What I Learned Wedding Dress Shopping With My Daughter

If reality TV is any indication, wedding dress shopping should be stressful. For me, it was exciting to shop with my oldest daughter, Julia, and find just the right dress for her September wedding.

Our first adventure began last year digitally on FaceTime. A dry cleaner in town released about 30 wedding dresses from their vault that had been held for many years.

We found a vintage Jessica McClintock wedding dress that Julia loved on the small screen, but would she love it when I brought it out to her the following month?

I bought it for under $50, because I thought it would be fun start to the process with an actual dress that we could work from, and because the money went to a local non-profit. Here is the dress (Isn’t she cute? OK, I’m biased):

     
As we discussed the design details of this dress (open back, set-in waist, long sleeves, etc.), we both got a sense of what she might be looking for in a wedding dress, and this dress was beautiful, but not quite right.

Julia falls at the high end of petite, is straight waisted, with broader shoulders (such an asset to drape a wedding dress across), so we knew that certain styles, like a waistline or set-in waist, could be eliminated. Also, Julia had her own stipulations: sleeves of some sort, no bling, as in sequins, rhinestones or sparkle (a surprise for me since she had been into glitter at birth), and an open back of in some form.

Our second chance to determine her likes and dislikes came in Watertown, Massachusetts at Vows Bridal Store. Julia presented photos of dresses she preferred, but did not ask her any questions.

They put us in a room and brought several to her. While they did that, I chose three I thought she might like. We quickly eliminated the store’s choice, but found two she loved and one that came very close to being “the one”.

     
Can you tell which dress Julia almost chose? While she loved the tulle shoulders, the set-in waist was not working for her, but the lace dress was one step closer to being perfect. We put it on hold and went to lunch. I asked her questions I often ask my clients, such as what do you love about it?  What don’t you love about it? Does it fit well? Does it have every design detail you are looking for? The uncertainty she had made us leave Watertown without it.

Our next stop was San Francisco just three months later. With 5 appointments in 4 days and the whole family together, I knew we would have to focus on all the information we had garnered from our previous appointments with a wedding dress.

Our first two stops were to Novella Bridal and Glamour Closet. Once Julia had tried on a few dresses at Novella, she became comfortable with understanding exactly what she wanted in a dress. She began to notice the details she wanted and didn’t want. Though we came very close with these two at Novella, and even went back to try one of them on, we left without buying.

     
Glamour Closet, though unique and modern, took only about 10 minutes to go through. Why? Because the shop was small and none of the designs had more than one design element Julia wanted. Easy, breezy, out the door.

Our next stop was at Emerald City Gowns in Berkeley, CA. A delightful boutique selling used and new gowns with an emphasis on gowns from one designer, Lena Medoyeff, who allowed her unique creations to be sold at Emerald City. Though beautiful, none of these gowns were remarkable for Julia, and we left for our final appointment hopeful that we could find a dress before her flight home the next day.

Trudy’s Bridal store in Campbell, California had a bit of the reality TV feel to it, but the owner and staff were superb. And by this time, Julia could easily manage any wedding stylist and articulate her requirements in a wedding dress. Upon doing so, the wedding stylist pulled five dresses. By this time the crew (family) was getting familiar with dressing rooms and wedding dresses and began juggling the clips, flowers and anything equally-sized to amuse themselves as they waited for Julia to emerge.

Dresses 1-4 were beautiful, and really had many components that Julia loved, but when Julia appeared in dress number 5, the juggling stopped, the attention was re-focused, and there really was that “ahhhh” and “aha” moment of “yes, this is the dress”.

The excitement and energy in the room had changed, and Julia was thoroughly excited. The design and flow were perfect. Lace overlay, no set-in waist, sleeves, sheath style, and even small satin covered buttons that she had wanted so badly but no dress had been able to offer.

This was it. THE dress. She loved it. She thought it was beautiful (and so did we), but best of all, she loved being in it. It was entirely her. And the process of finding just the right design details (as in line, shape,color, texture and pattern) had worked.

But, because I have promised not to show a photo of Julia in the dress, I thought it would be fun to let you choose which Maggie Sottero dress you think we did end up buying. Whoever guesses correctly will be entered into a drawing to win a free one-hour consultation with me live or on Skype. Which one do you think she chose?

     

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2 comments
Egifford says April 7, 2015

She could not be more adorable, Kathleen! I think she selected the dress at the bottom – gorgeous!

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molly moore says February 7, 2019

Definitely the first dress! Upper left.

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