I can't believe I'm writing this, but I've narrowed my dress hunt to a kind of garment I thought I'd never, ever wear: a sleeveless, strapless, princess/ball gown with layers and intricacies of absolutely delicious fabric. I can't believe I just wrote that.
What is so hilarious about this new development is that I began my gown hunt with the following attitude: "Every bride wears the same blankety-blank gown, that sleeveless, strapless, poofy thing, but not me!" and with that mantra I set out with the fierce conviction that I would wear something different, something unusual, something that could never be mistaken for Cinderella. I would be the fashion-forward modern bride, I told myself.
And that's exactly what I've been doing the last three months--searching for unique silhouettes, textures and fabric, something fashion forward that would slap the bridal tradition upside its fashion stagnant head.
I journeyed through the Pronovias gowns, but found them cheaply made and too tight in many places, making my nether regions resemble sausage in casing.
I sampled Amsale, but found that the slightness of style was just too boring for what I had envisioned at our gorgeous, historic wedding site.
I was greatly disappointed by Nicole Miller--despite what everyone says about her line--if only because the dresses were made of something resembling the lycra costumes I used to wear in ballet, dance team, and during my time in the Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Virginia Tech. Great for dancing, absolutely, but not for a wedding.
I tried on Oscar de la Renta but found his style was more about the art of the gown than the woman who wore it, though what amazing art it is--absolutely breathtaking, and almost bordering on that concept of ugly-beautiful, which is certainly cool, yes, not for your wedding day.
I tried the 40s and 50s vintage organza style of Anne Barge's 2008 line, but found them too date-specific and not suitable for a 250-year old mansion and garden in Virginia.
I fell in love with Melissa Sweet's unique and genuine vision, but I felt too understated somehow, too simple for a bride on her wedding day, as much as that pains me to say. I will always have my time with "Felice."
I tried on a Reva Mivasagar gown and admired her incredible lace work and ethereal vision, but just couldn't picture myself wearing a negligee in front of 70 people.
And then there was Lela Rose--ah, Lela Rose--whose "Lighthouse" gown certainly turned my head, made me feel light and lovely, but in the end, it was just too much of that: too light and too slight and not enough of "something."
The "something"--as it turns out--was that certain "briderly" quality, that radiant feeling of marrying the love of your life, of knowing and seeing yourself walking down the aisle toward your husband-to-be, saying your vows, dancing to fiddlers, cutting your cake among hundreds of candelit votives in the middle of an old barn. That was what I was missing. That passion. That glamor. That vision of myself as a bride, as a wife-to-be.
This "something" was missing until I tried on two amazing gowns today--both strapless, both sleeveless, both full of fabric and draping and fullness you could bite into like buttercream icing on a cake. The two gowns, to my surprise, were Atelier Aimee's "Minu" and Anne Barge's "Pansy" from her 2004 spring line.
"Minu" is ivory silk, two pieces, a corseted top, a draping skirt complete with a lilac flower pulling up the gown at one side to reveal a white full petticoat. It has a vintage feel--something that hearkens back to the day of Marie Antoinette, or some French princess, but not nearly as poofy or ridiculous. While it clearly has French influences--as Atelier Aimee is so wonderful at incorporating into her romantic garments--it also has, in the context of Oatlands, the Southern glamor of a whimsical, imaginative lady who's going places, winding her way through naked branches in an enchanted forest.
"Pansy"--which I adore, if only because the gown is named for my grandmother--is blush. Yes, you heard that right. It's blush. All over. Okay, you can shut up now and stop laughing. It's not pink, alright? Actually--and what's surprising--is that with the pink undertones in my skin, the dress appears ivory with a sheen of something unusual that you can't look away from, and can't quite put your finger on.
While it is a one piece gown, the top has an illusion of a fitted corset, while the gown is draped with uneven layers and top layers and other layers I can't quite identify but love, with flowers trickling down the left-hand side. The corset has a light, light beading, which really sets it apart and hugs my figure--actually, let me clarify that: it gives me the best figure I've ever had in my life, which is odd considering how "poofy" it is.
The feel of the gown is one of glamor, of a historic feel--an aura from another time. Which is hilarious, considering that the dress, along with Atelier Aimee's "Minu," are the two most comfortable gowns I've tried on yet, including Nicole Miller's purported "beach-glamor-meets-comfort" bridal wear.
So, here I am, down between two gowns I adore, that I feel beautiful and radiant in--Minu vs. Pansy. It's a fight between beauty and a few weeks to make a decision.
To help me along, I'm hoping to make an appointment this Saturday to visit Jeanette's (for "Minu") and Hannelore's (for "Pansy") to make a decision. If I find I'm still not ready, then I've at least found a whole new direction to point my future gown hunting!