As I'm sure you've gathered if you're a regular reader, I spent the past weekend in Washington D.C. on a search for The Wedding Dress. Being my normal neurotic self, I became fairly hysterical about this prospect. My worries, as it turned out, were completely unfounded. My trip to the D.C. Aria boutique could not have been better - it may have been the best wedding dress shopping experience any American bride has ever had. (Have I mentioned that I never exaggerate?)
One of my close friends, dearest Kimmy, still lives in the metro area, and she accompanied me for moral support and the all-important second opinion. Arriving at the boutique, located in a townhouse just off Dupont Circle, we found a most inviting little space. Inside was its one inhabitant, our hostess for the appointment. We'll call her K. And that was it - us and her. Private appointment. Totally amazing, right? Sort of the antithesis of David's.
I had expected it to be more like Simple Sihlouettes in Manhattan, where we'd checked out bridesmaid dresses for Kim's wedding a couple of years ago - a small boutique with several groups of girls there at once. Nope, this was total one on one service and total privacy. K was bubbly and helpful and utterly un-pushy throughout the visit. Basically, everything you don't get from the girls at a typical bridal salon. Of course, part of why I've liked this company from the start is that they don't deal with bridal salons. For an anxiety prone, body conscious person such as myself, this was the perfect dress shopping experience.
But anyway, enough praise for the Aria way. You want to see me in some dresses, right? Yes, I thought so. We'll start with a "before" shot - something to give you a baseline. Here's me in the street clothes I showed up in - utterly not fancydresslike.
Oh, things you should know. I was looking both for The Wedding Dress and for a dress for the rehearsal dinner and things like that. I don't really have nice dresses that fit me anymore - I actually lost my favorite one in the flood. (As that was almost four years ago, you can see how often I need them.) And I'll have at least that one other event happening that will require looking spiffed. With what I'm spending on a wedding dress, assuming it is coming from this place, why not get a couple of dresses that really fit? So we begin with, and actually focus on, dresses for the latter purpose. But keep in mind that pretty much all of their dresses can be ordered in full length.
Here we have dress number one. Kim thought I looked good in it, but frankly I think I look a little tubby. I also think I would have been doing a little show for anyone who happened to glance over at any time that I was leaning a bit, if you know what I mean. (And no, I don't consider that a good thing.) Somewhat cute I guess, but not for me I don't think. Oh, and about the heels? The only sample heels they had around were freaking four inches high. My left ankle's a bit bum right now, and after the first go I gave up on them.
Pinkest. Dress. EVAH! Fo reals, yo. This dress could work on somebody tiny I guess, but for me it was just blah... and pink.
I call this red one the boobiesack dress. It's like, here's my boobies! I've put them in little sacks for you! Kim and I agreed it looked dumb. Jonathan thinks it's juuuust fine. Depends on what you're going for, I guess.
Now, we're getting somewhere. This one I really like. It's got a 50s housewife thing going on - but in a good way. If I end up ordering it I'll probably have them add some length, making it a tea length sort of affair. But... what color?!
And this one's almost a definite. Kim and I both really and truly loved it. And it just so happened that they had it in the exact color of the fabric that I'd want it in - fern satin. Sadly, they had it one size too small. But you get the idea - here we don't have it zipped up all the way, so it fits pretty much how it would in the proper size but zipped up (I hope). I tried the size above what I should've had as well, and I was swimming in it! They really mean it when they say that this dress has "extra room".
Take me to the prom - now! This dress fit me unbelievably well. I mean, it was strapless! And it fit me at all! Not only did it not feel like it was going to fall down, but it was also quite comfortable. Alas, it was way too formal for rehearsal dinner type stuff, but not nearly enough to be a wedding dress. So somebody had better figure out what fancy soirée they're taking me to, because this dress is hot. Or is that me? Ha!
Alright people, now here we go. This is the big stuff, the real deal.
This here is what you call "the dress". You know. The big one. Literally, with the petticoat and all. This is the one I had big hopes for before the trip. And as it turns out, I look pretty great in it after all. (Is this where I should pull out the IMHO?) Of course, since they're marketing it as a wedding dress they only had it in white. So you'll have to use your imagination to see it in the cornflower with the horizon sash instead of the white with the dark blue sash. But I think you can do it. Especially since I've given you some visual aids a couple of pictures down.
Yeah, I gotta lotta hair at this point. That was the intention - I've been "growing it for the wedding" for well over a year now.
Yes ma, you can see my tattoos. What ever will the ladies at bridge club think?!
See? Blue! Such lovely blue. Matches my ring.
I'm thinking I'll go with a darker blue dress with a lighter blue sash, like this. But there's a possibility that I'll do the cornflower dress with an indigo sash - indigo being somewhere in the neighborhood of navy. And a vague, slight possibility that I'll go with a horizon dress with a cornflower sash. But I just don't feel like the horizon is enough color. I want COLOR! We shall see. I have time.
So there you have it, my Aria dress shopping experience. If you're looking for the kind of dresses they offer - simple classic styles at affordable prices in a range of fabrics and colors - then I highly recommend them! Even if you can't get to one of their locations, you can do their try on at home thing. The dresses are very true to size - I am a 12 and I wear a 12 in their dresses, not a 14 or a 16 like in so many brands. (Why, WHY do they all want to make brides feel enormous, as if they've blown up two or more sizes over night? It's just cruel!) The dresses that claim to have "extra room" really do, and the #171 empire babydoll likely needs to be ordered a full size smaller than your usual. (I really was swimming in a 12 in that one - it was shocking. I'll be ordering it in a 10.)
I still have to go dress shopping with my mom, which Kim thinks is a wretched idea but I think might be alright, particularly now that I have my safety dress. The dress that I know fits, that I know I could be really truly happy with. Because it's gorgeous, and makes me feel a little bit like a princess. Did I have that magical, mythical moment? I'm not so sure that I'm one of the girls that has those. What I know, though, is that after I took it off I wanted to put it back on, petticoat and all. That's gotta mean something, right?
I think it does.
At any rate, we're now much closer to having proper wedding armor. And now, I must figure out what to do about shoes...!