The Dress Hunt Ends | Brides Against Breast Cancer Charity Sale

Alternate Title: How I Bought My Wedding Dress at a Comics Convention!

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up to the beginning.

In July, 2012, I received an email (from TheKnot, if I recall correctly) about a Brides Against Breast Cancer charity dress sale in my area. It wasn’t really in my area, seeing as it was in Jacksonville (2.5 hours away, if you’ll recall from the Alfred Angelo trip), but places like TheKnot don’t really consider Tallahassee a major metropolitan area.

Not that anyone else considers Tallahassee a major metro, so it’s not like they’re slighting us intentionally.

Anyway, I was scheduled to be in Jacksonville later that month for a comics and gaming convention where I had a table booked. So I opened the email thinking that, with my luck, it would be the weekend before or after, when I couldn’t possibly make another trip over so soon.

Nope; it was the same weekend.

Well, then, at that point I just figured we’d find the hotel it was at and make this thing work.

Guess what?

It was at the same hotel the convention was being held at.

At this point I was hearing the Twilight Zone music and thinking fate was handing me my dress pretty much on a silver platter.

Turns out the dress sale opened at 10am on Friday and my convention didn’t start until noon–plenty of time to pop one floor down (white Mr. Trips got started putting together the samples we were giving out that day–he’s such an amazing helper!) and try on a few dresses.

I was assigned a very lovely Personal Shopper who took me around to all the local vendors that were set up (like a mini bridal show–I’m not sure if this is usual for a BABC event, but it was a nice touch) and then took me over to the dresses to see what we could see.

Now, remember, I’d figured out what I wanted, to an extent:

  • Ivory
  • Lace
  • A-Line
  • Sweetheart neckline
  • A little sparkly

When going through the racks in my size, I didn’t really see that dress. But I was there, I was on a mission, and dammit I was ready to buy a dress, so we pulled 3 possibles and headed to the curtained-off dressing areas.

The first dress was miles too big and 2 pieces: a simple under-dress with a beaded lace jacket with a mega train. It also happened to only be $100, which is why I figured trying it on couldn’t hurt and, once it was on, I figured if nothing else I could use it as a base for a more custom look–having plenty to work with.

the lighting was horrible in that ballroom, so the pictures from this trip are a little wonky & blurry to boot! | all photos personal
the lighting was horrible in that ballroom, so the pictures from this trip are a little wonky & blurry to boot! | all photos personal
See, lots of material to work with if I'd gone this direction.
See, lots of material to work with if I’d gone this direction.

But it definitely wasn’t The One, so we moved on.

The second dress was super-plain, no lace, no beading, but it was ivory and a matte satin, which made it worth a try. The third was obviously a donated dress that had been altered from its tag size and wouldn’t zip up, so there was no point in going further with it.

That’s the thing about a sale like this: you don’t get to try things on and order it in your size, what you see is what you get. You can take a too-large dress in (within reason), but a too-small one usually can’t be let out more than a smidgen so it’s not worth it.

You can only take 3 dresses back at a time, so we went back to look and I pulled 3 more. 2 of them wouldn’t zip (again, tag vs altered size). The third dress was a beaded something that I didn’t even want photographed because it felt so horrible on–it was sorta like one of the Titanic dresses with the off-the-shoulder cap sleeves and stark white and just no.

But, surprising myself, I really liked that second dress.

Ignore my awkward pose on the left--I really did like this dress!
Ignore my awkward pose on the left–I really did like this dress!

It was nothing (aside from the color) that I was looking for and yet… it fit me like it was made for me. The alterations that had been done made it the right length for the heels I was wearing (I do still need to get a crinoline for it, and probably a long-line bra for good measure/smoothing) and the bustle is already installed.

And I felt good in it. I felt tall and stately, and a little slimmer than some of my regular clothes make me feel. It even matches the ivory bolero I’ve been working on (more to test the pattern but, hey, serendipity is always welcome!) and all it’ll need, I think, is a blingy belt (diy project to come) and maybe a statement necklace (ditto the diy). I made sure I could sit down in it (always a good test) and pronounced it sold.

With my dress and my wonderful Personal Shopper (wish I could remember her name!)
With my dress and my wonderful Personal Shopper (wish I could remember her name!)

In and out in about an hour, and the $250 I spent on the dress goes to a good cause. It was the perfect way to kick-off what would be an amazing convention weekend!

Here are some tips that might help if you’re an encore bride looking for her next-time-around dress:

  • Shop with an open mind. Chances are, you–like me–are no longer 20 and fresh-faced. Most of the images of brides aren’t going to fit us any more than a “regular” sample size is going to fit over my hips. But there are a lot of dresses out there, some more traditional than others, and it’s good to go in with the thought that you’re just going to see what looks good, bad, or indifferent and go from there.
  • Spend some time on your hair and make-up. The random dash into a store on your lunch hour notwithstanding, if you’ve got an appointment, don’t head in with a naked face and a messy pony tail and expect to see a bride staring back at you, just because you put on a white dress. Help yourself see yourself as a bride by trying out a new updo or chignon and putting on blush and eye shadow.
  • Wear shoes the height you think you will for the wedding. Same thing as with the hair and make-up, your posture changes in heels versus flats or in bare feet. Sure, many salons have shoes you can try on, too, but you’ll be more comfortable in your own shoes in the long run.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop outside the salons. I found my dress at a non-traditional sale, and plenty of women find a great dress online, in consignment shops, or in the evening wear or prom section of their local department store. It doesn’t have to be filled with miles of satin and tulle to be a proper dress shop if your dress can be found elsewhere.
  • Know when you’re ready to buy. On the day of the sale I knew I was ready to spend the money if I found my dress. The end result? I bought a David’s Bridal gown that I probably wouldn’t have tried on at my first David’s appointment*, because it didn’t fit my preconceived notion of what I was looking for. But I put it on, it fit great, and I was ready to buy, so I did.

There may or may not be tears, a tingly feeling, or an ethereal “moment” involved, but finding the dress is one of those biggies.

Best of luck on the search for your ideal dress!

Did you find your dress in an unexpected way?

*When I went to compare the dress I bought with the store version on the David’s site, I realized I actually had tried this one on, in white, with a wide black sash and hated it at the time. Go figure!

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