Your Wedding Dress Makes Me Sleepy

1920s brideHoly rice birdseed sparklers flower petals bubbles! There were a lot of weddings this weekend, kittens. No less than four couples of my acquaintance tied the knot. Of course, since I’m an unholy virago, I wasn’t invited to any of them. I did stalk them all on Facebook, though. Fuzzy Instagram pictures of floral arrangements are the cat’s pajamas! Or, they are usually, anyway. Lately, all the weddings I look at just seem…boring.

Wait. That sounds pretty judgmental, which I’m fundamentally against when it comes to weddings, but for the love of Chanel, why do all bridal gowns look the same? Every bride I know—seriously, every single veil-bedecked one of them—has worn a long strapless dress.

Whyyyyyyyyy? My kingdom for a cap sleeve! My treasure for a high neckline! My autographed Anderson Cooper memoir for a short hem!

Kittens, there are other dress silhouettes in the world. I’ve seen them! There are short dresses with wide skirts and bias-cut column gowns with delicate straps. What looks ravishing on one woman, may be awful on another. For every bride, there is a dress, turn, turn, turn. So, why do we all pick the same thing? We aren’t the same bride, so—logically— we shouldn’t have the same dress.

c840149355b04cb259c0e7dd3e5c758bWhen I first got engaged, I was most excited about three things: having a beloved who grilled amazing Brussels sprouts, taste-testing wedding cake, and finding The Dress. Being a fashion nerd, I knew exactly the look I wanted: a circle skirt falling to just below the knee, a very defined waist, and sleeves! Something straight out of a 50s Dior show. My best friends brought over some bridal magazines and the hunt was on!

Only, it wasn’t. In the eight magazines on my bedside tables, all promising “Thousands of Amazing Dresses Made From Amazingness!”, I found nary a fluffy candidate. By the third magazine, I would have settled for anything with sleeves or a short hemline. I longed for a lace neckline; I pined for tea lengths. Instead, it was page after page of dresses that looked eerily identical. There were small differences, mermaid silhouettes versus A-lines, but  they were all long and strapless. For a culture that stresses this day as our one perfect princess day—which should be unique and personal and memorable ad nauseam—our dress selection is disturbingly homogenous.

Surely, I am not the first bride to want sleeves or easy bathroom access. I know I’m a special snowflake and all, but that’s just ludicrous. It’s easier to believe that we all pick the same dress, because there are no other viable options. When I went dress shopping with my BFF, Girl on the Contrary, last year, there were precisely two dresses we found with straps. (She ended up with the most wonderful of dresses—this sweetheart neckline confection, with an amazing bouncy overskirt—which both suited her perfectly and was legitimately unique, because seriously check out that overlay!) When one of the best bridal salons in America’s self-professed weirdest city doesn’t have variation, something has gone dreadfully awry.

I know we were all traumatized by the giant sleeves of the eighties, but perhaps it’s time to admit we’ve gone a bit overboard. Not all sleeves are bad. Why, nobody shunned Kate Middleton for wearing them! If you want sleeves or straps, you should have them. Vive la manche! Similarly, if you desire the option of urinating without aid on The Big Day, you should be able to do so. We don’t all want a big, poofy white dress. If you want a strapless ball gown, you should have it, but can’t I also have my vintage-inspired tea dress? A little design creativity would make us all happier brides.

1950s bride2Personally, I’m down to two options: have my dress made by a bespoke dress designer, or make the damned thing myself. In my search, I did find a few companies making great short dresses. If you’re similarly desperate for something different, check out Dolly Couture, Stephanie James, and Candy Anthony. If we keep taking our business to indie designers and seamstresses, maybe the great and terrible Wedding Industry will get the hint? Why, maybe someday we’ll even have wedding dresses that aren’t white. A girl can dream (of sleeves).

– Grace


48 thoughts on “Your Wedding Dress Makes Me Sleepy

  1. I loved that my wedding dress was DIFFERENT from all the ones in the store! Way to stay true to your own path 🙂

  2. I discovered that some dress makers on etsy make some really awesome dresses with sleeves. I couldn’t tell you the exact names but if that’s something your looking for, I would recommend them. I’ve found all kind of amazing things from there for my wedding.

    • Lisa, I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve lost on Etsy. There are some shops putting out gorgeous wedding creations, aren’t there? I think we may end up doing the bridesmaid dresses via a seller I love, actually.

      • Yeah I know I’m doing what I can through there and Etsy is the first place I look when I want something, I might have an addiction. I would have gotten my wedding dress made by a seller on there but I found something more affordable elsewhere.

  3. Personally, I’ve not wanted sleeves since I started idly daydreaming about my future dress. I wouldn’t mind a well place off-the-shoulder strap, but I agree with you! Most wedding gowns look like living pastries. I just want some classic lace! …When the time comes.

    • They definitely look like living pastries! That’s the perfect description, Katie. I’ll hope for lots of lace in stores, when the time comes.

    • That is such a great suggestion! I’ve actually checked out a lot of vintage, but my measurements don’t fit the vast majority of dresses. I’m built like a Swedish warrior princess, which is great for bone density tests and getting things off of high shelves, but less so for buying delicate vintage clothes. :/ If I were a 4 or a 6 though, you couldn’t pry me away from the vintage wedding dresses! They’re gorgeous.

  4. Oops, guilty on the strapless bit but at least my wedding dress was dark red. Honestly, choosing a “normal” ball gown over a certified wedding gown shaved off about 90% of the price – and made me feel wonderfully unique. Oh, and if you wonder how on earth I found matching shoes… I didn’t. We got married barefoot on the beach, the best day of my life!

    • Sandra, a dark red ballgown sounds like a ravishing alternative to the standard white poof. I bet you looked gorgeous! How delightfully unique. My mother would be so excited if I chose color, over white.

  5. Well…I definitely chose a strapless long dress. I didn’t intend to…but that’s how it turned out. I am getting an awesome reception lace half-sleeved shirt and blue puffy skirt combo though!

    As for places that do make short bridal gowns, I know Ivy and Aster is another place that does them! And they are flexible with their bridesmaid dress lengths, so perhaps they are with their wedding gowns as well?

    • Thank you so much for the Ivy & Aster recommendation! I hadn’t thought about them for a bridal gown. Nothing screamed “Grace!” but – holy cow! – they have some gorgeous designs. Also, your reception ensemble sounds AMAZING. Hooray for blue puffy skirts!

    • Ugh. I’m not even entering that horrid place…or any bridal shop, actually. It just sounds like torture! They don’t have what I want, so why endure, just for the experience?

  6. If I ever got myself hitched, I’m not sure I’d have a white dress, just so I could find a 3/4 sleeved, tea-length dress. Oh, and the bf and I discussed it- our reception is going to be a hog roast.

    • Amber, your wedding already sounds awesome. Also: 3/4 sleeves tea-length dresses are the BEST THINGS EVER and I don’t know why more people don’t pick them.

  7. Oh my glob, I know what you mean. I mean I’m light years away from getting married, but my sister is obsessed with Say Yes to the Dress and every episode I’ve seen makes me want to either a. puke or b. die of boredom. I do love me some strapless gowns, but my god…celebrate variety people! I, for one, am under no circumstances wearing white. I respect the tradition, but the whole purity thing irks my feminist atoms. I just saw a slide show of black wedding gowns on the front page of yahoo today and was excited to see that because lack, for a goth child like myself, is always the way to go, but the style of the gowns unfortunately remains the same old strapless, floor length thing. Gotta look outside of the box.

    • Oh, I am SO with you. Say Yes To The Dress always hooks me, but then I’m disappointed. How many variations on a strapless long dress do we really need to see? When a bride picks something different, I want to stand up and applaud. Also, the white thing is ridiculous. One of the reasons I’m considering making my own dress is simply so I can wear a rosy blush pink, instead of virginal ivory.

      The idea of a black wedding gown is stunning. So dramatic and fabulous! I can’t believe they chose the same boring silhouette, though. Have they not heard of Tadashi Shoji? He make some of the most amazing black lace evening gowns…super Victorian and not boring at all.

  8. I’ve been engaged for 5 months now, and have been putting off wedding dress shopping because I am just NOT looking forward to it! My ideal dress has a high neckline, long sleeves, a lace overly, and an open back. Apparently I’m the only one?

    I will say, though, that I’ve seen some really original dresses by BHLDN (pronounced “beholden” – took me a while to figure that one out). Good luck, darling!

    • E, your dream dress sounds amazing. If only other people put more thought into their selections! Honestly, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d be tempted to start my own wedding dress line…just so people like us could find the interesting dress they want. Good luck to you, as well!

      Also, I adore BHLDN! I keep hoping they’ll have the tea-length dress of my dreams show up…

      • Actually, upon further reflection, I realized I may have found a potential E. dress designer. Have you heard of Stephanie Allin? She’s a UK designer and she has a couple of long-sleeves, high-necked designs that are GORGEOUS and have the most dramatic, lovely open backs. Specifically, the Agi and Tilly dresses from her “A Fine Romance” collection. Even better, because she is a popular UK designer, her dresses regularly pop up on British used dress sites. There are also a few people doing such designs on Etsy, if I’m not mistaken…

  9. When, oh when will someone finally wear that bridal dress from the November Rain video? Doesn’t anybody love awesome pop culture references anymore? Think of all the brownie points that will be scored!

  10. You are SO right! I (though not engaged) have a picture in my head of mine – and I’ve seen a few I fancy – but I don’t even want to PIN them because I just couldn’t stand it if someone else swept it out from under me. Be you in your wedding, not the strapless poofy barbie dress most people strap into 🙂

    • Amen, Tiffany Marie! Also, I’m glad someone else hides their favorites. My wedding dress board on Pinterest is very, very private for that exact reason.

  11. I HATE strapless gowns. Mine will have a kind of off-the-shoulder cap sleeve, lots of lace, and possibly a chapel train (it’s detachable). I didn’t fall in love with my dress, because nothing was really what I wanted. However, veils are the proverbial shit. My veil has a blusher and I love putting it on. That’s what makes me feel like a bride.

    • Oh, veils! Sigh. I absolutely love them, as well. Part of the reason I’ve envisioned a 1950’s style dress is just for the blusher that goes with that look. Your dress sounds lovely, though! Off-the-shoulder sleeves are so romantic.

  12. Ugh. Why do they force these on women? While strapless can look lovely on the right woman, it just makes me feel blockish and I spend all my time tugging to make sure it’s staying up. The year I got married, strapless was all there was. I ended up buying one and having a seamstress add wide straps. Not quite the cap sleeves I dreamed of, but good enough.

    • Stephanie, way to get around the system! I will never understand the assertion that all women look good in strapless dresses. As an hour-glass shaped, rather busty woman I’m here to say that it’s a fallacy. Straps are a girl’s best friend.

  13. I think you might have to go the hand-made route. Mum offered me her dress, with sleeves and a lace neckline, which my grandma had made for her wedding. We matched it with some accessories for a personal touch. I love that my dress was in some ways unique, in other ways, shared with people I love. ^^ If you want to have a look at the result, I have some photos of the dress and tips from our wedding here:

    • I think I will, indeed, go with the homemade route. Though, I love that you were able to wear an heirloom. It’s lovely! My mother, unfortunately, is six inches shorter than me, so handmade is my best option for a similar feel…

  14. Ack, the wedding industry. I have no hitchery plans, but if I did, I would choose whichever dress looked best with a cardigan, because, well, duh.

    Did you by any chance read “Say No to the Dress,” in the New York TImes this past weekend? It’s peripherally related to what you’re saying: the author chose a poofy thing at her mum’s behest, ended up with a slinky bias-cut number after landing a book deal (or agent?).

    A self-made dress would be amazing. You could probably make it with real silk, Chantilly lace and all the trimmings that you can basically only get with bridal couture.

    • Charlotte, I had not read that article! Thank you so much for the recommendation. I sought it out and could completely relate to the author. The dress she ended up with sounds perfect for her!

      Also, can I second the duh to the cardigan? Cardigans make everything better.

      I am, increasingly, leaning towards a self-made dress. If I didn’t have the requisite skills, I’d hire the dressmaker, but if I can do it well – with all the couture touches you’ve mentioned – why shouldn’t I?

  15. Ah, sleeves. Every girl’s one true desire… Good luck. I reckon you should give it a go making it. It would feel amazing on the day, knowing you’d made it yourself. Plus, it would make for a good post 🙂

  16. It´s funny. Same phenomenon in Sweden. All long and strapless. And you´re right, It doesn´t suit everybody. Sometimes it´s the gallery of horrors rather than a princess brides.
    For my own wedding I was lucky because my fiancé and now my husband is a former ballet dancer and thanks to him I found a professional seamstress who made the dress just for me and my body and they way I wanted it, an ivory under dress and powder pink Empire over dress with embroidered flowers on the organza train (exactly like a Jane Austen character). And short sleeves with long gloves. And it wasn´t that expensive.
    Another thing, I´ve heard that it´s bad luck if you make you dress by yourself. I don´t know if it´s true but I would not take the risk.

    Good luck in your search!

    • I had no clue it was bad luck to make your own dress! So, I googled and…lo, behold. How have I not heard of this superstition? I may invoke that, if I haven’t heard it, then it’s not a thing in the American South. Hmm…

      Also, your dress sounds absolutely stunning. Oh, to know a professional seamstress…

  17. Amen! I couldn’t agree more! I am searching and praying I find a dress with sleeves and individuality for my September nuptials. Plus, if it covers my chubby rowing arms and freckle shoulders that would totally be a bonus 😉

    • Good luck, my dear! If I win the lottery, I’m just going to start my own wedding dress line. It should NOT be this hard to find the sleeved dresses of our dreams.

  18. I wanted sleeves. Ideally the medieval/fantasy big drop sleeves, but I would have settled for just long sleeves. I tried shop after shop looking for dresses with long sleeves, and the longest I found anywhere were just covering the shoulder. One dress sales woman assumed I was a Muslim, apparently because that was the only reason she could imagine anyone wanting long sleeves on a wedding dress.

    She obviously hadn’t been to where I would have shopped if I had the funds.

    Eventually I found a (reasonably priced) dress I otherwise liked with wide straps and paid a seamstress to make and attach the sleeves of my dreams. The dress was satin which would be difficult to match so we added voile sleeves which looked great and were really comfy. It was a lot less expensive than I would have thought and I got what I wanted. But like you I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t just go into a wedding dress shop and be shown something with sleeves.

    • I am so glad you ended up with sleeves, Sparrow! Also, it seems so odd that a shopkeeper would react that way. Surely, we can’t be the only ones who wish for sleeves. Perhaps if they stocked more options, they would be pleasantly surprised by their jump in sales numbers.

      Also…how have I never heard of Rivendell Bridal? That site is a wonderland.

  19. Laughed out loud, I live opposite a church so have seen a billion brides but it could have been just one bridezilla with poor commitment skills because the dress is always the same!

  20. I’m getting married this august and my first choice was a tea length dress too! Sadly I am a bit on the short side and all the ones I tried on looked terrible 😦
    I then set my sights on a lace gown, with some sort of sleeve and no poof! And I actually found what I thought was THE dress, it was a mocha colored satin slip dress (long) with a lace overlay gown, cap sleeve, Queen Ann neck line and a key hole back. It was beautiful and expensive… The shop owner noticed that I had an eye for not so “normal dresses” and asked me to try on an empire waist dress with a sweetheart neckline and a somewhat full skirt. I was very skeptical, I thought I’ll try it on, but its everything I said I DIDN’T want. But when I tried it on I made a discovery, this dress had POCKETS!!! Lovely pockets that were hidden in the seam of the skirt, I couldnt stop thinking about them…. and eventually I picked this dress! Its the only dress that made me smile from ear to ear when I tried it on, and I’ve been to several bridal shows and seen countless dresses and I still do no regret my decision. Its very simple and in the end reflects my personality, and it goes well with our super laid back beach wedding.
    Also it makes my boobs looks awesome, and I know my husband to be will really enjoy this feature 🙂 Good luck with your dress hunt, stay true, but don’t be afraid to be open minded, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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