The Dress Hunt Continues: Alfred Angelo

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

After the holidays wound down I was itching to give the dress hunt another go. This time it meant a small road trip, though, as we don’t have an Alfred Angelo Signature Store in Tallahassee, but there is one a hop, skip, and a 2 1/2 hour drive away in Jacksonville.

Taking advantage of having the MLK holiday off, the Friend-ficiant L, BFF Star, Partner-in-Crime (PiC, from here on out) JD, and I piled into Electra (my Saturn) that Monday morning and headed east, singing along with my Wedding Belles Playlist and making general merriment until we got to the shop just before my appointment.

Just like David’s, Alfred Angelo is known for treating plus-sized brides fairly. Our consultant (whose name I’ve sadly forgotten) was great with rolling with our silliness and said she liked when she had a fun group.

I tried on another dozen or so dresses, here are a few of the better representations:

Not bad, this first dress was the general chiffon, empire with beading–what I thought I wanted, remember? And it was okay, but didn’t do a whole heck of a lot for me. There was a wrap I’d marked on my favorites list but it looked much different online than in person.

Hello, chest! We were trying to remember the beading pattern.

Hello, chest! We were trying to remember the beading pattern.

Something may have been said, here, alluding to a Snow Beast. Maybe.

Something may have been said, here, alluding to a Snow Beast. Maybe.

I felt like a frilly linebacker with the wrap on–how do people wear these?!–but I will give it props for balancing out the top and bottom halves of the picture. Still, we’d brought along my stunt-shrug as an alternative, and moved on.

I think this is my "hmmm, I think I like what I'm seeing, here" face. Or I could be trying not to laugh. It's a toss-up.

I think this is my “hmmm, I think I like what I’m seeing, here” face. Or I could be trying not to laugh. It’s a toss-up.

This was probably my favorite dress of the day–and of the 2 appointments, in fact–I just knew it was out of my meager budget. Still, it was the one I kept thinking of even when we got home. I liked the swishy tulle skirt with it’s ribbon and scattered beading (easily duplicated, by the way, if push came to shove), the bodice details and, especially, the straps. It was still sleeveless, though, and I knew I’d be wearing a shrug of some sort for the wedding and I was afraid the straps and lovely details would be overshadowed by the addition of a wrap.

Heaven only knows what I'm doing with my lips, here, or why.

Heaven only knows what I’m doing with my lips, here, or why.

We thought this hi-lo lace dress might be fun–I was thinking something slightly less than formal would be great for the idea I had of the outdoor ceremony. Truth was, the hemline looked odd on me and the beading on the lace was scratchy wherever my arms landed. Next!

But check out the boots. I’m not destined to be a cowboy-boot-wearing bride, but the heel height was about what I wanted to wear on the day-of, so I thought they’d give me a better idea of how things looked. Plus, they were much more comfortable than the shoes I wore for the last appointment!

Not even bling could help this one!

Not even bling could help this one!

Going from hi-lo to short, this dress did absolutely NOTHING for me. Even when we added the sparkly belt I thought it made me look even more short-waisted than I am. Not the dress for me (though I did think about something in this vein made over to look like dress 2, above).

Contemplating. There were several votes for this one, I just thought it was too formal for the event we were planning.

Contemplating. There were several votes for this one, I just thought it was too formal for the event we were planning.

Back into lace, this time a classic a-line with scalloped sweetheart neckline. I really liked this one a lot, too, making it my second favorite dress overall, but thought, at the time, that it was not quite right for the ceremony and reception we were having–just not right for this event.

Of course, after we booked our venue and it was determined our outdoor ceremony would be on the circular drive and not in the grass, etc., a dress like this became my goal. Like this, but not this, as this one was far outside my available budget. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Shiny satin, pick-ups, massive everything and a ballgown--everything I didn't want in a dress, but it was still fun.

Shiny satin, pick-ups, massive everything and a ballgown–everything I didn’t want in a dress, but it was still fun.

Hows about some cupcake action, huh? Yes, we did put me into a big poofy confection of a dress that, surprisingly, wasn’t all that bad. It was way too much dress for what I had in mind, but it didn’t look half bad. The girls were unanimous in their opinion of the tiara, though, and Lyssa wondered if we should have at least bought that. The jury’s still out on just what I’ll be wearing in my hair, but I do like the idea of something sparkly up there.



After we’d gone through the usual suspects, I pawed through the clearance rack next to the dressing room. Might as well, right? I believe this picture was taken just after I said “Oh, Mr. Road Trip would probably like this one,” and someone (maybe several someones) replied “Of course he would.” Aside from the shiny satin and the bright white, it wasn’t a bad dress. A bit Marilyn, and way more sultry than I wanted, but it was fun to try it on.

When we left to head back to Tallahassee, I had a much better idea of what I was looking for in a dress, but still couldn’t commit until a few more details had been nailed down.

How many dresses did you try on before shaping your ideal dress vision?

The Dress Hunt Begins: David’s Bridal

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

A few months after becoming officially engaged, I decided it was time to start the dress hunt. No matter that we still had 2 years to go–it’s not like I was planning to buy anything right then, anyway! But I was a member of several shopping sites that were having limited time and selection sales (Rue La La, Dress Rush–now Tailored, and others) and I figured it would be good to have an idea of what looked good on me (not being in the habit of trying on white, formal dresses and all) so that if a good deal popped up I’d be able to grab it. With confidence.

Now, I know that sometimes the big chains get a bad rep, but as a plus-sized bride, they’re the most likely to have several samples in my size, which is important for seeing how a dress is really going to look when it’s not all gapey in the back.

Since we have a David’s in town, that was my first stop, with two close friends in tow to take pictures, help out, and generally pull anything they thought might be interesting on me. Because even though I had an idea of what I thought I wanted, I was willing to try on just about anything because you never know what’s actually going to work. My preliminary criteria:

  • Empire waist
  • Chiffon or tulle, no shiny satin or nightgown-feeling materials
  • Texture, but not the crazy-huge-flower kind of texture
  • Ruching was probably my friend
  • Ivory, not white
  • Sweetheart neckline

While I’d love something that gave me the look of a waist (I’m a rectangle with a bit of a dent at my natural waist, or a cylinder that shifts forward and back to allow for boobs and butt; something other than well-defined curves is what I’m getting at), I can’t really have anything super-tight on my abdomen or I’ll become physically ill thanks to some ongoing digestive issues, and who wants to deal with THAT lovely prospect on her wedding day? Not I!

The one thing that shocked me about this appointment had nothing to do with the dresses I tried on. I was nervous. Seriously, hand-shaking, knees-wobbly nervous. Once I got to the shop and got checked in the nerves settled down and soon we were all laughing and joking around because I can do nothing where I’m the center of the attention without plenty of self-deprecating humor. They (wo)manned the cameras and pulled dresses when our consultant (who, thankfully, never tried the hard-sell me on anything and was perfectly pleasant) switched to her second bride-to-be who was sans entourage.

Enough blathering, how about some pictures?

I tried on 12 dressed in 2.5 hours and have copious photographic proof of the good, the bad, and the awkward. Here’s a representative sample:

That would be my 'Why did I mark this as a favorite?!' look. Between the shiny fabric and the straight-across boob-line, this was a quick no. (all photos personal)

That would be my ‘Why did I mark this as a favorite?!’ look. Between the shiny fabric and the straight-across boob-line, this was a quick no. (all photos personal)

I do like the back of this one--the beading was nice but I didn't think I wanted a train at the time, so it would be a shame to cut it off.

I do like the back of this one–the beading was nice but I didn’t think I wanted a train at the time, so it would be a shame to cut it off.

Again with the uniboob look, but otherwise not a bad dress at all.

Again with the uniboob look, but otherwise not a bad dress at all.

This was probably the number 2 dress of the day. I could probably adjust the neckline into a sweetheart-ish dip, but if I could avoid it all the better. Still, the fabric had the look and feel of what I was after.

Score one for the diagonal ruching--I look like I have a waist!

Score one for the diagonal ruching–I look like I have a waist!

Too bad it was in the wrong material and what the hell is up with that seam across the back?! The sweetheart neckline was definitely an improvement, though, and for that this dress was probably number 1 of the day. Though that’s not saying much since I was in love with absolutely nothing.

The one thing it needed was some bling, and different fabric.

The one thing it needed was some bling, and different fabric.

I must have just turned around, making the a-line look like a sheath–definitely not the look I was going for.

Help me, Obi Wan, you're my only hope!

Help me, Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!

I swear, if this one had a hood it’d be perfect for a Princess Leia cosplay. For the geeks among us, that detachable train is actually a Watteau train (yes, really). If I wore something like this I’d be totally playing with my “cape” all day. But I don’t think I would. Wear it, that is. While I like that the dress isn’t strapless, this style totally squished the girls and, geez, take away the curves I do have, why doncha?

Some other things I learned were that the tea-length dresses, while I loved them in theory, did nothing for my legs–go short, go long, but no in between. And while I’d hoped to avoid the bulky crinoline slips, I’ve changed my tune and love them dearly–they camouflage any tummy-bulge weirdness, even under the less-structured gowns.

Also? When your bestie unlaces you from the tea-length dress you removed the aforementioned crinoline to try on, remember the lack of underslip before the dress falls and you happen to have the dressing room door half-open. Oops!

But the mission was mostly accomplished. I still didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew more about what I didn’t want, and that’s not a bad place to be, 2 years out from the wedding.

How did your first dress-trying experience go?

Make or Buy Decision: The Dress

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
image via stock.xchng | photography by noobpriest

image via stock.xchng | photography by noobpriest

An unlimited budget is something many of us can only dream of. Dream of and drool.

Ever hear of champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook? That’s us. Actually, some days it feels more like a bottled-water budget.

But this post isn’t *strictly* about budget issues.

Back when I was in Culinary School I learned many things (obviously). One of the major points that stuck with me, though, (besides how easily one can burn off one’s eyebrows seasoning saute pans–NOT me, by the way) was the concept of the Make or Buy Decision.

Yes, I think it deserves capitalizing. It’s really that important.

In a nutshell, the Make or Buy Decision is where you have to decide if the time and materials that go into making something yourself are worth more than what it would cost to buy a comparable item from your suppliers.

You can make it yourself, but should you?

We only have so many hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in each month leading up to the wedding. Most of us are juggling work, some maybe have school thrown in. There may be children’s schedules to wrangle but there’s definitely spending non-wedding-planning time with your future spouse and very important items like sleep and taking care of yourself that have to be done. The wedding gets the rest of it.

Of those carved-out hours, we have to use them to the best of our abilities. If we’re fully capable of making our own invitations, favors, flowers and dress but only have enough hours to cover maybe 2 of those, it’s okay to outsource it. Make or Buy decision.

For me, though, it’s a clear-cut case of more time than money. With 16 months to go, I felt like I had all the time in the world compared to our small budget.

And I seriously considered sewing my own wedding dress.

After all, it’s no secret that the materials many wedding gowns are made out of cost a pittance compared to the retail price when it’s in a boutique. Lots of labor, yes, but depending on how fancy a dress you want versus the time you have available to work on it, even that might be more reasonable than paying someone else’s mark-up and overhead. What we pay for is the skill of the designer and, sometimes, a name, if that’s important to you.

It’s not to me, I just want something that looks nice on me and doesn’t blow the budget.

I gave myself until the 1-year point before I had to make the decision, but nothing in the first two dress “shopping” sessions (more like active browsing–can you call it shopping if you have no intention of buying anything?) really did anything to thrill me and I only held out marginal hope for the third appointment.

If you’ve ever thought about sewing your own wedding dress, here are some very important questions to answer before you dive in.

  1. Can you sew a straight line?
  2. Do you have access to a sewing machine and know how to use it?
  3. Have you ever made a dress before?
  4. Do you know how to read a dress pattern?
  5. Do you know how to adjust sewing patterns to fit you better or adjust a style?
  6. Do you have any familiarity with fabrics, notions, and trim?
  7. Can you sew in a zipper? And make it look nearly invisible?
  8. Have you ever applied lace or beading to a garment?
  9. Do you even like to sew?
  10. Do you have a back-up plan?

If you answered No to any of the above questions, it’s my not-so-humble opinion that making your own wedding dress is not the course for you.

The months leading up to your wedding are not the time to acquire such a demanding skill. It’s not the time to spend hundreds of dollars on specialty fabric (because you’re new at this, and probably didn’t make a muslin) only to find out you hate working with silk/chiffon/taffeta/tulle and sewing in general.

And that back-up plan? Can be anything from a friend’s dress you can borrow to paying a seamstress to fix your mistakes a month before the wedding or even going to buy something off the rack. Know, going in, that you’d better have a Plan B just in case.

But even though I’ve sewn for years, including garments that have been worn and washed many times and didn’t fall apart (an important test!), I still looked for a more ready-to-wear option before investing in fabrics and trim, but sent away for some lace samples just in case.

 Did you ever consider making your own wedding outfit?