Before I was engaged, I ripped a picture of my dream dress out of a magazine. Designed by Pnina Tornai, this heavenly confection was a body hugging mermaid style gown made of silk tulle. The mermaid tail stopped just after the butt and turned into a billowy, layered tulle ball gown—too many layers of tulle, lace and delicate beading to count. Like a well designed building, the architect of this dress was an expert at creating proportion, angles and illusion in all the right places. I knew she was the one.
I tucked the picture away deep in my closet until the day of my appointment at Bridal Heaven.
I approached the reception desk.
“Hi, I’m here for my bridal gown appointment.” I was asked a series of questions.
The last one stung.
“How many are in your party today?”
“ Just me.” I have a friend who might come.” The receptionist looked at me like I had three heads. Who was this bride without an entourage of moms, in-laws to be and bridesmaids? A bride shopping for a wedding gown alone? Where was the candid camera? Was this a joke?
It was always “just me”. I am an only child. I have had a lifetime of being a party of one.
“Okay.” she said with a look mixed with confusion and pity. “Your consultant, *Louise, will be right with you.”
I sat on a plush couch in the ornate lobby. Thankfully one of my best friends, *Chris, arrived. Thank God! I thought to myself. Someone cares.
My consultant/lady in waiting for the day was Louise. I met her almost a year prior, while helping another friend look for her wedding gown. I promised Louise that when it was my turn, I would seek her assistance.
Louise greeted us a few minutes later. She still looked exactly as I remembered her. She had big brown eyes and a big smile. She was petite and pudgy. Louise was the kind of person that you just wanted to wrap your arms around and hug, like a favorite aunt. She was my mom, auntie and best friend. At least for the day.
She asked if I had any pictures, I only had the one. She asked what my budget was. Everyone has a budget. Mine was four thousand dollars. Insane I know, but not in the New York city. In New York, I was a budget bride.
The Maryland girl (me) and her sensibility disappeared under the promises that lay hidden beneath layers of tulle.
I was delusional for thinking I could afford one of these gowns. The cheapest one was six thousand dollars. The highest was twenty-five thousand. Yes, twenty five thousand dollars. Who the hell did I think I was? Somewhere in my head I was not myself, but one of my celebrity clients. This was my Oscar night, God dammit! I have worked my ass off. I had spent ten years behind the scenes helping everyone else look good and feel confident. Actresses, models,brides, singers, dancers. I had concealed acne and blemishes. I had covered tattoos and bruises. I put all those “humpty dumpty’s “back together again. It was finally my turn. I waltzed around the trunk show oohing and aahing over every gown. I lost all of my common sense. I didn’t give a damn what I had to give up to get a Pnina. If we had to have the wedding at McDonalds’s, so be it. I will be there in my dream gown.
But where was the dress? Pnina’s trunk show had every gown in her collection except the one I wanted to try on. I handed Louise the magazine clipping of my dress and asked her if she knew where it was. She said it had been discontinued. The dress wasn’t a popular style and only one other bride had ordered it so the manufacturer stopped producing it. My heart skipped a beat. I had waited a year to try this gown on. I tried on several dresses but I was pissed. I only wanted this gown.
Despite my initial disappointment, I felt confident and beautiful as I tried on gown after gown. Mermaid was definitely my style. Sigh… what a tiny waist I had back then. Before my mom pouch took over my midsection, I was a size zero and a size two when I was PMSing. Before there was a swollen football shaped mass in my belly, there were abs of steel, baby!
None of these dresses made me happy. My mind had been made up long ago. The heart wants what the heart wants and I deserve to be happy.
As I watched the other brides parading around the store in front of their entourages, I felt heartbroken. I tried to put on a brave face but I was crushed. All around me were moms and daughters, tears of joy and happiness. There were groups of women laughing, clapping and hugging each other. I wanted my mother. Our relationship has been a difficult one, a phenomenon not so uncommon among mothers and daughters, but ours is particularly dramatic. There had been no fight, no isolated incident, just years of indifference, stubbornness and regret.
I never want my daughter to feel like this.
Louise saw my discontent and in an effort to please me (and not forfeit her commission), she went to the storage room of Bridal Heaven. She thinks the Pnina might be packed away somewhere. Chris and I play dress up in the fitting room while she’s gone. I try on a big gold glittery ball gown with a fifteen foot train. I try on the skin tight Monique Lhuillier. I try on a dress that looks like I am a farmer’s bride to be. We make fun of the regalia, the pomp and the circumstance.
I see Louise’s smile before I see it, there it is. The dress. Even scrunched up in the clear plastic garment bag, I know this dress was meant for me. I can barely contain myself. I am so excited. The dress, like every woman, has a unique history. Louise tells us that the dress is Pnina’s runway piece. This is the only one left in the world. The price has been discounted significantly because the dress needs repairs. This dress, like me, has traveled all over the world [in the name of fashion] and been battered and bruised. The dress is beautiful, yet tired and wounded. There are missing beads and tears in the delicate tulle. The silk flowers on the train are wilted. But when I put the dress on, it comes back to life. Just like all those “Humpty Dumpty’s”, the dress can be put back together again.
I have never seen anything like it. She is one of a kind.
It fit perfectly.
*Names have ben changed to protect privacy.