The entire boutique, from the desks to the doorknobs, was white. The carpet. The clothes racks. The ceiling-high change room curtains. The flat couches bigger than dining tables. And, of course, the wedding dresses.
Racks of the frothy things lined the walls, with more pinned onto dummies around the room. Dim lights cast a daytime soap glow over everything, and soft music played in the background (Sadé, maybe?). The whole place was bigger than my apartment and so very white.
Clutching my ratty handbag and hoping to snag one of the pleasantly dippy assistants manning the front desk, I was instead served up to Frannie — a sharp-eyed, middle-aged assistant in a sensible outfit. White, of course. We shook hands and Frannie began her spiel. “All of our dresses are made here in Australia. If you like something, we can add straps, change the fabric or the lace, whatever you want.”
Clearly, my two earlier phone calls had missed Frannie completely.
“Uh, actually, I was told you had a sale on. I have a pretty tight budget…” I trailed off. Frannie's face hardened.
I don't like princesses. As a girl I wanted to be Aladdin ready with a smart remark, a charming smile… I didn't want to be Jasmine, flouncing around the palace garden in a huff…
“Come this way,” she barked. I was whisked out to a temporary shopfront next door with cracked plaster and snaking metal racks crammed with dresses. “These are all ‘as is.' The prices are on the tags. I'll be back in a few minutes,” she explained before marching out.
Right. I took a breath and approached the rack with the handmade “SIZE 12” sign. How different the dresses looked in the light glaring through the bare window compared to their appearance in the boudoir twilight next door. The satin looked too shiny, the diamantes tacky, the lace yellowed. Many of the dresses had pulls, rips and makeup stains from squeezing over too many hopeful brides.
“Ready yet?” Frannie barked behind me.
“Oh, uh,” I gasped, “still looking.” She disappeared back into first-class bridal, leaving me in economy. Chastened, I pushed faster along the row, surreptitiously flipping over price tags and making faces.
Eventually, I had separated four not-too-hideous, not-too-ruined dresses from the crush. “Go in, undress, and I will hand it to you,” Frannie instructed. “There's no hook inside the change room.”
No hook? I'd gone from scented towels in the Powder Room next door, to no hooks and a gap-y curtain.
I put my hand through the curtain and waved it at Frannie, who filled it with a dress of the “what the hell, I'm here anyway” variety. After some tying, zipping, and pinning, I emerged. I twirled dutifully and trod on the train. After a few more adjustments, Frannie stepped back, professional eye roving over me. “Looks good. We can put some padding in the bust.”
Then she waited for me to… something. Burst into tears or shriek in pure joy? This wasn't my first foray into wedding dress land, and each time I'd felt like the spectators, from my mum to friends and dressmakers with mouths full of pins, expected more from me. Instead, all I'd felt was guilt for not being appropriately pumped.
The weird thing is that not only am I dying to get married to my amazing fiancé, I also love dresses. My work wardrobe may be faded, but I've always got a sharp dress ready to go. I've been known to enjoy lace, bows, satin and many of the other things that I feel uncomfortable about in the form of wedding dresses.
[related-post align=”right”] “I'm not sure this is really me,” I admitted to Frannie. Feeling like I needed an excuse to justify taking it off so quickly, I added, “I'm not really into princess-y dresses.”
“Oh, but why not?” asked Frannie, bustling behind me to unpin. “It's your only chance to be a princess for a day. Every girl wants that.”
“Actually,” I replied, suddenly tired of being “helped” by this well-meaning woman and others like her, “I don't like princesses.”
Frannie looked at me like I'd suggested roast baby for lunch, but I didn't care. As I'd said it, the problem had crystalized for me — and I'm probably not the only Offbeat Bride who feels this way.
I don't like princesses. As a girl I wanted to be Aladdin, dashing through Agraba with a pet monkey on my shoulder, ready with a smart remark, a charming smile and, if all else fails, an escape route. I didn't want to be Jasmine, flouncing around the palace garden in a huff and a midriff top.
Real or imagined, princesses are boring. Kate Middleton may be an intelligent woman, but ever since she said “I do” to a prince her purpose has been to look pretty and have (male) babies. As a feminist, I find our society's obsession with “princessdom” nauseating. Plus, when did marriage, which has long been considered by many cultures as a rite of passage to adulthood, become an excuse to spend ridiculous amounts of money living out a childish fantasy of being rich, pretty, and adored?
Anyway, after putting a sizeable dent in Frannie's conviction, I raced through the rest of the dresses, vetoed them all, put my comfortable cotton dress back on and breezed out the door into the sunshine.
I don't want to be “a princess for the day.” I want to be me: the person my smart, hilarious, kind, geeky fiancé loves. The woman who can be elegant and ridiculous, serious and funny, smart and silly all at the same time, in the same dress. The problem with wedding dresses is that you can pour some of us Offbeat-ers into as many frilly white creations as you want, but we're still who we are.
And I may be feminine, but I'm no princess.