Playing Dress Up
A Former Bride Revisits the Fun of Searching for the Perfect Gown!
by Jolene Rae Harrington, Dir. of Creative Content
[UPDATE: Since this article was originally written, Rumours in Santa Barbara has closed its doors. Daniel Cantu no longer works with his partner, and is designing for a well-known women’s wear company. He still does custom design for private bridal clients. Be sure to browse our other fine Southern California Bridal Salonsfor your own “dress up” experience!]
I shopped for my wedding dress all wrong. With my sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring sparkling on my left hand for all of 2 hours, I found myself walking past a rather unpromising bridal shop. It had a shabby storefront, wigs askew atop faceless mannequins that looked as if they’d been frozen in position since the Eisenhower administration. The gowns they wore weren’t exactly my cup of tea either—bright white polyester with enough sequins to cover the pasties of a whole fleet of showgirls.
But hey, I was engaged, and so against my better judgment I bounced into the salon, vowing to “just look.” The perky, gum-popping teen that passed as a salesgirl seemed so young and innocent, but apparently she’d spotted the dreamy glow in my eyes. Despite my protests, she began to parade in front of me gowns that were out of my league both style-wise and wallet-wise. I hadn’t brought a friend or relative to guide me (mistake #2) so when I spotted it—”the dress”—I allowed her to whisk me into it and thrust me in front of a trio of mirrors. The image reflected back at me was a glamorous creature I didn’t recognize. The gown had a ruched, low-cut bodice, and layers of silk chiffon that hugged my shape before floating into a mermaid hem. I felt like Rita Hayworth, and instantly imagined my dashing groom à la Sinatra in a white dinner jacket and bow tie. The price was right, and before I knew what hit me, I said, “I’ll take it!” Only later, when I was deep into planning my wedding, did I realize that I had bought the first and only wedding dress I had ever tried on.
As I approach my seventh wedding anniversary, I confess to a tinge of regret about the dress. Don’t get me wrong—I still love it, but I missed out on the ritual process of comparison-shopping, of being pampered and flattered by knowledgeable couturiers, of discussing all my options during lunch with my girlfriends. So these days, it’s not unusual to find me lingering over the ads for bridal gowns in magazines, and my car should have a bumper sticker saying, “I brake for bridal salons.” There’s a scene in the Australian film Muriel’s Wedding where the “always the bridesmaid…” lead character, Muriel, is indulging in her favorite hobby. Each weekend she picks a different salon and, pretending she’s a real bride, spends hours trying on the finery. Although Muriel’s desperation is a bit sad, I relate to the pleasure she takes in “playing dress-up,” which I confess was my favorite childhood pastime.
So when I was asked to write an article on wedding gowns, I jumped at the chance to personally browse some of Southern California’s most highly regarded salons. However, Here Comes The Guide’s selection of recommended boutiques numbers almost two dozen, and I had to limit my choices to those that are geographically convenient (sorry, Orange County!). The excursions have not only been informative, but a total blast!