Finding your perfect wedding dress is an emotional experience for every woman. When your wedding planning coincides with a major life challenge, it can be even more so. Recently, we received an email from a lovely PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com buyer named Katie. We were so touched by her story we asked if we could share it here. Read on to find out how she found her dream dress. In the men’s section at Sears.
I was 18 years old when my oldest sister Julie got married. I remember going with her to the bridal store to help her find a dress with my other sister, Nicki. There were tears when she found “the one.” From that day forward, I waited for my turn – the day I could try on white dresses for my sisters.
I felt like it took an eternity to find myself a husband, then one of life’s curveballs had me planning a wedding in a hurry. Shortly before I started treatment for Stage IV uveal melanoma, my then-fiancé Nick and I decided we just wanted to be married…now. I could get married in jeans and a sweater for all I cared. Meeting him at the end of the aisle was all that mattered.
Okay. I lied.
I increasingly compared the wedding I’d always dreamed of to the wedding we were having. He was all that mattered; that part was true. But there were some little things I still wanted to be just right, like wearing a gorgeous gown – and taking his breath away on our wedding day.
After accompanying me to New York City at the start of my clinical trial, Nick had to return to Denver one Sunday night to go back to work. I wouldn’t see him for 27 days. Upon returning to Denver, we would have two weeks and one day until the big day. We had six weeks to plan a wedding, so I delegated most of the planning to my incredible family and friends. When you have the bride card AND the cancer card, it’s amazing what you can get away with.
It would be a winter wedding – not what I ever pictured – and small, held in the wine room of a restaurant surrounded by a couple dozen immediate family members and a few close friends. It was much of what I wanted, just on a smaller scale (although not that much cheaper).
“Is it at all possible to find a wedding gown in six weeks?” a voice in my head kept wondering. I had always planned on wearing my mom’s wedding veil. And that would just look silly with jeans.
The night Nick left, I took a gander at dresses online. A bridesmaid seven times over, I had seen my share of brides go through the planning process. I had seen enough to know you can’t find, order, and alter a wedding dress in only six weeks. And even if I did have time, I had no idea what I wanted.
I googled “used wedding dresses.” The results included www.preownedweddingdresses.com. Hmmm. “Well that certainly sounds classier than used,” I thought to myself.
The site allows you to search by size, style, color, location – you name it. So I tested it out. I didn’t limit style or color (mostly because I had no idea of my preference), but I searched my size within a 25 mile radius of Manhattan.
Three dresses appeared. Two of them were an immediate “No.” One of them was beautiful. I messaged the bride, carefully, as my characters were limited.
My profile listed my location as Denver. Not realizing I was currently based in NYC, the owner of the dress wasn’t quite sure how I would “try it on.” She signed her name, Anna.
My mom’s name was Ann, and in the 18 years since she passed away, I’ve found her talking to me in ways like this – lately, more than ever.
I told this Anna my story.
I wasn’t sure if it was possible to see dresses/try on before purchase. I’ve never used this site before. I got engaged on Thanksgiving and was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma the same week. We are moving up our wedding to Feb 22 (not a lot of time!!!). I still want to have a nice dress, I just don’t have time to order/alter one. I’m living in NYC getting treatment for the month of January, and then will head back home to Denver. Your size/specs would probably fit me (I’m 5’4″ and have a torn ACL, so can’t wear heels – I’m a hot mess :)). Anyway, if that’s not a possibility, then I understand. I just wouldn’t want to buy a dress only to find it doesn’t fit. I did a search by zip code and your dress came up as close by. Let me know if that’s a possibility!
Christina, my best friend since first grade, was coming out to meet me in New York in two weeks. If I could time it right, it might be possible to meet Anna with Christina by my side. Sarah, my other best friend since kindergarten, was overlapping with Christina for one night. If I could really time it right, I’d have one on each side.
I was also reviewing other options. J.Crew, for example, makes beautiful wedding dresses that you can order in your size and get in a couple days. The company also has three stores in the country – one in New York – where you can actually go in and try on the dresses. Suddenly, getting treated for cancer in the most populous city in the country had some advantages.
I called the store to set an appointment. “Miss, we don’t have any openings until the end of February.” That doesn’t really help me when my wedding date is February 22. I took a deep breath, and told my story again.
“How about January 24 at noon?”
Perfect. Christina was there that day.
“I’ll take it,” I said, thanking her profusely.
Meanwhile, Anna had confirmed a Sunday evening meeting for January 25, the day Christina and Sarah’s visits would overlap.
I liked so many J.Crew dresses listed online I even contemplated canceling on Anna. I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to get to her, as she lives outside the city. One additional concern: I had developed a rash on my chest and neck, a lovely side effect of the trial drug. Would a strapless dress even work?
If nothing else, I figured, it would be an adventure.
Christina and I set out on Saturday morning. J.Crew was great. They were very helpful, and it was so fun trying on all the gowns. One dress stood out. It was simple, elegant, and perfect for the venue. And it would go perfectly with my mother’s veil.
They took my measurements and recommended me for two sizes. Again, I found myself contemplating canceling on Anna, but some part of me wouldn’t allow it. I would wait until after seeing her dress before placing my order with J.Crew, I decided.
I still had no idea how we were going to get to Anna. She lives at least 30 minutes north of Manhattan. I told her it would be easiest for us to take the train, and she suggested the mall off the White Plains exit. I think meeting in a public place made us both more comfortable. The total fare was $51 roundtrip for all three of us, and taking the train was way safer than midwestern girls taking to the roads of Greater New York City.
We got to the mall early and wandered around for a bit. At 6:15 p.m., Anna texted us to meet her.
That’s how I ended up trying on my wedding dress in the Men’s Department at Sears.
We popped into a large, stand-alone dressing room. Christina and Sarah helped me get into the dress and as they zipped it up, I looked in the mirror, made a funny face, and started saying, “shit shit shit shit shit…”
Christina, who knew I had really liked the J.Crew dress, replied, “I think she loves it.”
We deliberated for probably 15 minutes. I had withdrawn the $300 it was selling for out of my bank account in case I wanted to buy it. The dress was gorgeous. It was me. And it fit me like a glove. No alterations required.
But I wasn’t sure how it would go with the veil, and I still liked the simplicity of the J.Crew dress. Crap.
I decided to go for it. Even though I wasn’t 100% sold, I figured I could always re-sell it online. And if I did end up wearing it, I would have the added bonus of being able to tell people I bought my wedding dress in the Sears Men’s Department. I do love a good story.
Anna came back into the room. When I told her I wanted to buy it, she talked me down to $200. We had made the trip up, she pointed out. I attempted to argue then gave up easily seeing as she was haggling down.
Christina, Sarah, and I giggled like the schoolgirls we once were the entire way home. Sitting on the train reminded us of the eight years we rode the bus together in grade school – only I was towing a giant wedding dress folded up into a Container Store bag.
Still on the fence, I thought: if I buy the J.Crew dress, I could still have the day where I try on white dresses for my sisters. So I ordered the one dress in two sizes and had them shipped to Nicki’s house.
I got home to my honey in Denver, and the next day, we went to Nicki’s. After five long weeks, I was aching to get my arms around my nephews and niece. Nick and my brother-in-law entertained the kiddos, while Julie, Nicki, and I snuck upstairs to try on dresses.
First, the J.Crew dress. The larger size was too big. The smaller size fit, but just okay. It would have required more than just a hem, and Nicki didn’t think it was very flattering. With just two weeks until game day, I didn’t have time for that.
At that point, I had a feeling Anna’s dress was the one. So I grabbed the veil and my cowboy boots and snuck into the bathroom to try on the dress with the full effect. I was so relieved when I walked into the room and saw tears, surprisingly from Nicki, the less sappy sister. Julie was more concerned with getting us all wine to celebrate. In the end, it was no contest.
I am so grateful to have found my dress and loved the adventure in doing so – first trying it on with two lifelong girlfriends and then getting the stamp of approval from my sisters.
But the best moment in that dress was seeing the unforgettable look on Nick’s face the first time he saw me on our wedding day.