Saturday, January 20, 2007

Coming Up: Sadism, Fetishism, Wedding Gowns

Today I discovered that wedding dress designers are perhaps the most sadistic people in the world.

I'm not getting married myself, but I volunteered for Brides Against Breast Cancer, which is a very cool organization that accepts donated wedding dresses, sells them at a huge discount, and puts all the profits toward breast cancer research (they do events all over, and you can sign up to help out or find an event here). Anyway, so I was walking around, telling brides they looked gorgeous, putting away dresses and trying not to moan with pleasure everytime I touched a voluminous tulle skirt (my mom passed down to me a passionate love for princessy dresses that borders on fetishism), when a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me my size. I told her, and she goes, "Oh! Perfect! Would you mind trying these dresses on for me?"

Since just minutes before I had been standing in the community dressing room, leering jealously at all the women who got to actually put the dresses on instead of subtly stroking them while bringing them back out to the racks, I cried, "Yes!" and grabbed her pile of gowns, making a mad dash for the dressing room in an effort to strip before she revoked her offer (I was the creepiest volunteer ever, I'll be the first to admit). We found a mirror and she explained that she was shopping for her sister, who was getting married on a budget but had to work today (in hindsight, this was really good news--it would have been a little weird if she had just been asking me to try on gowns for her, huh?).

I eagerly took the first option off the hanger and stepped into it. It was really simple and elegant, and in a size bigger than what I normally wear since we'd determined her sister was a bit larger than me. Yet, when we went to zip it, it would only go up a couple inches, gaping open the way too-small clothes do to reveal what I like to call the Bermuda Backfat Triangle. I called my mom over, who was also volunteering, and asked for her services (my mom is the queen of the zipper--I swear she could get John Goodman into size-2 Versace), but when she finally whispered, "It's not gonna go," I knew things were bad.

"Merely a fluke," I nervously thought to myself, and grabbed another gown. This one was even worse. By the time we'd slowly and depressingly worked our way up to the dresses that would zip, I was a full three sizes above what I normally wear. I can blame a small part of this on the fact that I wasn't wearing the customary industrial strength bridal undergarments, but I can blame more of it on sadistic designers: seriously, what the hell are you people thinking??

Let's see how you fare against a barrage of rhetorical questions, you satin-draped self-esteem drainers that call yourselves the wedding gown industry: Why in God's name does it make sense to make a woman feel abnormally fat for her special day? Isn't this the situation where vanity sizing would make the most sense? Why can I go to the Gap for a pair of crappy khaki pants and find that I'm miraculously two sizes smaller, but when I go to try on a gorgeous wedding dress I've inexplicably gained three? Do you feel bad knowing you're the reason that millions of brides subsist on grapefruit and diet coke for months before their marriages, bitchy with hunger at a time they should be gleefully eating chocolate-covered strawberries off their betrothed's chest? How can you be so horrible but make such beautiful things? Stop the insanity!

By the end of the day, had I been a real bride, I'm sad to say I probably would have bought any dress that was even close to my normal size, even if it was five thousand dollars, even if it was this one:

Wow. Well, maybe not this one exactly, but you get the point.

Do tell, my lovely wedded readers, did you have the same sadistic sizing experience? Or was I really that bloated today?


KRISTA said...

Winona, I totally hear ya. Not that I'm getting married or anything, but bridesmaid dresses are the same way. I typically wear a size 3 or 4 but the size I had to get for my brother's wedding was a size 8. Yeah, not good for girls' confidence especially at a time when they should feel their best!

luxuryduck said...

what a great organization and cause!

love from sydney,


Anne (in Reno) said...

That seems to be a totally common occurrence. The story is, supposedly as the fashion industry adjusted to women's changing sizes (aka vanity sizing) the wedding dress industry did not. Thus you get normal healthy women in a size 22 dress. I copped out and got my wedding dress from J. Crew so I escaped that mental torture. And I think that the sizing issue was subconsciously one of the reasons I did that.

ambika said...

Having had four or five friends get married in the past two years, this is absolutely par for the course. Anne (in Reno) has it right--if you're a size 8, expect to be a size 14-18 in wedding dresses.

Sarah said...

I worked in the wedding industry for two years, in a store that sold gowns. How it was explained to me is that wedding gowns have kept traditional sizing (the sizing behind which the famous 'fact' that "Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14"), while most retailers employ "vanity sizing" which is what is what makes it possible to be two sizes smaller in Gap and which makes it necessary to carry sizes like double zero.

Our consultants tried so hard to warn brides that just because their gown was a 12, there was no need to diet like crazy if they wore an 8 in retail.

Ana said...

yup the same thing...luckily I know meg, and her mom mended a dress for me that was like a thousand times to small for me so I felt ridiculously skinny on my wedding day. YAY. I encourage everyone to do the same, if they know how to sew or, know someone who will do it for them.

@ said...

...and you don´t imagine how strange people become when they are about to be marry.
Well take a look on my wedding dresses:

Alice said...

I had someone make my wedding dress - because I wanted something simple, and on average, wedding dresses ain't simple.

voila, the size problem goes away ;-)

Moi said...

Winona, absolutely! Trust me, you DID not gain 3 sizes. My wedding gown was also 2 sizes bigger than my usual size. And a friend of mine who is normally a tiny 0, got married in a size 2 gown. She really thought she got fat. I don't understand why the wedding gown industry has to torment women like this! No wonder there are so many mad brides.

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