Sunday, January 24, 2010

Notes on encounters with the wedding industrial complex

As I've said here before, I am not really good at optimism and non-misanthropy. Perhaps Exhibit A of these tendencies would be my attitudes toward the wedding industrial complex. So I'd been steeling myself with dread for a Saturday of looking at wedding dresses with old friend and maid-of-honor-at-arms Clarissa Dalloway. I'd been warned that I'd be too small to look non-ridiculous in samples.

Also, I have been told that I am supposed to be fretting about my unhealthy pallor that would have been considered attractive were I actually an 1880s literary heroine, but is not given that I am just a 21st century lawyer who blogs under an 1880s literary heroine's name. That is, I am supposed to fake tan to look acceptable on the big day, except that fake tanning terrifies me because it makes me think simultaneously of loathsome topics like Stephen Reinhardt and vapid starlets. Secondly, I am supposed to be fretting about how my triceps will look if I bow to fashion and wear a sleeveless dress. Or perhaps it is my biceps, or maybe glutes or hamstrings, except I think the latter two may be in my legs. Or, well, that are in the legs of people who (unlike me) do not have marshmallows in the places in which their muscles are supposed to be. I wouldn't know; I recognize names of muscles primarily as unnecessary nouns that distract from the narrative thread of Tom Wolfe novels.

I am also supposed to be experimenting with fad diets so that I can look good in said dress. I have never, in fact, experimented with fad diets, and I don't intend to start. My youthful sins against good taste have heretofore instead been confined to Objectivism and cheap beer. But it seems almost a breach of good taste not to be: first, a sin against the polite norms of the sisterhood -- "I hate my abs too" is the right answer; "Mrph, I am actually more worried about this report at work instead" is not -- and second a wrong signal of lack of affection for a man whom I do love dearly.

Against this backdrop, Clarissa is comforting. She is like me on all of the above counts, except that she skipped the youthful flirtation with Objectivism. She complements me well; she is chatty with salespeople and saves me from the painful necessity of small talk. She understands why it is that I cannot bring myself to cry or shriek when I try on dresses that I like, as she has a long history of explaining to mutual friends that "It's not you; it's just that Isabel is actually from Vulcan and doesn't understand earthlings very well sometimes." If I do not like a dress, am asked why and mutter in reply "It's just sort of a gestalt thing," she does not sigh about how weird I am. If I start to twitch because I have been wrapped up in tulle too long and can't get to my i-phone to look for work e-mails, I know I can trust her to root around in my purse and check for me. I can sit in her car, reading wedding industrial complex pablum that a wedding gown is the ultimate expression of me at a crucial moment in my life, and remark, "In some ways, like, my SAT score was more of an ultimate expression of me at a crucial moment in my life." Clarissa nods and says, "I know exactly what you mean."

So it is that I'm down to six dresses, all of which I like. The advantage of my bizarre tendencies is that I am not overly beholden to a specific wedding dress style. Again, apparently ordinary people are supposed to have been planning out what exactly their dresses have looked like since the age of seven, whereas if I try to think that far back, I remember little except unhealthy obsessions with Nancy Drew and musical theater.

In some ways, wedding dress shopping is actually less painful than the ordinary kind. There are people around to help pin things to my figure, so there are few things that I have to reject out of hand just because they're cut to a different body type. Needing alterations is normal, thankfully. Also,though I did briefly regret the series of life choices that steered me away from investment banking while walking through Saks Jandel on Sat. morning, Pnin and I are not on that tight a budget either, thank heaven. And so salespeople feel obliged to be nice to me for self-interested reasons, which is comforting.

Before anyone asks: yes, there are photos of some of the remaining candidates on the Internet. But my groom reads this, and so I'd wind up violating the traditional rules about letting him see dresses before the wedding date, which I'd rather not. I suppose a solution is just to post the links to comments and tell him not to read them. If anyone's interested, comment in the below thread.

Oh, and one last wedding industrial complex related kvetch: I can't dance. At all. I could attempt to take lessons to learn to cure the problem, but I suspect it might be for naught. Elizabeth Blackwell used to blame the fact that I was a Republican, and thus inherently the sort of square that has no rhythm. But, post-43, I'm a much less loyal Republican than I used to be. Apparently the basis of my failures is more likely biological than political; my ring finger is about a centimeter or two longer than my index finger. N=2.


  1. Photos of pretty things!

    I think that marshmellowiness is just something you have or don't have. Even after going to a trainer for months and lifting weights, my arms look just the same as they always do, at least when they are not flexed.

  2. Clarissa's photos forthcoming! In the meantime:

    1. My favorite of the group: Click on Bridal, then Spring 2010, then fifth dress from left (Bernadette.)




    5. Note annoying website makes you enter e-mail address and details before you can look at any of the dresses closely. Grrr.

    As I'm looking at the website photos of the dresses, I'm struck anew by the points that you and Phoebe made recently about frump/skank dichotomy. Photographs of wedding dresses on models w/o hips or breasts =/ do not tell you much useful about how dresses will actually look on women with more conventionally sized hips and breasts.

    Have been attempting weight lifting w/Ilya's trainer. Marshmallowiness unchanged, though perhaps that will change after more time doing it.

  3. 1 and 3 both have little belts that may visually cut you in half and make you look shorter. Of course, being short is not bad!

  4. Curiously, the belts don't look problematic when on. I suspect that they create the illusion of a more favorable waist-hip ratio or something? And of course I agree that being short is not bad!