Wedding Dress Drama Part 2: “That is NOT a Wedding Dress!”

You may have read my previous post on my dilemma over whether or not I would wear a traditional, white wedding dress on my wedding day next year. If not, Wedding Dress Drama Part 1 introduced my sense of dread over attempting to find the right dress for me, rather than simply going for a frock, socially predetermined by others to be appropriate. While I knew at the time of writing it there there would be at least one follow up piece on this topic (hence the “Part 1”), I had no idea that I would have an experience so soon after the initial post, to illustrate exactly what I take issue with regarding the wedding industry.

I visited England recently to stay with my “best lady” over her birthday weekend. We decided one lazy and over-heated afternoon to head into town and walk around the local shopping centre. We didn’t need anything in particular, just an excuse to get out of the house. Moving along the usual collection of high street stores aligned in a single row and selling the same attire, we got the cheeky idea to scout out potential wedding dress ideas.

Packing my fiancĂ© off to the bookshop, we raced around the shops we thought might be most suited to what we were looking for. At some point, my friend suggested heading to the occasion-wear section of one shop in particular. We figured this could be a way for me to see if I liked my bright idea to keep my wedding dress “simple” in reality. I quickly picked out two dresses – just to give her some visual examples of what I was going for. Before I could even be zipped into the first dress, an annoyingly nasal sounding shopping assistant wanted to know “What’s the occasion?” Excitedly I announced: “My wedding!”

The shop assistant did a double take at me and the dress before exclaiming: “That is NOT a wedding dress!” She said it with so much conviction that I actually believed – for about 10 seconds or so – that she was some sort of higher authority on wedding attire. Now evidently, I know that there is a firm and apparently historical idea of what a bride should wear on her wedding day, but as I’ve made clear – via my blog at least – I’m not really into all that. For all my own self-righteous, perhaps private estimations on what I would be comfortable in on the big day, the shop assistant’s announcement caught me off guard. I literally had no response for her. Eventually, I caught my breath and replied somewhat incredulously that I wasn’t going for something “traditional” because I wanted to be comfortable. Her left eyebrow remained raised, prompting me to explain further than I’d only trip over a longer, fuller skirt and therefore, why not go for something different all together.

By the time I was trying on the second dress, the shop assistant had began to collude with my friend and I in our aim to find me an “alternative” dress. The second dress was a little more frumpy on the figure than it appeared on the hanger and the three of us agreed it wasn’t really what I was going for. However, the white assistant took things too far when she said: “You won’t be able to shake your booty in that.” Now it was our turn to raise an eyebrow. Suddenly another dimension was added to the entire experience. Two black girls, in an upmarket shop, looking for a shorter dress for a wedding: of course we have booties to shake.. Still believing she was being helpful, the assistant ushered us out of the changing rooms and directed us downstairs to the sale, where she assured us there were plenty of “50’s style dresses” that might be more what we were looking for.

A little unconvinced by this point, we headed down the stairs, if only to get out of the shop, however before we could reach the exit, something caught my eye. A lovely knee length, white dress with a beaded neckline, hanging alone between what seemed like a jumble sale of summer dresses and sarongs. Unfortunately, the dress wasn’t my size and had a bead missing in addition to a lipstick stain – presumably where someone else had tried the dress on. However, I felt rather inspired to continue on my quest for a dress I will feel comfortable in rather than one others would prefer to see me – and other brides – in.

Had a second assistant not asked “Aren’t you the girl from upstairs?” in accusatory “Why haven’t you bought something yet?” kind of way – the expedition would have been a great success, in terms of me knowing what kind of dress I will eventually seek out and wear. However, capitalism and social expectations got in the way, just reiterating the extent to which women who are not even married subscribe to an industry that doesn’t care about anyone’s life long happiness, just their bank account.