On Dresses

I haven’t mentioned in a while that my sister is getting married in May. This is partially because I haven’t written in about forever, but also because while I’ve been at school, working on all my various projects and jumping through the last (most stressful) of my academic hoops, I’ve been largely removed from all the planning. This past weekend when I was home, however, I got a good healthy dose of wedding talk.

Most of it is stuff I really do want to hear about: plans for flowers, seat covers, etc. But occasionally, we get to something that puts me off the whole thing: dresses. I talked yesterday about how much I love dressing up. This is no different. I took joy in picking out my shoes. I’m excited for my sister’s wedding dress to come in so we can see her all dolled up. I actively participated in finding my mother’s Mother-of-the-Bride dress (and the most beautiful shoes ever). I love dressing up.

But the one thing I absolutely detest about dressing up is all the talk of thinness that’s associated with it. This weekend, my sister came to visit my parents house when I was around, and immediately the conversation turned to how good she looked (read: thin). My sister talked about how she had cut pop out of her diet for a good few days. She talked about how she’s on a diet, etc. My mother chimed in with how good that was. I scoffed, expressing the opinion I often express that they should both get dresses that fit them the way they are now.

This proceeded to a conversation about motivation. My mother said it was good that my sister had this motivation to lose weight. There’s no harm in having some motivation. She wants to look good. Therefore she should lose weight.

My problems with this statment are obvious. And I proceeded to say so.

“I think that’s all bull. Yes, it’s good to have motivation, but didn’t we once have a very productive conversation about changing the emphasis from looking good to becoming healthy?”

My mother ackonwledged this point, and the conversation continued. Honestly, this has been my biggest problem with the whole wedding: fighting against the perspective that being beautiful and looking perfect on your big day means being thin.

This whole experience and conversation coincided with my own struggle with dresses. When I arrived home late Friday night, there was a dress hanging in my room. A beautiful, patterned dress with red and pinks and black and white, creating a sort of abstract rose pattern. My mother had bought it for me after a discussion of how many formal outfits I was going to need for the upcoming spring in which I will graduate from college, attend a number of formal graduation events, and attend all the showers, rehearsal dinners, etc. for my sister’s wedding. I immediately tried it on, very excited because it looked very cute on the hanger.

It was pretty simple to see that it didn’t fit. It was slightly too small. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. I would put it down and say “too bad.” But I had absolutely fallen in love with the dress. And although it was too tight right under my bust, it fit everywhere else. I went to bed thinking, as was inevitable, “if only I lose a little bit of weight…I’ve been trying to start working out again anyway. I can get down to fit into that dress, right?”

I promised myself, though, that I would never do such a thing. But I just loved this dress so much, and the way it cinched under my bust made me look especially well proportioned (in the way that the media shows us whe should be). The dress, in the end, was more important to me–looking ‘thin’ was more important to me–than having a healthy attitude about my body.

In the end, we were able to find the dress in a size up (which fit much better). But in that moment of weakness, that moment of love of the dress, I wondered if that was how my mom and sister felt all the time. If that was the place they went to. And I wondered, then, if there were any way to really get them out of it.


3 thoughts on “On Dresses

  1. I think finding a bride that isn’t dieting for “the big day” is harder than finding big foot and loch ness playing poker. It’s horrific the number of ads, comments, and “advice” you get as you try to get married.

    For every 5 dress ads theres one on how to lose that all that terrible weight so you can look your absolute best on your wedding day. I don’t think they even pretend to do it to get healthy, it’s all to look the best in those pictures.

    Which is sad as then women will do those awful detox diets or basically starve themselves and instead of looking happy and relaxed look as through they’re dead eyed and about to pass out. Oh but they lost those magic 5 pounds that no one can see.

  2. This is something that bothers me about weddings, too. People keep thinking they need to change to fit the dresses, instead of finding the dresses that fit them properly and make the most of how they actually look.

    It’s only made worse by all the reality shows about weddings. Not only do most of them feature women who are trying to lose weight – even ones who make Gwyneth Paltrow look voluptuous! – but in every commercial break there are at least three ads for diet aids and usually one for weight-loss surgery! And that doesn’t even cover offensive shows like ‘Bulging Brides’ where slim women who bought their wedding gowns a size smaller than their bodies are put through their paces by a personal trainer and a dietician who bully and starve those ‘extra’ five or eight pounds out of the woman so she can be a ‘beautiful’ bride.

    By contrast, when I was married I had a gown custom made for me to my measurements as they happened to be at the time and in a style that made the most of what I already looked like. So what that it was a size 16 on a woman who stood 5’2″? One guest told me that I was the most beautiful bride she’d ever seen. Mr. Twistie’s eyes lit up when he saw me. And to this day I can look in my wedding album and see ME in it.

    I compare that to the woman I saw on one of those wedding shows who went on a strict diet and heavy exercise regimen in hopes of losing something like twenty pounds in two months. She did lose somewhere in the vicinity of two-thirds of what she wanted to lose…but she couldn’t eat anything at her bridal shower or her rehearsal dinner, because nothing served was on her diet. She still had to have her gown let out because she bought it to fit her ‘ideal’ figure rather than the one she had. She was a raving basket case of rage the entire two months, and when she finally got to the reception and could eat something real, she crammed half a slice of wedding cake into her face in one bite.

    And then people wonder why brides go crazy. It’s because they’re STARVING THEMSELVES to fit an ideal that has nothing to do with who they are.

    Starvation isn’t made prettier or more comfortable by the fact that it’s self-imposed.

    Good for you for changing the dress to fit you instead of you to fit the dress. I bet you look fabulous in it, too!

  3. I think the whole OMG I’m getting married so I have to be thin mantra is self defeating. Here you are, stressed enough with all the planning and family issues that come up when planning a wedding. You’re going to starve yourself as well?

    I made a vow to myself that I would not try to loose weight for my wedding. My gown was a size 28 and I was over 300 pounds. I felt like I was in “full bloom” on my wedding day.

    I’m also glad that I did it because this IS what I am, not the smaller version of me that would be captured in photographs on one day. I look in my album and also see “me”.

    I’m still basically the same shape I was when I got married (pear) and I am never going to change it, so, I’m going with it.

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