Monday, July 09, 2007

Bridesmaid's Dress

This weekend, on 7/7/07 my little Joey got married to her man Chris*. I'll talk more about the wedding later, but let me just say that I think it was a great wedding. The men were all handsome, the women were all pretty. The food was amazing, the drinks were flowing, and the weather was sunny and warm. It was a perfect day. I just wish that the days leading up to it were as perfect. I am referring of course, to the creation of my bridesmaid dress.

It all started months ago. Joanne picked out some dresses from a store. I went down to buy one, but this particular store doesn't sell anything larger than a size 11 so I was out of luck. It turned out to be impossible to get this dress from any other source in any larger sizes, so I had to get one made. It seemed it was also impossible for anyone at this store to help me get a dress made too. They couldn't help me identify the fabric, or even the manufacturer. Apparently all they have it this store to identify the dress is some internal inventory number. It was all very frustrating, and even more frustrating was that even though it meant not having any information about the actual dress to make, I had to go elsewhere to get it made.

I went to another bridal shop and I was put in touch with a seamstress who makes dresses in her spare time, in the interests of privacy, let's just call her Helga. She said she could make me a dress no problem. She said it would cost $90 for the dress plus materials plus whatever time she spent shopping for materials. I liked how this would work. It meant that a woman who actually makes dresses for a living was going to take care of everything involved with the creation of hte dress.

I borrowed the dress from Camille - another bridesmaid - and I took it to Helga so she can make a pattern from it and buy appropriate fabric. Helga called me a week or two later and said she was all done with Camille's dress. She had some fabric that was a close match and everything seemed good to go and we still had two months until the wedding. I felt confident that everything was going to fall into place.

I called Helga a couple times to see how the dress was coming. She told me it was coming together nicely, but that she had a lot of dresses to make before mine. Since I didn't need the dress until July 7th she suggested that I come to see her on July 1st for a fitting. She said that then she'd do the alterations that day and I'd have it soon after.

Next, I need to get something to wear underneath the dress. Joanne and I head to a lingerie store and pick out a bustier. The woman helping me asks me for my size. I shyly tell her that I don't know my size and that I don't often wear a bra. She says, "Why not?" and she sounds almost angry. I explained that it is hard to find something to fit me because I am big around the chest, but I have small breasts. I tell her that whenever I find a bra that fits around the chest it is made on the assumption that I've got much bigger boobs. Since I don't like walking around with wrinkly looking twins, I just wear a sports bra instead.

The woman puts me in a change room and goes to get a bra for me to try on. Her plan is to find one that fits so she knows my size... instead of just measuring me. She comes back a moment later and hands a bra in the door. I check out the tag - 34B. I think it is funny that this woman thinks I couldn't ever find a 34B. I handed it back right away.

I don't know what she went to do, but I waited in that chilly room with my shirt off for the next five or six minutes. By the time she showed up with another bra to try my boobs were actually a little larger because I was getting so nipply. Not big enough though... she handed me a 36C.

I thought it was ridiculous that we were playing this guessing game. I already told her I too was wide in the chest and small in the boobs for the average bra to fit me, and she hands me to the most common sizes ever. I put on my shirt and went back out to explain the situation better. She finally understood and she said we had to order something. I said that was fine.

A couple weeks later she calls and my bustier is in. I go to try it on, and it was a struggle. It was hot outside, and this time the change room was very warm and the bustier was tight and clinging to my damp skin. After I got it on (with some help) the sales lady came in and said that it didn't look like it quite fit. She told me to wait a moment and she came back with another one that fit much better. I wish I knew why they just didn't give that one to me in the first place, but at least I had something that would fit around me properly, so I was happy. Neither bustier fit me in the bust though, as both were too large. To fix this I had to get "lifts" as well. This meant that for Joey's wedding I'd have big boobs, and that also made me happy.

Finally the July 1st long weekend arrives. I call Helga on Saturday June 30th and she asks me to come see her at 7:30pm the evening of the 1st. Part of me is thinking that she won't be doing the alterations right afterwards, but I assume she knows what she is doing. For all I know it only takes an hour to alter a dress.

The next day I am pretty excited. I was about to own my very first dress. I'm never going to wear it again of course, but it will sure look pretty in my closet, and it will always remind me of Joey. I put on my bustier and lifts on under my shirt and headed to Helga's house.

I walked in and she tells me the dress is in her living room. I walk around the corner and saw a dress hanging on a rack. "... is this my dress?" I said. I knew it couldn't be my dress, but it was the only one I could see. She told me it was.

"... but it is white." I said.

"Oh there wasn't enough fabric, so I used this."

I said, "... this dress is white... I can't wear a white dress to a wedding." To me it was absurd that she, a seamstress as a bridal shop, would even consider for a moment to make a white dress to wear at a wedding for a woman who wasn't the bride. She not only considered it, she made the whole dress!

"Oh it isn't white, it is sort of ivory." She tells me. "See, this fabric is pure white." and she places a bolt of white fabric next to the white dress. I couldn't tell the difference. She explained that it only looks the same in the dim light of her apartment, and that in the sun it will be different. "I can't rely on bright light to make my dress appear not-white. Why didn't you just buy more fabric??! I can't wear this dress. " I was pissed off.

"There is no fabric in the city to match what you need. I looked everywhere." She seemed defensive. People often sound defensive when they are lying. She simply waited until the previous evening to put the dress together and by the time she realized she didn't have enough fabric, all the stores were closed for the Canada Day long weekend. She used the white fabric because it is the closest match that she already had on hand.

The next day I went to Wal-mart and picked up the fabric. I was nervous picking fabric because I hadn't seen the dress in months. I was scared the colour was going to be way off once it was side-by-side with another dress. I didn't have time to worry about it much. I was too worried that I'd have no dress for Joanne's wedding at all, and have to show up wearing just the bustier - Madonna style.

Helga told me she'd have it ready for a fitting the next day. Thankfully she was right. I went in for the fitting and she mentioned she still needed the tulle. You have to understand that to me this word was "tool". I had never heard of tulle before, so I just thought she needed some sort of sewing implement. I must have looked confused because she explained that it is the meshy net-like stuff that fills out the skirt portion of the dress. She said she needed to get some that is a shade or two darker than the fabric of the dress. She told me that Unique Textiles is close to where she works and that they might even have some where she works.

The next evening all is quiet. Helga should be using the time to put the final touches on my dress. To my surprise the following morning she calls and asks if I had bought the tulle yet. I guess I was dumb not to have verified that she was getting the tulle. I angrily said I'd go get it. I drove to Unique Textiles and picked up some tulle and dropped it off for her. When I was at the fabric store I noted that I saw another bolt of fabric that matches the fabric of the dress. It seemed funny that she, an experienced seasmstress, couldn't find the fabric anywhere in the city, and yet I found it in the only two fabric stores I have been in in my entire life.

On Friday, the day before the wedding, I called Helga as soon as I was done work. She wasn't home yet so I left a message asking when I can come pick it up. When she called back she said the dress wasn't ready yet. "It will be ready tomorrow evening." she tells me. She sounded very firm and confident of this deadline. Under normal circumstances this would have inspired me with a little bit of confidence, but instead it just made me nervous. "Ok, Helga. I need the dress tomorrow *MORNING*."

"It is a morning wedding?" She asks. You could tell that her unspoken words were, "You didn't tell me it was morning wedding", as if that would have made her finish it faster. She sounded frustrated and I know that I was very frustrated. I asked why she hadn't finished it the day before and she said she was too busy. Too busy watching TV I bet. She said she would get straight to work and the dress would be ready by 8:30 or 9:00.

At 8:45 I was at Joey's lingerie party, but I called Helga. I asked how the dress was coming. She said it was done, she was just finishing up. I said "Great! I'll see you soon." and I left the party to go get the dress. On the way there I called Helga again to find out how much it will cost and she said $90. I was thankful a fight was avoided when she didn't charge me for the other materials or her shopping time, or even for making an entire dress out of white fabric. I said I was going to go get the bustier and stop at a bank machine and I'd be there in 15 minutes. She said, "..... oh..... ok."
"Is that a problem?"
"Well, I still have to finish the tulle, it is being finicky... and I have to iron it as well. It won't be ready until 10:00."

I went back to the party until 10:00. At 10:15 I was at Helga's house and she said it still wasn't ready. I waited. At 11:15 the dress was finally ready, less than 11 hours before I needed to put it on. As far as dress-making goes, I am pretty sure that is about as last-minute as you can get.
The wedding went great. The dress turned out to be a great match. It was a little long in the skirt, but otherwise it was nearly perfect. As it happens I am an awesome fabric-picker-outter. This entire dress-making ordeal taught me a lot though. Next time things will be much different. Soon, depending on the style of wedding Megan is having, I will be a bridesmaid again. When that time comes I will know better and I will avoid having a dress made in this fashion.
Megan, I'm telling you now: for your wedding I am wearing a jean skirt and a t-shirt.

* 7/7/07 was also the wedding date for my friends Deanne and Tara. I hope you guys had a great time! I wish I was there to see it! Oops! I just re-read that sentence and it looks like Deanne and Tara got married to each other. That isn't the case at all. Hopefully this clarifies:

Congratulations Deanne and Darrin!
Congratulations Tara and Leo!
and of course
Congratulations Joanne and Chris!


Anonymous said...

So where are the pics of this dress? I would love to see you in it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you found quite a seamstress. I'm surprised you didn't put her name down just for the sake of making a recommendation. YIKES!!!! By the way, thanks for the honourable mention and kind words. By the way, I wish you hadn't clarified, I liked the way that sounded. And who knows, maybe Tara's last name is better than Darrin's. Had I known she was getting married the same day, I might have reconsidered my partner!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarah for mentioning my wedding! I am glad I changed my last name to Leo's it's much better than mine! Haha. I am glad that you had a wonderful time at Joanne & Chris's Wedding!

Sarah J M said...

I did Tara!
I hope you had a great day too!
P.S. Yeah, about changing your name, how is Shaun going to bug you now?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I don't know how he is going to bug me with my new name, he has been thinking of one for quite some time now and has come up with nothing!! Hahaha, but I know one, but I am not telling him! Being called Westerndork was enough all these years! LOL