|Grace Kelly. The ultimate dress.
The dress. The DRESS. I have been dreaming about my wedding attire since the day my mother put me in my white baptismal gown. That was my first trip down the aisle and I have been clamoring for the same level of attention and glamour ever since. My first communion gown -- handmade in the Philippines, SON -- came pretty close, though.
The very first dress I remember falling in love with was a fishtail Vera Wang number with a giant train embedded with dozens of different types of fabric. Unfortunately I'm still hunting for a picture online. From the front it wasn't very ornate, but the back was simply stunning. It was basically a mullet for the Park Avenue set: business in the front, party in the back. When I first laid eyes on it, I was about 16 years old and thumbing through a wedding supplement to Elle magazine while my mother and I drove all over the East coast looking at colleges. At this, precious (?) time in my life, I still believed that I would meet the man I would marry during freshman orientation, date for four years of college and be engaged pretty soon after graduation. Two years later, when I actually matriculated and shared space 18 year old boys, I'd slightly revised my plan. By the time I was a senior, the thought of any of these boys wanting to commit to anything more than a Saturday night dance party was patently absurd.
Anyway, slight digression. The point is, I have had many, many years to formulate the perfect dress. I knew I always wanted strapless, white (although remember Gwen Stefani's? She is perfection.), and long, but now having actually looked at dresses, that narrows my choices down from about 10,000 to 9,999. There are, to put it mildly, A LOT of options out there. And even for me, the inveterate planner, it was extremely overwhelming just trying to figure out where to start.
Most bridal magazines and blogs will tell you not to look at too many, saying that you'll get burned out and then be rendered totally unable to make a final decision. They make it sound like an affliction. However! I am of the opinion that you should exhaust your options because then when you do find that perfect dress, you'll know 110% that that is the gown Brad Pitt would leave Angelina Jolie for. (Ed. note: Leave her for you, not the dress. Although at this point, nothing would really surprise me about that man. Don't you wish you worked in celebrity news too?)
At this point in the game, almost a year out from our actual wedding date, I've been on a few appointments, have a few more spots to check out and definitely have a better idea of what my perfect dress is. In fact, I think I may have found it, but, as I said before, I'm exploring hundreds more yards of tulle, silk and satin before signing on that dotted line.
HOW TO FIND YOUR DRESS
The first step is definitely just to start scouring the internet. My favorite site for perusing dresses is Colin Cowie's because he's got a nicely edited and glamorous list of designers on there already and it's very easy to click through the slideshows.
From there, you can go directly to the designer's website and figure out if they're sold in a salon, if they have a stand-alone atelier or if you miiiight need to fly to Beirut or Paris to try on the latest collection (cough Elie Saab cough).
Insider tip: There are quite a few bridal designers who you would expect to have their own salons in Manhattan who only sell their gowns at bridal salons like Kleinfeld or Mark Ingram or at department stores like Saks or Bergdorf's. These include: Oscar de la Renta, Monique L'Huillier (who is opening one in the fall, I believe), Marchesa and Badgley Mischka. In other good news, J. Crew's opening up a second bridal store mere blocks from my apartment at their Flatiron location.
So what designers or places made my short list? If you're like me and enjoy a pretty traditional dress with nice detailing and maybe just a touch of sparkle, I would definite recommend any of the below:
Amsale Definitely the favorite for the New York It-Girl. I'd say one of the only drawbacks to getting your dress here is that there's a high chance you might know someone who also bought your dream gown. I love these for their clean lines and structured, sweetheart bodices, for which they're best known. They have a lovely salon in Midtown to see the collection.
Badgley Mischka Beautiful creations with tulle and bejeweled elements. These can be found at Mark Ingram, among other spots.
Carolina Herrera These were definitely the most traditional dresses I've tried on so far. Some were a bit too fussy and others were a bit too expensive, but there were a few very elegant sweetheart numbers with jeweled belts that I thought were beautiful. Appointments at held her UES salon.
Ines di Santo To preface, MOST of these are really not my style; too much going on. But there were a few that I saw with some delicate jewels at the waist and full tulle skirts that really made you feel like a princess. Available at Bergdorf's wedding salon.
Marchesa Similar vibe to Badgley and incredibly stunning dresses fit for an evening wedding. Available at Mark Ingram as well.
Monique L'Huillier She's sort of the new Vera Wang. Beautiful, feminine and stunning creations. Available at Mark Ingram, among others.
Oscar de la Renta Odd mix here: there are some very WASPy pieces that don't seem fashionable at all, but then others that are literally perfection. He does a wonderful train. I saw these at Saks' bridal salon.
Reem Acra Hollywood loves these dresses and so do brides wanting to feel like an A-lister. If you're looking for unique details like beaded shoulders or gorgeous waist detailing, definitely check these out. They have a salon which I'm excitedly venturing to in a few days.
Vera Wang No explanation needed. If you've been dreaming of your wedding since you were a little girl, you have to check out Vera. Recent collections have shown a lot of colored dresses. I'll report back on whether those can be made in white once I go on my appointment in a few days!