As you may or may not know, I have two kids getting married this year.  The first wedding is on St. Patrick’s Day and the second is three months after that! There are a lot of details to work out, but the kids are on top of those.  My daughter is a med student and lives out of town so the first goal was to find a wedding dress.  That was a bit nerve-wracking, be we found “the one” and it arrived so quickly that she had two fittings by Christmas break! So after the first of the year and when life settled a wee bit, Annie and I went out looking for a dress for me.  We looked at several Bridal galleries, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Sak’s. I tried on a few at Dillard’s but really struggled.  I think I even broke Annie – my fashionista.

She knows (and you probably do, too) that I am a bit of a plain Jane. You know, a Land’s End girl who loves to wear wool sweaters.  I entertained the idea of wearing a cabled sweater but Annie would have none of that. I was pretty sure that I wanted a black dress because most of my wardrobe is black.  And the bridesmaids are wearing green.  (Later, I did not limit my search based on color because I probably won’t even be in any photos with the bridesmaids, so who cares!)

I was leaning toward a tea length dress but was open to a long one as well.  I didn’t see anything at Macy’s. Dillard’s has the best selection locally, but by the time you narrow it down for size and style, there really isn’t much to choose from.  I did try some on, though. The first dress I tried on was this. I liked the peplum but did not like the mermaid bottom. I also don’t like the cap sleeves.  I am not a fan of sleeveless at my age. (You know, I’m happy with my body. I work out in ways I enjoy – walk, run, bike, ski, etc.  But I don’t really “work out.” ) You would think that cap sleeves would be a good compromise, but the reality is that they reveal all kinds of flesh under the arm and toward the breast. It’s really strange but this was not the first dress that this happened to me.  So I ruled out cap sleeves.

I tried on another dress at the store which was fitted at the waist and with a few pleats/gathers. I told Annie I felt like a 50-something lady wearing a prom dress.  And I felt like Mrs. Doubtfire.

After losing 20+ pounds, I have been very comfortable wearing some new styles.  However, this process of trying a lot of styles on has helped me realize what I think looks good on me. I also took a look at the styles in my closet – mainly shifts and shirt dresses.  So I have come to the realization that dresses with a gathered waist, although I adore the style, make me look like Mrs. Doubtfire – like I’m all boobs. So at this point, Annie was giving up on me. We did a quick look at Nordstrom and Sak’s (where most were over $1,000) and went home and did some shopping on the internet.

The first two dresses to arrive were these:

I tried them on late at night and didn’t care much for either of them.  The top one fit nicely, but was a bit plain. (What, you say?) I think because it is a knit it didn’t feel very special. The second one, an Alfred Sung who is the same designer as the bridesmaid’s dresses, is so pretty in silk dupioni.  But, again, the gathered waist and cap sleeves did not flatter me.   I was a 50+ year old in a prom dress.

And can I take a moment to talk about these models?  Do I really need to say the obvious? It would be really nice to see these dresses on women who are closer to the age of “mothers of the bride.”

Annie asked me to show my husband these dresses and he didn’t hide his feelings.  To his defense, we did ask his opinion!  At that point, Annie told him HE could help me find a dress……

We gave it some time and a week or so later sat down at the computer again. First, I ordered this dress from Eshakti. I have never ordered from them before.  It’s an interesting concept. They present styles which you can customize. When I ordered this dress I could have lengthened the sleeves and even the dress.  I decided not to change anything. I know it’s on the simple side but I think the sequins add a bit of bling. Even if I don’t use this for the weddings, I could see using it for other events. I am waiting for this to arrive.

In addition to Eshakti, we went back to Dillard’s and Nordstrom. This time we checked all the dress categories:  mother of the bride, formal, wedding, etc.  I did not restrict on color but I did filter out sleeveless and cap sleeves. I ordered an additional five dresses.  The first one to arrive was the wrong dress.  It was this one:

I didn’t care for the slit, but I liked the silhouette.  I like the columnar look. I sent that back and the replacement arrived.

It is not at all something I would have picked.  But Annie liked it and when you are ordering that many dresses you might as well get a variety to try on. It was pretty, but a bit too embroidered for me.

Of the remaining dresses, I feel comfortable that I will have something that will work!  I tried them all on for my mom and my husband and they liked almost all of them.  Mom even liked the original two black ones up on top.

First is this one which has all-over embroidery and looks grey. I liked that it wasn’t clingy and the sleeves were a little different for me. It has a simple silhouette and just a little drama.

My mom really loved this blue dress. This is a knit, similar to the black knit above.  This one, with the ruching on the side, is very flattering. However, I feel just a bit too ordinary in the knits. (I know, I’m a dichotomy. My mom said, “didn’t you just say you like plain clothes…”) I have several knit dresses in my closet that have the ruching and it does work well for me. But, again, a little too plain.

I didn’t order this dress, but it is available at Eshakti. When I thought about what styles I have in my closet that I like, the shirt dress comes up.  Annie felt this wasn’t a good choice for me, so we didn’t order it. (I don’t want to look like a nun.)

She did really like this Ralph Lauren.

I tried this on and the blouson top is really flattering. The top is a knit and the bottom is sequined.  My mom really liked this one and I think this may be the front runner. Would you believe that the sleeves have a slit from shoulder to wrist? How, exactly, are you supposed to know this based on this photo? I don’t think I like that, but that is an easy sew.

Finally, there is this dress. However, I ordered it in a dusty emerald and a photo of it is nowhere to be found on the internet.

What intrigued us about the dress is the detailing. It’s inspired by the Jazz Age and we recently saw an exhibit on the Jazz Age at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I am currently thinking I could wear this for my son’s wedding in June. After all, he is a jazz pianist.  It is a little big and there are no more on the internet. So I am waiting for Annie to come home this week and see them on me and we will go from there. I am  confident I will have a dress to wear!

Both of these last two dresses are so comfortable. I can move my arms freely without exposing flesh. The waistlines are comfortable. Some alterations on length and other areas may be needed, but those are small hurdles. And the best part – I don’t need to wear Spanx!  I don’t own Spanx.  I’m not anti-Spanx (well, maybe I am for me), I’m pro-good design/fabric.

Maybe Maiden Jane won’t be too plain after all!

I considered the possibility of sewing my dress. But it felt overwhelming to me and I wouldn’t want to be rushed. Plus, I hadn’t really honed in on styles that are flattering for me. Through the process above, I recognize that I like a blousson top and also a knit dress with ruching or gathering at the side. I have purchased patterns in the past that I like. But I don’t know if the style would be good for me. That is something I want to focus on as I move forward in sewing for myself.

I was very happy with this Vogue dress I made. (I’m the one on the right….)

I have this Vogue 1208 pattern. I think it would be a flattering style.

I also have this Vogue V1182 pattern.

Maybe I simply like red? Actually, I love red!  I have hopes to sew these patterns some day but I haven’t sewn enough for myself to select a pattern and fabric with confidence that it would work for me.

What do you think?