Making Peace With a Dress Disaster

What do you mean I can’t wear a bra with my gown!?” I asked the smirking sales clerk. “Any undergarment will show through,” she said with a “duh” inflection. “Didn’t you realize that when you ordered


What do you mean I can’t wear a bra with my gown!?” I asked the smirking sales clerk. “Any undergarment will show through,” she said with a “duh” inflection. “Didn’t you realize that when you ordered it?”

No, I hadn’t realized that. Nor had I realized my dream gown with its delicate lace and satin sash now made me look like two scoops of melting ice cream. “Maybe we can rig something up, honey?” my mother offered in a hopeful voice that didn’t match her horrified expression one bit.

“Rig something up?” I nearly shouted as a tear slid down my face. What was I, an under-financed construction site? And even if we fixed the ice-cream issue, just how was I expected to walk down the aisle at McCrady’s Long Room—in front of guests—sans skivvies? How, pray tell, had the seamstresses failed to realize that I, a six-foot-tall woman endowed with the curves to match my height, would require some sort of foundation garments? Mom paid the remainder balance and hustled me out the door.

We headed back to my apartment, where I confessed to Daniel, my husband-to-be, that I was crushed over my gown. “I’m sure you’ll look great,” he assured me as I slipped into cyber space looking over my mother’s shoulder while she Googled every bustier, strapless bra, corset, and Spanx suit known to womankind.

“We’ll just find something that you can’t see under the dress,” she said, kicking into full-on MacGyver mode. In her mind, even if we had to use Band-Aids and safety pins, we’d find some sort of solution. Her determination was encouraging.

“She’s right,” I thought. “There has to be some piece of lingerie out there for this kind of catastrophe.” And I do mean catastrophe. When you’re a C+ lady, a brassiere-free ensemble means the potential for items to shift during takeoff and landing. Turbulence of any kind, i.e. walking down the aisle, is of concern. Not to belabor the point, but keeping one’s “tray tables” in their upright and locked positions, especially when there’s a plunging neckline involved, is imperative. I love Janet Jackson as much as the next gal who played the Rhythm Nation cassette ad nauseum, but a reenactment of Super Bowl XXXVIII was not in the plans for my wedding day. (Unless of course Justin Timberlake was at the reception, in which case I’d reconsider.)

Back to Mom: she typed in her credit card and promised salvation was on the way. True to her word, three items did arrive; that is, three Medieval pieces of engineering, each one more antiquated than the next. I tried on one at a time. The result? Each left me looking like I slipped on a mauve-hued iron lung. I have to admit the devices did lift and shift, push and smush the girls just so, but the boning and fabric were heinous, and when I pulled my delicate dress over the top I looked like I had forgotten to remove a scoliosis brace. I sobbed. And yelled. “That’s it!” I shouted to Daniel, who was in the other room, “I have to find a new dress!”

“It’s too late to order anything else,” he countered, “the wedding is only a month away.” I sobbed even louder. Since he’s the sort of man that knows you can’t reason with crazy—it’s no accident I wanted to marry him—he just gave me a hug and let me bawl.

Over the next few weeks, I was inconsolable. I e-mailed a sketchy website based in Hong Kong that promised to send me a custom dress in one week. (“We’re not ordering from there,” Daniel said resolutely.) I rummaged thrift stores looking for vintage gowns thinking I could alter one, but all I found were 1980s cupcake calamities, like the dresses on TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I nearly took shears to my frock at the eleventh hour thinking I could cut and suture it into shape, but by then it was too late.

So October 10, 2009 arrived, and I found myself getting ready at the Harbourview Inn with my mom, best friend, and sister. With my Marie Antoinette bouffant-style hair “did,” my father walked me the short block to Unity Alley. A happy parade of relatives and friends trailed behind. Onlookers on East Bay honked and waved. And as we entered McCrady’s, violins began to play as our cue to head up the stairs and down the aisle. There, awaiting me in the Long Room amidst calla lilies, ranunculus, and dahlias, was everyone near and dear to my heart, and at the far end, the man I was going to marry.

“You look beautiful,” Daniel said when I reached him at the altar. And it hit me. He wasn’t joking. Even if I’d rolled up in a tie-dyed muumuu he’d still think I was beautiful, and he’d still love me. All this wedding fuss wasn’t about the invitations or the specialty cocktail or the bizarre girdle contraption clearly visible beneath my lace. It was about these people and this man and this moment. It was time to ditch the Say Yes to the Dress and say “Yes” to the dude.