A friend of mine, whose daughter is getting married in July, recently sent me an e-mail photo of the dresses the bridesmaids will be wearing – knee-length, strapless, sleek-looking, beige cocktail dresses.
“And each girl will carry a single white rose,” my friend added.
I studied the photo of the dresses and thought they looked so stylish, I actually could picture the bridesmaids wearing them again after the wedding.
Times sure have changed.
About forty years ago, when I frequently was asked to be a bridesmaid, I swear the designers of bridesmaids’ dresses were in competition to see who could come up with the most hideous style – one that could make even the slimmest bridesmaid look like Moby Dick’s twin sister.
Every time I arrived at a bridal salon on the bride’s “let’s pick out a dress for my bridesmaids” day, I pretty much knew what was going happen. She was guaranteed to choose the ugliest and most expensive gown in the store and then say to us, so we wouldn’t feel so bad about spending a month’s salary on it, “And after the wedding, you can have the gown cut to knee length and wear it again!”
All I can say is aside from a party hosted by the Ringling Brothers, there was no place on earth I would have worn any of those bridesmaids gowns again.
To make matters even worse, back then, unlike today, bridesmaids also were expected to wear headpieces to match their gowns.
If I had to pick the most hideous gown I ever was forced to wear, it really would be difficult...because all of them were so terrible. But one in particular does come to mind. It was for my friend Linda’s wedding back in the mid-1970s.
When Linda asked me to be one of her four bridesmaids, she told me she’d already picked out “the most beautiful gown imaginable” for us to wear. So I was eager to see the unveiling of this masterpiece.
The night we gathered at the bridal salon, I found myself feeling optimistic that, for the first time, I wasn’t going to want to run away screaming when I saw my gown.
Linda’s smile was so wide, I was afraid she might pull a facial muscle as the saleslady, carrying the gown, made her grand entrance into the room.
“Here it is, girls!” Linda said. “Isn’t it fantastic?”
At first, I thought the gown had to be a joke. I even glanced around the room, positive I’d discover a camera recording our reactions. The gown looked as if it had been stolen from the movie set of “Gone With the Wind.” The skirt was so big, I was pretty sure if I jumped off a cliff while wearing it, I’d float gently to the ground. And it was covered with layers – and more layers – of yellow ruffles. I rolled my eyes, thinking the only things the dress was missing to complete the look were a big flowered hat and a parasol.
“Isn’t it gorgeous?” Linda fairly gushed. “And it comes with a beautiful matching parasol and hat! You’re all going to look like sexy southern belles!”
I wanted to shout at her, “But we’re New England Yankees! Have mercy on us, will you?” Instead, I smiled tightly and kept silent.
When I studied my reflection in the mirror during the gown-fitting appointment a few weeks later, I was too embarrassed to come out of the dressing room. I looked like a giant cupcake decorated with yellow frosting. The gown also added so many inches to my already abundant figure, I was pretty sure if Shamu at Sea World could see me in it, he’d develop an instant crush on me.
One of my friends, who’d accompanied me to the fitting, burst out laughing when I finally gathered the courage to emerge from the dressing room.
“Don’t ride a bike while wearing that gown!” she managed to say between guffaws. “People might think you’re a runaway float from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!”
The only thing I was grateful for was that Linda didn’t make us wear ruffled pantaloons underneath the gowns.
A wide-brimmed hat made of white straw and decorated with a band of yellow roses and yellow velvet ribbons hanging down the back, along with a parasol layered with the same yellow ruffles as the gown’s, completed the ensemble. When I saw myself for the first time in the entire outfit, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I looked just like Little Bo Peep.
As the moment approached when we bridesmaids were to walk down the aisle, I suppressed the urge to run and hide – mainly because there was nowhere I could hide in a dress that big. I couldn’t even fit through the restroom door.
To this day, I still think some of the wedding crashers who were spotted at the reception actually sneaked in underneath our bridesmaids’ gowns and we didn’t even know it.
And after the wedding, I must confess I did use the gown again – as a cover for my husband’s Volkswagen Beetle.