Friday, October 24, 2014

Curly Girl Wedding: The Dress

"I've no idea when I'm going to wear it," the girl replied calmly.  "I only knew that I had to have it.  Once I tried it on, well..."
She shrugged.  "The dress claimed me."

- Isabel Wolff, A Vintage Affair

For this week's post in my Curly Girl Wedding series, it's all about the dress!

I love dresses.  Almost every day, I wear a dress or skirt, and rarely pants or jeans.  They're feminine, flirty and pretty.  Dresses are just my thing.

A wedding dress is the most special dress a woman will ever wear, and yet, the specific details of my dress were not something to which I gave much thought until after Jamie had proposed and we started planning our wedding.

When I was a senior in high school, I felt certain that I would meet my husband in college, get married immediately following college graduation at the age of 22, have a few kids by the time I was 25, and be a mom for the rest of my life.  I really didn't have any career goals or dreams for myself, other than to be a wife and mom.

As it turned out, though, I wasn't destined to become a wife and mom at such a young age.  I dated very little in college, and then moved to China after graduation, where I taught English at a Chinese IT university for three years.  They were three of the most fun-filled and eye-opening years of my life, to be sure, and I wouldn't trade them for anything, nor would I trade the way I changed and grew into adulthood, even with all of the painful, gut-wrenching and exhilarating experiences along the way.  Especially because of those.

Jamie and I met when I was 30, and he proposed when I was 35, so by that time, my visions of a wedding had changed quite dramatically from when I was 16.  Thank goodness.

From dreams of a vast cathedral with a robed choir singing, to a modern and very formal black and white affair (including all the guests wearing black and white!), to maybe softening all that black and white with a splash or red or pink, I realized that our wedding should simply reflect us.

Through this blog, I've found my love of all things vintage, and with my collections of cake stands, antique forks and spoons and stained linens, the theme of our wedding started to take shape in my mind, in the soft and cheerful colors of yellow and grey.

My dress would be lace, I knew that much.  And besides not wanting to spend too much, I also dreaded the idea of going to bridal shops and trying on dresses while having sales people fuss over me.  I absolutely despise being fussed over by salespeople.

So when I stumbled upon the Josephine Gown on Simply Bridal, I only deliberated for a few days before buying it online and hoping for the best.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was lace, and the price was right (reduced to $225 at the time), and I felt hopeful that I could alter it to become my perfect dress.

When it arrived, I saw that it was covered in beading, something I hadn't noticed in the pictures.  The beading was scratchy, and cheapened the dress in my opinion, so I spent one Saturday carefully picking off every last bead, sequin and stray thread.  I liked it better already without all the beading distracting from the pretty lace.

I sewed on a lace ruffle at the neckline, which was just a little too low.  I also resewed the straps, since they refused to stay on my shoulders.

And then, in a moment of either pure insanity or pure genius, I cut off the heavy skirt underneath the lace to above my knees.  I loved the idea of a dress that was just a little sexy, but subtly so, and the short skirt (very nearly too short!) underneath the lace was such a unique touch that would make this dress distinctively mine.

My mom came to stay with us for the week before the wedding to help me finish the alterations.  She was a professional seamstress when I was little, and I was confident that she could finish and perfect what I had started.  She worked so patiently and tirelessly, using my old Singer sewing machine, hunched over the coffee table since I had no better place to set up the machine.

I had lost 30 pounds since buying the dress in the spring, so it was very loose on me and needed a lot of adjustments.  She took in the seams to fit it to me perfectly, and took in the skirt to create a more fitted, almost-but-not-quite mermaid silhouette.  She added the cap sleeves with the lace she removed from the skirt.  She sewed an ivory belt from the fabric I'd cut off from underneath the dress, and added the silk flower for my waist.

And perhaps most notably, she created a unique way to bustle the dress for the reception, sewing in strings to gather the beautiful train up on three of the seams in the back.  I loved the way she did this, and I thought the final result was so much prettier than just picking up the train and hooking it to a higher point on the back of the skirt.

In the end, there was really nothing I would have done differently about my dress, except to change the cap sleeves a little to have the lace sleeves extend across my back with a pretty key-hole cutout.  I've always loved that look, but there simply wasn't enough leftover lace from the skirt to add that.  Maybe I should have hunted around for some closely matching lace to do that, or even cut off a little bit of lace from that long train to use, but I was still so happy with the way it looked, and the amazing job my mom did with the alterations.

"Once upon a perfect night, unclouded and still, there came the face of a pale and beautiful lady.  The tresses of her hair reached out to make the constellations, and the dewy vapours of her gown fell soft upon the land."

- Kit Williams

wedding photography by Bri Lamkin


  1. So pretty...everything and lovely lovely photos!

  2. You and I have a lot in common! I always wanted to get married at 22, 23...but I ended up teaching South Korea for four years after university and didn't meet my husband until much later. We had paper flowers at our wedding also! I will be following your blog in future! :)

    1. Thank you, Laura! And how funny - my sister's name is Laura, too. :)


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