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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Diplomacy and Dresses

From Shirley Jump: Shirley Hailstock is a great friend and a great author. Read on for a hilarious account of bridal dress story...and another great release from Shirley H.!

We all have other lives. In one of mine, I wanted to own a bridal shop. I had so much fun planning my own wedding, I thought it would be great to have that feeling all the time. I mentioned this to the owner of the shop where I bought my gown. As luck would have it, she was in the market to sell. To find out if I really wanted to do this, she offered me a part time job.

And I got an education!

I could tell you stories about mothers of the groom who don’t like the bride, mothers of the bride who don’t like the groom, of tears in the eyes of mothers and grandmothers when they saw their daughters or granddaughters dressed in those gorgeous white gowns, even of boyfriends who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves when they saw their girlfriends in the prom gowns.
But those will have to wait for another time.

I want to tell you the story of the wedding I wanted to attend so badly I could almost taste the wedding cake. It started with a fashion show. I’m 5'5" tall. This doesn’t mean I’m a very tall person. It’s an average height, but the most significant thing about my height is that I rarely, very rarely need to hem anything. I can pull anything off the rack and if it fits in the right places, the length is never an issue. Because of this, the owner of the wedding shop asked me to be a model in a fashion show she was doing. Fashion shows bring in business and she was also showing me the ropes of how to attract clientele.

I came into the shop one evening to try on the gowns I was to model. Hanging against the wall was one of the ugliest dresses I’d ever seen. It had those horizontal tucks like you see draped on funeral home curtains. The skirt billowed out as if it had been taken straight out of Scarlett O’Hara’s closet. And I was to wear it.

“I don’t like it,” I said.

“Try it on,” the owner tells me. “It looks completely different on a person.” You can tell she was a salesperson. And diplomatic. This would come in handy later in the story.

I do as she tells me and go into the dressing room. When I come out and see myself in the mirror, I am transformed. The dress is gorgeous. All thoughts of funeral home curtains fall away and what I see are folds of light fabric that make every bride beautiful. We sold five of those gowns that evening, just because I was wearing it when the bride walked through the door.

But here’s the rub.

And this is the reason I wanted to attend this particular wedding.

One dress was sold to a bride who couldn’t be more than 4'11". I looked like a tower next to her. We all tried to be good sales people and let her know that the dress would look terrible on her. Of course, we used arguments like, “because of the way it’s made, the alternations will cost more than the gown.” Diplomacy, remember.

“It doesn’t come in petite. There are many other dresses that are similar that come in petite. Let me show them to you.”

She wouldn’t have it.

The seamstress came out to let her know she would have to virtually re-make the dress. But the bride had made up her mind. She wanted that dress and no other one would do. So we sold it to her.

As she came back for her fittings – five of them – the dress was remade. The bridesmaids came with her, a couple at a time and every time she tried on the dress to show them how great a choice she’d made. The week before the wedding she arrived for her final fitting, with a hoop slip. She planned to wear it under the gown. Mind you, I already told you the dress billowed out on the bottom. In it, even after it had been remade, she looked like a head sitting on top of a white mountain.

So here we go again trying to be diplomatic. I asked her if she was being given away by someone. And how wide was the aisle she had to walk down. She answered that her father would be giving her away and the aisle was no wider than usual.

We set up chairs the width of an aisle, and she dressed in her gown and veil. She wore the shoes she intended to wear on her wedding day and under all this was the dreaded hoop skirt.

“Pretend I’m your father,” I say.

I took her arm and stood next to her. The hoop swung out to the left, knocking into one of the chairs, and exposing her underwear. Still, she didn’t get it. She said at the rehearsal she’d be sure to let her father know this might happen and that he shouldn’t push into her. How he could NOT was a fete I’d like to see.

But we’re not finished.

We remove the chairs and place them back where they belonged. The bride moved to the pedestal in the center of three mirrors. And raises a parasol. Two of the clerks had to suddenly go to the stock room. I knew they were laughing in the background. Keeping a straight face myself was worthy of at least an Emmy.

We didn’t say anything. When she asked if they were for sale, we told her they were. She bought one for herself and one of each of her eight bridesmaids, the tallest of which was probably 5'1".

We could just see the wedding. Her standing up in a dress that looked like she floated under it, with a veil over her face and a parasol that her father had to dodge as they walked down the aisle toward eight bridesmaids all with open umbrellas.

She finally finished and was satisfied. We packed her dress, her parasols and white gloves, the shoes she’d brought with her, the famous hoop skirt and bid her good luck on her special day.

As she crossed the parking lot to her car, a hoot of laughter went up inside the shop. It went on for so long our sides were splitting and tears ran down our faces. We all wanted to go to the wedding.

Exercising restraint, none of us crashed it. But what I wouldn’t have given to be a fly on the wall and see her walk down the aisle in all her imitation antebellum glory.


Shirley Hailstock’s next novel is about a wedding. Wrong Dress, Right Guy, June 2008 release (of course), is the story of a mix-up that leaves Cinnamon Scott with a gorgeous wedding dress instead of the ball gown she expected. Unable to resist trying it on, she’s caught by MacKenzie Grier who arrives to retrieve his sister's missing gown. He's floored by the sight of Cinnamon, but his previous trip to the altar has proven to him that a wedding is not in his future. At least he thinks it did.


Anonymous Linda Goodnight said...

Oh my goodness, Shirley! That's too funny. When you wrote that she looked like a head on top of a white mountain, I cracked up, and by the time I got to the parasols I was ruined.

As clueless as she was, she is probably still convinced she had the most beautiful wedding attire ever. As we say down here, "bless her heart."

Linda g

April 15, 2008 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

He-he! Love the "Bless her heart" comment. I'm from SC and goodness knows we use that phrase alot! *G*
I thought your story/experience was hilarious. And can't blame you for wanting to be at that wedding. *G* Have you seen a show on TLC 'Say Yes to the Dress'? Many brides and such picking out dresses, it's a fun show!

April 15, 2008 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

This is really a funny story. Sometimes you never know about people. I would have loved to see that wedding but I don't think I could have keep a straight face.

April 15, 2008 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

How funny. I bet it would have been a hoot to attend that wedding.

April 16, 2008 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Kimberly L said...

I love a book with humor and this one seems like a great one.

April 16, 2008 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Myrna said...

Gotta love the parasols! What a great story!

April 17, 2008 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

Thanks for this blog ;)

April 29, 2008 at 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Mother of the Groom Dresses said...

What a wonderful story, it really made me giggle. Reminds us to keep an open mind doesn't it?

Mother of the Groom dresses

August 14, 2011 at 3:18 PM  

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