November was my month of dress experiences! This is an extremely long post so thanks in advance for reading if you do! If you don't want to read all the mess, you can scroll down for pics of the dress I bought.
There's also a TL;DR at the bottom.
Prior to the experiences in this post, I didn't really "get" all the fuss over a dress. I purchased a dress from Modcloth back in January because it was 60% off and was only $70. I was losing quite a bit of weight at the time, so I tried it on once and decided I'd wait to see how it fit later. And that was that! I pretty much forgot about it and then at the end of October put it on again and it looked pretty awful. I lost a bit of weight this year, but definitely not as much as expected, and the silhouette was very unflattering. I wanted to find basically a replica of that dress, which was a simple lace sheath style with cap sleeves and no train. That was pretty hard to find online. So I went into David's (by myself) with an open mind and an idea to research what I liked and didn't like, and tried on several dresses.
I am on the larger end of plus size and in general don't find clothes interesting or exciting. I do wear colors that I like but otherwise stick to the basic things that work for me, which is mostly sundress-style dresses, long skirts, and blouses. I rarely buy new clothes. So, going into dress shopping I expected to be underwhelmed and frustrated and I simply hoped to find a dress I thought was "okay."
I was really pleasantly surprised by how great I felt in almost every dress I tried on. I do have a rule for clothes shopping that I get dressed with my back to the mirror and if it doesn't feel good, I don't bother looking at it. I applied that rule by taking off any dress that didn't feel right before I went out to the floor. Obviously with sample sizes this didn't work 100%, but in general it worked for me.
By trying on a bunch of dresses I found that the silhouette I needed to feel confident was an A-line or ballgown. I also discovered some interesting things about necklines. For example, compare the following necklines: The first one is straight across and definitely make me look more broad. The second one is closer to a sweetheart and rounds down at the edges, which is more flattering for me.
The two dresses above were my favorites (the one with the better neckline was my first choice). At this point I got excited and forgot about my plans to "just try on dresses" and then shop online. What can I say, I felt amazing in the dresses and wanted to buy!
I made another appointment a week later in my home city so that my mom and a couple bridesmaids could come with me. This had its pros and cons but overall I'm glad I did it. We went on a Sunday and it was much busier, but I found that helpful as I was able to spend time in each dress without the consultant nearby. I tried on the two dresses I liked, plus two others. One I had found online and the other my bridesmaid and I saw when we were waiting for the consultant and just pulled randomly to try on (ha!).
I tried them in reverse order with the random pick first. Oh boy. I had THE MOMENT and I was totally overwhelmed. I tried on the other three but put the first one back on at the end. In my heart I knew it was my dress. The David's in that city didn't have one of the top dresses in a sample size that worked for me, so I didn't want to make a final decision until I compared the two a little closer. I left and went back to the David's in my city, alone, the next day. I tried on both dresses again but it was really just a formality. I am so not the typical wedding dress groupie - I never watch SYTTD or any of those shows and I don't know any designers or boutiques. But man, in this dress I felt the wedding dress love. I "got it" - I felt like I was in the bride club. My wedding felt real in a way it hadn't before. So, I bought my dress that day!
(Pics taken the day I tried this "random" dress on with my bridesmaids. My friend made me a quick fake flower crown to get the feel of the day of. I blurred out the faces when I posted them to a different forum lol.)
Is this dress the opposite of literally everything I said I wanted? Yep. Will I be overdressed at my backyard wedding? Yep. Do I look perfect and skinny? Nope. My arms are fat and I have some backfat going on too (thank you long hair for covering most of it!). The thing is, I don't care because I feel AMAZING and beautiful in this dress and I didn't want to take it off a single time I tried it on. I can't wait to wear this dress. I'm dying to show my FH - he will appreciate the fitted bodice, HA - but he refuses to see it (mostly because he enjoys torturing me). I'm so happy that I tried this "random" dress on!
The lessons don't end there! A biggie was that this dress was over my tentative $400 budget (remember I had purchased a $70 dress pretty much immediately after getting engaged, so we had already allocated most of our money - I set the $400 budget based on some of the buffer room we had) by $200... and actually $300 by the time I get a bustle added. We were nearly $400 under budget on our rentals but we are still finalizing catering, so I want to put the money back just in case. I had to work Thanksgiving so I got paid triple pay and that will cover several hundred and I will use one of my monthly bonus payouts to cover the rest. (Yay call center.)
And, a bigger biggie. My dress was delivered this past Friday. I picked it up and took it to my mom's house on Sunday when we had our family Thanksgiving. My MOH came over and we tried on the dress. (This was pre-meal haha, no way was I putting on a dress after turkey and mashed potatoes.) They said.... Honey, this dress does not fit. Not even close. There is six inches of space back here. We cannot get it closed.
Cue a gigantic freakout!!! The dress is a size 24, the same size as the samples I tried on in both stores. I expected the dress to be more snug than the sample but definitely not six inches' worth. There is only one more size up. My heart pounded out of my chest for basically 24 hours until I could get back to David's. I was so heartbroken at the thought of buying a different dress yet again, nervous about taking my chances with David's less than stellar customer service reputation, confused about what could have happened, and generally anxiety-ridden.
When I got to David's the same consultant who sold me the dress was there. I shared the freakout with her and she immediately put me in the dressing room. I put back on the bra (which I didn't originally purchase) and she put the dress over my head. About two minutes later it was on, hooked, and laced!! I don't know if my mom and MOH were just too nervous to pull on it to get it hooked, or if the bra really made that big of a difference, but it fit just fine. THANK GOODNESS!!!!!!! I did buy the bra immediately, lol. I hadn't wanted to buy there because I know they're overpriced, but the size they had fit me really well and a lot of the plus-size shapewear I found online didn't seem like it would be big enough. $85 was worth my peace of mind.
So... the 30-day saga is over! I have a beautiful dress that I can't wait to wear. It's back home with me now (and will be going back to my mom's at Christmas) and all is well.
TL;DR Overall, my advice is to at least try on dresses in real life instead of buying online-only, to buy a dress that fits you right now instead of a hypothetical future thinner you, to have an open mind and try on any style, to wear the proper undergarments when you put it on after you buy it, and to have someone who is going to help you into the dress on the day of watch the consultant put it on you (or even have them do it with the consultant's help) so you don't end up panicking thinking that your dress doesn't fit!