Luckily for Cape Town brides, the lack of bridal shops is countered by a good amount of fantastic, yet affordable designers. So BB’s Mom told me to make appointments with a few of them, and we’d see what they come up with.
A moment to explain why BB’s Mom in particular became so involved with The Dress: My Mom lives four hours away, which means she’s missed most of the wedding-planning shenanigans. My future mother-in-law is also a warm, funny, caring, understanding, generous, original, creative woman. No buts! I adore her, I can talk to her about anything and I know that I am insanely fortunate to have her as my mother-in-law (to-be).
We were discussing the wedding budget in detail with BB’s parents (oh goodness, there’s another three-part post waiting to happen). We came to our attire and I explained that I wanted something really simple, that I think it’s ridiculous to spend a fortune on a single-wear dress and that I’d be very happy to find something effortless and economical.
When I mentioned my sane, rational dress budget she protested politely. She said that this is the one opportunity I have to wear the most magnificent dress I can find and with the added consideration that I live for fashion, she didn’t want me to be overly restricted by price. So she offered to give me a dress, whichever dress I loved and desired within reason, purely as a gift from her to me, completely separate from our wedding budget. I was overwhelmed.
I assured her that it wouldn’t be necessary, that the things I like are not expensive anyway and that I was completely confident of finding my dream dress within my price range. She just insisted that the offer stood, and I excitedly arranged appointments with three designers.
Our first session was with a young designer, still working to establish herself in the industry. I found her card at a bridal fair in a mall and liked at least three of the ten dresses in her portfolio. I showed her my magazine pictures and told her which ones of hers I liked. She was sweet and personable and the great advantage was that she had a few empire line gowns I could try on. They looked pretty and the general feeling was right, but sadly the quality of workmanship was lacking. Because the cut and fit was not 100%, they were quite unflattering. I was always afraid that the goddess gown styles could make me look bigger, and this seemed to be true. So she guided me back to the more fitted, lacy style I also liked and drew a sketch of a dress similar to this.
We left the appointment knowing that her skills were just not up to scratch quite yet, and while her quote kept safely inside my original parameters, I found it cheekily pricey coming from an inexperienced designer.
The second designer we saw is a Big Name in weddings in SA. He made most of my married friends’ wedding dresses and he is Very Good. The whole appointment was very slick and professional, he asked a lot of background questions and seemed to get a good sense of different aspects of my personality. He also picked up on the fact that I actually still had no firm idea what my dress should look like and he must have realised that we were quite flexible on budget. Thus he proceeded to design a true statement gown.
I’ve never seen anything like it, I couldn’t attempt to describe it other than to say it would not have looked out of place in the Sex & the City Movie wardrobe. It was frilly and flamboyant, with layers of frothy lace, sensational sheer bits and coy covered buttons. I would love to see that dress on the catwalk, but not on me, not on my wedding day. We left distinctly deflated, disappointed that Big Name listened so attentively to all the diverse parts of me and then went to town considering mainly our bendable budget, my need for some simplicity left by the wayside.
Our next discussion was with Karen at Lunar: the perfect antithesis to Big Name’s grandiose overreaction. Lunar is a beautiful local label, see it for yourself at www.lunarlife.co.za. These word-images used on their site is a clear indication of their mood: (SHEER (NIGHT (ETHEREAL (LIGHT (COTTON (NATURE (TOUCH (BONE (SHIMMER (SKIN (TEXTURE (LOVE (GHOST (EARTH (FROST (WHISPER
By the time we went to see Karen, I’d started playing around on the internet and had fallen head-over-heels with a super simple silk chiffon sheath from Watters Brides. Brescia is completely understated, innocent, unassuming, light and breezy, effortless, with just a touch of sensuality from the back. I still adore it.
The best pictures of the Brescia can be viewed at http://watters.com/dress_popup.php?showid=715&id=2.
So I showed Karen all my references and made it clear that I did not want an over-designed showboat of a dress, just something simple. She designed a very beautiful, flowy, elegant improvement on the Brescia and quoted a fantastically good price. BB’s Mom and I went for coffee to dissect and discuss.
Out of all the dresses I’d tried on and the ones that had been designed for me, I definitely liked the Lunar dress best and the price was perfect. The only problem was, I could not make myself commit to a sketch. I am not an incredibly imaginative person and not very visually inclined either. I desperately wanted to see my dress in 3D, feel its texture and its flow, see it move and experience its weight. I could not be sure that the Lunar dress would feel right, would look special or glamorous enough. My indecision was debilitating.
BB’s mom was very patient and understanding, giving me time to talk it all through and try and discover my true wish. And then she said “Why don’t we stop over in New York on the way to BB’s graduation, and see what we find there? There will still be enough time to come back and order the dress from Lunar, so if we don’t find anything, we’re still sorted.” The woman is a genius! So with a little twisting of BB’s dad’s arm and a lot of excitement on our part, we started planning a dress-shopping trip to New York!