Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Oh, my god, you’re doing the evil dress thing?” my friend Shanti said when I’d told her about my plans to go to Denver with my mom to try on wedding dresses. “You told me not to let you do that.”
“Well, I found a dress I really like online,” I said, trying to keep the bridezilla fangs and claws from popping out.
“Well, how much is it?” she asked, oblivious to the transformation from human to monster that was taking place on the other end of the line.
“That’s really none of your business,” I said, my brow beginning to furrow and bulge, the fur sprouting from my cheeks, my eyeballs turning blood red, pupils dilating to big, black buttons. “We’re only going because Claire Pettibone is having a trunk show. I’m just excited to meet her.”
As far as I’m concerned, Claire Pettibone is the only designer whose wedding dresses don’t look like a fattening dessert or a prom dress on steroids. Her dresses are ethereal and whimsical, romantic and feminine. They’re also unique. You can see the broad strokes and the details the same way you’d be able to see them in an original piece of art. The detailing, the fabrics, and the tailoring look very handcrafted.
I wasn’t sure what my mom would think. When it comes to clothing, Mom is a tough customer – she could outdo Heidi Klum with the cut of her opinion. You are either in or you are out.
“Take that off, it looks like a napkin,” she’ll say. Or, “That’s awful. It looks like a tablecloth/lampshade/shower curtain.” To further make her point, she’ll throw in an eye-roll or a hand-flap or an “ick” or “bleck” sound.
But she does have a good eye and she appreciates beautiful clothes. It’s something her mother did for her and it’s something she enjoys doing for me, but it can go either way and it’s never predictable.
We walked through the door at The Little White Dress bridal salon in downtown Denver to racks stacked with those confectionery, massively huge, overly adorned gowns. They looked like they could stand up and walk by themselves like an army of headless virginal soldiers. There was enough material on those racks to construct a wedding tent, never mind an item of clothing meant to be worn by one person.
Surrounded by so much white and lace it took all the self control I could muster to avoid having an outburst and screaming, “I’VE HAD SEX BEFORE, OKAY? WITH MORE THAN ONE PERSON! NO, NOT AT THE SAME TIME! OKAY, MAYBE JUST THAT ONCE, BUT I WAS ON DRUGS! NO, I DON’T DO DRUGS! I JUST HAD THAT ONE FRIEND WHO WAS A BAD INFLUENCE IN COLLEGE, BUT THAT WAS YEARS AGO!”
Instead I bit my tongue and beelined for Claire Pettibone’s dresses and found the one I’d chosen online. Fully aware I probably came across as a bridezilla on wheels, I grabbed the dress and said, “This one,” I said. “This is the one I want to try. Don’t show me any others.”
“We’ll put it in the room for you, then,” the salesgirl said, scurrying off without making eye contact.
I walked in the dressing room and pulled the heavy curtain behind me. I eagerly pulled the dress over my head, too excited to be super careful, like ripping open presents on Christmas day. The dress was ten times more beautiful in person than it was online. The detailed beading, the custom lace, the velvet and satin and tulle, and the layers of carefully constructed material that separate a true gown from just any old dress.
“Oh, honey,” Mom said when I came out in the dress. She sat back in her chair and brought her hand to her mouth for the requisite pause. “It’s just beautiful.”
That was it. I was as sure about it as I was the day I met Ryan. This was The One.
“Done!” I said, practically a yelp. I was proud it had taken me less than five minutes to make a decision. I was ready to receive the “Dream Customer of the Year” award. I was ready to become best friends with Claire Pettibone, who now stood with her hands clasped in her lap looking very poised and calm in the company of crazy brides to be like me.
I thought Claire and I could definitely end up being friends, at least on Facebook. Maybe we’d keep in touch and then we could catch up the next time we went to Beverly Hills. Maybe she’d want me to be a “real people” model in her next fashion show.
Then she took my measurements.
“OK, let’s see here,” Claire said as she gently wrapped the measuring tape around my rib cage. First she did my bust. “Thirty-six …”
“Thirty-six? Have I been wearing the wrong size bra all this time?” I said. We’re not talking cup size here. We’re talking back, as in “baby got back.”
She put the measuring tape around my waist. “Thirty-one …”
Thirty-one? What woman who does hot yoga five times a week has a waist that big? I tried not to panic.
“And the hips … thirty-eight. And let’s just do the rear end, just to be sure. Forty-two.”
She’s almost whispering at this point, which I appreciate. She’s talking dress size now, and I feel the urge to go, LA-LA-LA-LA and plug my ears, but I don’t. I know the wedding dress sizes run differently than street sizes, so I don’t start crying and banging my fists when she’s talking size 12 on top, maybe a 14 on the bottom.
I just look at the dress, this beautiful dress, and I can’t believe it’s going to be mine. I mean, who cares about measurements when you’re lucky enough to find love at first sight – twice?
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Vagneur: Today’s the big local’s day, even though the celebrating may need to be a bit different this year.