Friday, January 13, 2006

A really long post about two family sayings and a dress

My parents like to say "We change everything" when they do a total 180 about something. It's what Frank, the wedding planner, says in "Father of the Bride" when he sees their house for the first time: "Beautiful, beautiful...we change everything."

S.'s First Communion is coming up in April. For years I have been strategizing about the dress, and although this makes me sound like a horribly shallow person, let me emphasize that we have not neglected S.'s theological and spiritual education. My concern about the dress was twofold: 1) I have seen some horrific First Communion ensembles 2) 8-year-olds are not known for their fabulous taste. So I pictured S. clinging to--I don't want to offend anyone, so I'll say, a white brocade dress trimmed with marabou feathers and iridescent sequinned butterflies on boingy antenna-like things--clinging to it, sobbing, as I drag her out of the store. I also cherished a hope that we could find a dress that was simple and somehow unique. I persist in this belief that an off-the-rack garment can be unique despite my knowledge of how mass-produced everything is, but that's probably for another post.

Anyway, I had a notion that satin was the ultimate evil, and started trying to steer her toward matte finishes and simple lines. I would prefer that she have sleeves, so I planted that idea. We looked at dresses in wedding shop windows and I was heartened by her interest in plain satin dresses with minimal trim--it was a start.

I told my mother what I really wanted was something matte finish and preferably natural fiber--cotton batiste, linen, organdie. She knew of a store down the shore that might have the right thing. Then I walked by a store downtown that was advertising a First Communion trunk show, and I made an appointment for the heck of it.

We got there and started going through the racks. I know from observing my mother-in-law, shopper and clothes horse extraordinaire, that one should try on lots of different things, so we were already in the "we change everything" trajectory as S. and I loaded our arms with satin dresses, sleeveless dresses, heavily beaded dresses...

She began trying them on. This blog is technically semi-anonymous so I can brag on it (I just made up that rule) and say that S. looked incandescently beautiful in all the dresses, but it was immediately apparent that natural waists and big pouffy skirts do not flatter her. We put aside a couple of dropped-waist possibilities, but I pretty much expected to walk out and never return. And then, I played WWMILD (What Would Mother-in-law Do?) once more and said, "Hey, do you have anything with an Empire waist? Or princess cut?" They brought me a princess cut dress another girl had in her dressing room. I dropped it over S's head and zipped it up. Almost before the folds of the skirt had stopped swishing around her legs she said, "I want this one." And her instincts were right. It was the first dress all day that made her look gloriously herself--S. wearing a pretty dress instead of a pretty dress wearing her.

So, okay, I thought, maybe we should now go to other stores and look at dresses with this information in mind. But the situation was no longer in my control, as the salesladies, intoxicated by S.'s delight in her dress, were showing her various sparkly tiaras. We change everything. Everything I said I didn't want was in standing in front of me: satin, beaded, akin to a miniature wedding gown, complete with tiara and veil. Sigh. Standing in front of me looking gorgeous and happy.

So then I had, another thing my mother says all the time, a revelation from God. S.'s First Communion is not an occasion dedicated to proving my incredibly understated, preppy, natural-fiber still-WASPy-despite-the-conversion good taste. And why the hell shouldn't she look like a little bride? Wouldn't every one of us kill to have more than one chance in life to look like a bride (without a snag like widowhood or divorce to sour the pot)?

And why should we spend the next month going from pillar to post looking for the perfect dress when S. thinks the perfect dress is right here, today, in the first store we tried? (Which is, incidentally, akin to the way I bought my wedding dress, by myself, first one I tried on.)

No comments: