The Wedding Dresses

by Robin Turnipseed

Last week, I attended an enchanted outdoor wedding.

Despite being bookended by entire days filled with heavy thunderstorms, the evening arrived with enough heat to warm the ladies in their sleeveless frocks and enough air to cool the suited gentlemen. The wedding began just as the soft rays of golden hour covered us in warm hues.

The subtle scent of roses, hydrangeas, peonies, and eucalyptus mixed with the mellow melody of the violin playing in the background. By the time Canon in D announced the debut of the bride, we all sat captivated. I observed as my young daughter’s eyes feasted on every detail.

The Unique Display

After the ceremony, the guests attended an elegant reception held indoors at a venue constructed primarily of glass. Floor-length white linens draped each table and small white lights hung suspended from the ceiling. Bouquets of white flowers adorned every table.

As I walked in, my eyes spanned across the grand room trying to gather each aspect of carefully planned decor. When they finally landed on the front corner, I took note of a unique arrangement of two bust forms displaying the wedding gowns of the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom.

The authenticity of the concept pulled me to the front for further inspection.

I snuck up to where both dresses stood in an unassumed fashion. Each one remarkable, I could not resist running my hands over the intricate embroidery covering the bodice of one and the careful beading stitched onto the capped sleeves of the other.

Each gown held distinctive qualities: different cuts, unique detailing, independent styles. And yet, they stood on common ground. Both lovely, both special, both stunning.

As I continued to examine the hemlines of each, I started to think about my own wedding dress followed quickly by a desire to find it that had to be satisfied.

Finding My Dress

Fast forward two days and my husband walks into our bedroom to see my bottom half sticking out from under our bed. We had barely entered the front door from our wedding travels when I began to seek out my gown. I knew that I had packed it away after our last move, but my mind could not quite remember exactly where the bag had been placed.

Yes, that is correct. My dress, a sleeveless A-line satin frock with intricate lace detailing stitched on to the sheer back, had not been properly heirloomed. In fact, I cannot recall even learning how one went about having a wedding dress properly heirloomed until many years into our marriage.

You see, the dress hung in the back of a closet for the first five years of our marriage. That is until frantic packing hands plucked it from the closet, tossed into a large vacuum compression storage bag, and shoved it under the bed during another chaotic move.

After removing it from it’s dust-bunny-covered hiding spot, I empty the storage bag to spread the wrinkles out of the gown’s simple white skirt as I begin to examine the material for stains or tears. Not viewing any spots worth noting, I stepped back to take in its charm.

Suddenly, I knew what needed to be done. I wanted to professionally clean and heirloom the dress, not that it would ever be worn again, or even displayed, but so that the option would always be available.

However, I wanted to do something first. Still reeling from wedding sentimentality, I embraced a moment of brazen courage and decided to do something I never intended: try on the dress one more time.

I determined that I needed an audience and called my family to gather in the dining room to see the unveiling. Gathering all the satin in my arms, I headed to my bathroom to change.

A Full Stop

I whisper a delighted “yay” as I step into my dress and effortlessly pull it up. It still fits! My vanity and I send the bathroom mirror a smug smile. Twenty-years later and the dress fits as if a day, a cupcake, or two kids (!) have not passed.

At least those were my thoughts before I began the zipping up process. The zipper slides easily over my bottom half, however, it seems to slow a bit around my midsection, and then comes to a full stop the moment that it reaches my ribcage.

I pull. I hold my breath. I shift my weight. I call for the support team awaiting the reveal in the dining room. Each person tries. Each person delivers the same crushing conclusion. No matter the pulling and tugging, it simply does not fit.

So there I stand with the zipper and my delight stopping halfway up my back.

An Expanded Life

I walk back into my bedroom a little deflated. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that my rib cage would be the derailing factor. I sense that, if allowed, defeat would enjoy becoming my ally in this moment. So I steer my thoughts towards rationale instead.

Naturally, my 42-year-old self does not fit into a dress that my 22-year-old self once wore. I have expanded – as has my life.

Running my hand over the satin skirt again, I think about the life experiences that have transpired since I last stepped into that gown. Significant gains and substantial losses have tipped the scale of my life in one direction or the other at any given time. However, the gains have far outweighed the losses.

When I lost self-doubt, I gained robust confidence.

When I relinquished past hurts, I gained freedom to move forward.

In areas where I lacked belief, I gained heaps of grace to learn and grow.

I gained more hope, vision, authentic friendships, and love than one person deserves.

So, I will heirloom my dress and maybe one day it will stand in the corner of a grand reception hall as my daughter celebrates her own special day. For now it will serve as a reminder of the beauty of a full and expanded life.

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