress and it was more in my price range. But I truly loved the texture of the Modern Trousseau that was a budget buster.

In the end, I decided that I could not pass up the incredible Modern Trousseau that I first laid eyes on. It would be several months before our wedding would take place and I definitely didn’t need a dress-regret disaster in the meantime.

I called Little White Dress Shop, for the third time that day, and re-canceled. I had already found The One! Moments later I was celebrating with champagne and my two wonderful dress shopping buddies! I did NOT want to take that dress off.

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