Hallie's appointment at David's Bridal in Seattle was Saturday at 2:30. So, Hallie and I arrived at the store at the appointed time. She had been there before and narrowed the field of dresses to two or three simple styles, none of them "poofy." The consultant assigned to her was a young Russian lady who led us to the rear of the salon where there were mirrors everywhere – rows and rows of mirrors that proved to be doors opening to fitting rooms. I was practically dizzy with the effect and was glad to sit and get my bearings. There wasn't room for Hallie to model on the slightly raised platform before me, so I was given a chair near her dressing room which allowed me to observe the other brides modeling their choices.
I knew I was watching people and it was none of my business. On the other hand, the set-up was for the purpose of watching, so somehow it seemed okay. I couldn't help but wonder about the story each bride might tell. One slender, poised young lady, probably 20, with beautiful long dark hair was modeling strapless dresses before four women – her 40-ish mother, a grandmother with long gray braids, a younger sister, and another who might have been an aunt. All the women, including the bride, were unpretentious in appearance. The choice of dress was serious business. Discussion was quiet with no joyful animation. The bride seemed indifferent about the dresses she was trying and somehow the dresses seemed wrong for her. Something more demure would be better, I thought. Maybe they thought so, too, but there's no such thing at David's Bridal where somehow all the dresses look alike.
Now Hallie stands before me in a strapless, tea-length gown – what we used to call waltz length in the '50s – perhaps a little shorter. She prefers the short length to the long for her August 29 garden wedding at a West Seattle park with reception at a pizza parlor, but she isn't comfortable with the strapless bodice. The consultant confirms that they have no tea length styles that aren't strapless. "Unthinkable," I think to myself. In a different age I would have said, "Come on, Hallie, let's go," but we have both done enough research to know the "big box" wedding gown will cost as much as we're willing to pay. At other boutiques the gowns start at $1,000. Hallie moves back to the dressing room.
Now I'm watching the cute young girl with sandy hair and freckles. I imagine she's a high school senior who will marry as soon as she graduates. As we note with petite young girls who haven't fully matured, every dress she tried was darling on her. "Tells you something about the target group here," I think to myself. Her support group sits on the floor and takes pictures of her as she models. What a great idea – but I left my camera behind. We pass this way but once – at least for the first time.
Here's Hallie again in a strapless gown with a strap that goes around her neck. Hmmmmm. She goes back to the dressing room to try the dress she likes best.
To the credit of this corporation, they have dresses that make even the plumpest among us look great on her wedding day, as evidenced by the young woman at the end of the platform who spent a long time in her gown. A pretty woman of ample proportions, she seemed comfortable in her gown. Of all the people I watched, she seemed the happiest. That was good to see.
Now Hallie models the gown she likes best – at least she likes the halter bodice and the general line of the gown is lovely. It has a train – she doesn't like that. The consultant suggests another gown for her to try, and off they go to the dressing room.
I've been distracted for a while, and when I turn back to the platform to resume my bride watching, I feel as though I might have stepped back to the '40s. The bride is wearing a street-length white sheath dress with horizontal tucks across the front. I would guess it's probably the least expensive option offered at this store. Her consultant came with a piece of netting – more of a hat than a veil -- that they clipped to her hair. I envisioned her meeting the groom for a simple wedding so that they could move on with life.
Well, Hallie has chosen the halter dress and is once again modeling it. "But look," she says, moving closer to me and speaking in confidential tones as she points to a soiled spot. "Do I have to have this dress?" The consultant explains that they sell dresses from the rack only, but when Hallie explains, she checks and says that the store will order a fresh gown for her which will arrive early in May. They will then fit the dress and shorten it for her – for a fee, of course. I'm glad she will have a new dress.
In this environment filled with women, our final contact was with a young man, the cashier. He looked like a high school student and wasn't comfortable discussing the bra. As we finalized the sale, he said firmly and audibly, "You must sign this slip, acknowledging that you know the sale is final. No returns for any reason." KW