A journey through my mind. Which is sometimes fabulous. Often not.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wedding Dress Fitting, Take 1

So I managed to NOT clean the apartment and NOT send out my STDs. Way to go, me. What happened to those two weeks I said I was going to get this stuff done? I wonder if that means I'm going to be a procrastinating bride who runs late and then yells at everyone for not helping her be on time. ;) Probably not.

Last Friday, I was out in Granada Hills for a work retreat luncheon thingy and it was 115 degrees outside when we left at 3:00pm. WOWZERS, was it hot! As I drove home it even dared to go up to 116 on my car temp gauge, and I felt sorry for the man I passed whose truck had broken down. He was literally on his back on the side of the freeway, giant tummy exposed, underneath his truck, trying to fix something. I was too far over in the fast lanes to pull over, but all I could have done anyway was give him hot bottled water from my trunk.

The heat was really getting to me despite the a/c on full blast, so I started to almost doze off at the wheel. I didn't have any other plans so I was heading home and thought about passing out on the couch with the a/c cranked and fan blowing. As I wilted in my seat, I thought about which exit to take, and realized I would be passing the Burbank mall, and it would be nice and air conditioned in there. So I shook the sleep off my face and exited early to get to the mall. I had to get a gift for the couple whose wedding I'm attending next month as a guest of a friend (the first wedding I'm going to without Rick!).

I don't know if it was the heat or that I had too much caffeine and sugar at the luncheon, but I didn't feel well as I stumbled through the mall, indecisively. Almost like I had low blood sugar and was going to pass out, but was perfectly fine, coherent, just couldn't make up my mind about anything. I walked around the mall aimlessly like a lost child, not knowing what I was looking for, and not remembering what I was there to buy. I ended up getting a strawberry smoothie and that helped, and my consciousness regained.

On my way back to the car, I passed by this huge store in the mall - the size of 5 stores (or two Forever21s) - and saw inside racks of flower girl dresses, formal gowns, and... wedding dresses! So in I went, brave little lonesome me, thinking this was the day I would try on my dress AND buy it! All by myself!

I first browsed the flower girl dresses. They were sooo cute. And very affordable too! Nice fabrics, classic designs, and almost all of them cost less than $40. Wow. This store was like a bridal salon mixed with discount dresses impeccably arranged. The formal bridesmaid and MOB gowns were a bit dated in style; most of them were long and sheath-like, and the fabrics were mainly that stick-to-you satin that I detest. They also had no dark browns. So I kept walking, walking towards the back, where racks of white and ivory dresses hung in thick clear plastic bags that screamed "I'm SPECIAL, don't touch me!"

As I browsed each and every design (and there were seriously, like, only one or two sizes of each design, a 4 or 6 and/or a 10 or 14), I got excited. There were so many really beaded and beautiful dresses! And on top of that, there were a lot of name brand ones there too! Now, I'm not an haute couture type of dresser, nor am I a trendy trendsetter or a label snob, but I really didn't think this "mall store" would have Maggie Sottero or Mori Lee dresses in its collection. I mean, seriously. And on top of that, they were, in my opinion, reasonably priced! The most expensive dress I saw was $1,100, which is also David's Bridals' most expensive (but it's David's Bridals!).

So I made my rounds through the four racks a couple of times and was mentally saving the dresses I wanted to try on, even the $700, out-of-my-budget ones. I didn't care! I was excited! Plus, the only time I had tried on dresses was in January at a David's Bridal, and spent 3 hours in there having to wait for "help," and only being able to try on 3 dresses before I gave up and left, frustrated that I was only able to choose dresses from their 20 page catalog, not allowed to browse the racks, and stood in one dress for 45 minutes as the salesladies puttered around moving TVs (yeah, that's a whole 'nother story). Of course, after the visit, I got unending phone calls, voice mails, and emails to come back for another visit and how is the planning going, we'd like to sell you some essential accessories, and even though you said you don't want a veil, we'll still try to sell you 3 different lengths for an extra poufy veil look.

Anyways, back to the racks. A woman saw me looking at the dresses and came up to me with a frown, and said, "Can I help you?" And I looked at her, caught by surprise with the un-warm greeting, and said, "ohh.. I.. uh, I'm just looking." She gave me a once-over, and obvious once-over, and said, "When's the wedding?" and when I told her, she said, "Ok, you can look. But you have to make an appointment if you want to try any on." And turned away before I could acknowledge (and thank) her.

Nice. That was hot. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, tears streaming down my face, wads of green clutched in my hands, exclaiming, "I have money, I HAVE MONEY, and no one will help me, and I need a dress, and I HAVE ALL THIS MONEY!!!" (except I wasn't crying, and I had only plastic, not paper.) I looked down at myself, observed my Target flip flops, knee length denim shorts, and black camisole tank top. Did I look that awful? Or did I look that young that I didn't deserve to be able to try on wedding dresses? I don't know. I refused to be off-put by the woman, however, and continued browsing. Hey, she didn't say I had to pay to look.

I found one that I really wanted to try on. I went to the register (which took practically a minute to walk to) and asked the lady behind the counter if I could try on one dress. She was young-ish with a naive face, and looked around. She looked uncertain and scared. Hmm. She seemed to be at a loss for words, so I piped, "A woman told me I had to make an appointment, but I was wondering if I could just try one on today." In the whole store there were probably 4 customers in there. Hardly too busy to not let me try on ONE dress, right? Come on, guys.

She kept looking around and not answering me, and I thought, geez, this girl's scared of her boss. Great. She finally said, "Yes, um, you have to make an appointment." So I relented. What I really wanted was for her to say, "Ok, let me go see what I can do for you." And I was thisclose to saying, "I'll go find that witchy woman and ask her if I can try on ONE dress." I made an appointment for the following day. And thought maybe I could get my sister to come with me, so it was all ok.

My sister actually was able to come with me the next day, and she even brought baby Bella. As a matter of fact, this is what Bella looks like now, at 13 weeks. :)

As we walked through the mall back to the store, I thought out loud, "I bet it's going to be that same damn woman who's going to end up helping us today." And sure enough... I walked to the cashier and told her we had an appointment to try on dresses, she left us standing there while she went to go notify the woman and we stood there stupidly. So of course, we started browsing again. I pulled two dresses that I wanted to try on and put them on the rack by the dressing rooms. Finally the woman shows up to "greet" us in the wedding gown aisles and I'm ready for her this time! Well, not really. I mumbled that I was her 3:00 appointment, something something. She asked me again when the wedding date was (why that is so important to keep asking as the first question, I don't know) and then what kind of dress I wanted. A-HA. I was ready to answer her:

Sweetheart or regular strapless neckline or V-neck sleeveless; slight A-line, maybe trumpet if it will look good, and with a train.

She stared at my body, thought a bit, and said, "Ok. You pick two dresses, I pick two dresses, and that's all we're doing today."

I saw the reaction on my sister's face and was tempted to either reciprocate or elbow her in the stomach. I didn't want to piss this lady off; I still wanted to try on these dresses without feeling confrontational, and if this is what we had to put up with, then so be it. Hey, it doesn't mean I have to buy from her, and it's only my real first dress shopping!

There was more rough-around-the-edges talk, as my sister tried to pull in a chair into the fitting room with the baby stroller... the woman said she would be helping me so my sister didn't have to come in, and also it was too hot in there and she didn't need a chair. This pissed my sister off even more than she was already. We all fit comfortably, and it really wasn't THAT hot in there; only the woman got hot as she had to manhandle the 15-pound dresses and throw them over my head. I personally think that gets more makeup on the inside of the dresses; I have no hips so it would be easier for everyone if I could just step inside the dresses. But anyways...

The first dress she picked for me was hideous. Well, I guess I shouldn't say HIDEOUS because it did come out BEAUTIFULLY on me. On the hanger, the bodice was ornately beaded, ruched and pulled to the side, and encrusted in diamonds. And it looked expensive and mermaid-y. I *sigh*ed and decided to try it; my sister, knowing my personality and customary inability to tell people what I want and don't want, piped up, "Do you want to try those on? I don't think you'll like them." And I responded to the both of them, "Yes, I'll try it." And I heard my sister mutter under her breath, "since she only gets to try on FOUR, we don't want to waste a try on something she knows she doesn't like." The woman had her back turned and didn't respond. But I think she heard.

It was a nice dress. As the woman was lacing up the back (something that I knew I didn't want because it looks messy back there and I like the streamlined look of buttons with a hidden zipper underneath), she stopped and said, "I have to ask before I continue because if I don't ask people get mad." And I looked at her reflection in the mirror as she was talking and I didn't understand. She went on, "because I'm going to start pulling this tight and if you don't tell me not to pull too tight, how am I supposed to know." And I still didn't know what she was talking about, so I started to say, "okay, you can pull tight.." and she continued, "because sometimes girls come in here and they all have different body types and I can't tell sometimes.." and then I understood what she was getting at, and in realization of it, laughed and said, "No, I'm NOT pregnant, cinch as tight as you want!"

So off she went, cinching and pulling, and I have no idea what it looks like from the back doing that sort of thing, but I felt like a British countess being corsetted in by attendants before heading to the parlor to greet a possible suitor who came calling on me. I waited patiently as the breath was pushed out my lungs down into my stomach or up into my head. But oh, how I watched my waist disappear in the mirror! I hated the dress only because it had an asymmetrical design in the ruching, which gathered into a giant cluster of rhinestone decoration two inches left of my crotch. Why did they have to ruin a good dress by doing that? Of course it LOOKS ok. But my OCD complex would not have it. I walked out into the main dressing area and stood on the dress block and looked into the mirror ahead of me. Niiice. I did feel like a princess. But wait - was this the look I was going for?

Through the years of looking at bridal magazines and imagining myself in lavish wedding gowns, I had come to realize that it is highly impractical to wear such overly stated things. It may be the bride's day (edit: the bride AND groom's day) but no one stays perched perfectly at the edge of a settee for 10 hours or stands against a wall with her hip jutted out, arms slightly open like Cinderella. Those magazine photos are outrageously impractical. It's not like I'm going to be standing on a pedestal the whole day of the wedding, looking pretty while pouting with half-closed smokey eyes, and frozen in time like a sculpture. Heck no! I anticipate running around, rolling around in the grass, taking lots of fun photos, and dancing until my feet break off. Well, okay, maybe not rolling in the grass. That would be the day after. ;)

This was the first dress:
(Maggie Sottero Coco, $720)

So off that dress went. I tried on four others (the woman pulled a fifth that she wanted me to try) so by the end of that, I was hanging on to her every word, roughness and all. She actually kind of grew on me. And she never tried to sell me anything, get me to buy an expensive dress, or make me change my likes/dislikes in what I wanted. She merely gave me her opinion, good and bad, about what would look best on my body, and she really did have my best intentions at heart (it was almost like having my mother there.. but she was a professional wedding gown fitter). Things she said included, "That looks okay, you look fine. But okay and fine are not good enough," "No, no, no... take that off, no. That doesn't show anything, nothing good about that dress," and my favorite, which she kept repeating, driving home the point, "You need to get a dress that ties up in the back, for more control. You can even fit into a size 2, prettier to see the ribbon ties that way, looks nice, and you have most control than a zipper." I like the size 2 part. And that also meant I didn't have to worry about alterations for the wedding - the corset back would take care of me gaining or losing weight!

The other dresses paled in comparison to the first. The two that I had picked, an empire waist, notched neckline strapless gown, and a strapless mermaid/trumpet (couldn't tell on the hanger) with a plain front except for beading at the sweetheart neckline, were awful on my body. The fifth dress the woman pulled for me to try was a pick-up skirt ballgown. I hate pick-up skirts. I looked like an effing cake. But she tsk-tsked at me and said that since I was not wearing heels for the wedding, this way I wouldn't have to cut the dress, I simply, PICK UP, or pinch, equal parts around the dress and secure the spots, which pull it up the hem. Very smart, this woman was. Really made up for her brusque manner.

But here are examples of a pick-up skirt; this is for you if you love cake so much that you feel a need to look like one on your wedding day:

(Destinations by Maggie Sottero SD3006)

(Maggie Sottero Emme)

But I shan't get ahead of myself and make this post a rant about fashionable and popular designs. After all, who am I to judge fashion????!

After the fittings, she lead me to the front of the store and pulled out Maggie Sottero catalogs, told me to go through them and write down the ones that I would look good in. It almost felt like a test! Like, now that we've had our lesson, here's a test. Don't forget what I've taught you today! She obviously had no intention of making me buy any of her dresses, and encouraged me to go to other stores and try different styles but to remember this was what looked best on me. She told me to try to find something similar to what I had tried on, to NOT look just at the brand names, and feel the material, no matter what it was really made of. I left there feeling very happy, a satisfied customer (who paid nothing), and thanked her sincerely. Her face had been bright red in the fitting room from helping me dress and undress, but by then her colors had returned to normal. I don't think she smiled the whole entire time. I don't even know if she had teeth. But she said, "You're welcome" as many times as I said thanks, and that was good enough for me.

So here is what I'm looking for:

One-piece, sweetheart neckline, ruched EVEN bodice (not asymmetrical), natural waist, corset (or tie-up or lace-up) back, beading mainly on bodice, and chapel train.

Things to avoid: all-over beading and lace (she said, "too messy"), empire or basque waist delineation (she said, "too long-waisted"), smooth-paneled bodice (she said, "shows your skin" and "creases", aka my fat) and asymmetry (because I don't like it).

This is closest, but doesn't have the train length:
(Maggie Sottero Irina)

And I might be able to force myself to be ok with the asymmetry of this:
(Maggie Sottero Ariana Taffeta)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2nd week of break...

Ahhh, June 17. I've combatted my stupid 2-month-long rash outbreak of eczema. Finally broke down and went to Urgent Care on Saturday and got oral corticosteroid pills and steroid cream. And 3 months' worth of Claritin. My skin is super happy, at least for now.

So what have I done lately? Not much. Peddled around the house, stayed indoors from the heat. Although I have made some really pretty coffee filter roses, pattern taken from Martha Stewart and originally designed by Mommy Makes Roses. So pretty.

I've also resumed my quest for a wedding photographer. Everyone is so expensive, and I'm so picky about what I want now that I've done research and seen what types of photography is out there and what kinds of artistic shots and effects some really great photographers do. But of course, the really great photojournalist photographers cost half our whole wedding budget. So out that goes. *sigh*

Researching and learning is heartbreaking. Because then you come to realize that you can't afford the best and what you are forced to settle with doesn't compare to that perfection you witnessed - and even though what you're settling with is probably decent, you've already been exposed to something better. What is with human nature and the unsatiable desire to have the best and be unsatisfied with the mediocre?

This is who I found that I have deemed "the best" for our wedding so far in my research. She's already booked for our wedding date and didn't tell me how much she charges: Nataly Lemus. Every picture that she takes (at least the ones that she posts) is a piece of art itself. The shots are aesthetically composed and balanced, and the retouched effects she adds afterwards are beautiful.

And of course, Greg Bumatay of Bumatay Studio was the first photographer I happened to stumble upon. And of course, he's way out of our budget. But his photography and style are oh so hot.

And by association, Miguel Pola, again out of our budget. But a bit more affordable.

And also Desi Baytan. His basic package starts at $1,500, which is totally awesome.

Next to check out is Sandra P. Photography. She's a friend of someone who Rick and I went to high school with, and maybe we can swing a deal with her. Without totally asking for a favor from a person I used to know. One of my pet peeves is getting a note from someone from my past life only when they want something - and then after they get it never contact me again.. So I wish to NOT be a hypocrite about that. (hi Austin!)

What's so great about these photographers is I can see that they can take anything - a detail, a moment, a venue - that is possibly lackluster and banal and make it look beautiful. A warped box of Cracker jacks comes out looking elegant in muted tones, in off-centered, crooked shot. Other photographers (or simply a person with a point and shoot camera such as myself) would have taken a macro shot of it in full color and be done with it. Why is this important? Because I've seen some beautiful places in person that don't photograph well if done in an amateurish sort of way, and some pretty ugly places that translate horribly into square shots; our ceremony and reception sites run the risk of this and despite that people who are at the wedding will see these places in person, I'd like to remember our sites as beautifully as I can.

I'm also re-addicted to Wicked and its soundtrack, and am now starting to read the book, which I have had in my possession for over 3 years and failed to pick up the hefty 2-inch fat volume. I read a little bit every night before bedtime and hopefully will have finished it by the end of the month. :) I want to get tickets to see it again, and maybe have Rick take his mom for her birthday next month.

I guess that's it for now. Oh, and I got an A in my last class. Whoo hoo!

Monday, June 2, 2008

6 Days to Relief!

Wow, it's been a month since my last post. It's been a month since Ah-Gong's funeral.

Six more grueling days to finish my final project for this quarter. SIX DAYS. I should be really happy, but I'm also stressed out because I'm only 15% of the way through. After Sunday, (and it WILL come unless the apocalypse comes first) I will be FREE for TWO WEEKS!! Two wonderfully-free-but-riddled-with-relative-visits-and/or-get-togethers-with-friends weeks until summer school starts. And then the 10-week cycle of hormonal imbalance and stressed craziness continues.

I've already decided what to accomplish during my two weeks' break. It's kind of sad that I have goals during break, but the only way to take full advantage of playtime is to have schedules! ;)

1. I will get my Save-the-Date cards finished and sent out.

2. I will NOT spend every Saturday and Sunday entertaining family friends and relatives. Unless I want to. (read: unless I HAVE to and try to tell myself that I have a choice in the matter and I should approach the situation this way.)

3. I will relax and watch lots of summer movies. Indy, Wall-E, and whatever comes out that looks good will get my $12 patronage. :)

4. I will get organized and clean the apartment from top to bottom. I realize that the end of each quarter is stressful not only because of the final projects due, but because I'm trying to work in putrid, squalid conditions at home. Funny how entropy really does increase. Maybe I should throw a hissy fit and blame Rick for not helping out around the house. Studentzilla rears her ugly head once again! AHAHHAA.

I can't believe it's June already. I'm totally caught off guard and have no to-do list drafted in my mind yet!!

Well. I guess this is the end of my boring post. It seems my life is a little lackluster right now, which I guess is totally okay. :) No news is good news, right?