Having never been a fan of big, pouffy white gowns that make women look like human-size pastries, I had told my wedding planner Rubina and my sister that I was planning to get a white dress from ASOS for the big day. My reasons are simple:
1. I want to be able to eat, dance, move around freely on my wedding day
2. I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a dress that I’d be wearing only ONCE
3. I don’t see why I should punish myself by buying a dress that DEMAND I lose weight to wear it
Founder Denise wrote a piece about brides being obsessed with losing weight earlier this week. When I read it, the first thought that came into my head was this: Why do brides have to lose weight to fit into their gowns? Why don’t they just buy one in their size?
Oh! Little did I realise how naive I was to even think that!
You see, I was eventually persuaded by my sister to just go and see some gowns. She reasoned that it is ridiculous buy a dress from an online shopping site because what if it doesn’t fit well and I end up looking blah on my wedding day. She mentioned that there are small bridal studios that sell affordable gowns that may not be so elaborate and they may just have one that’d suit my purpose. Lili told me about a lady who operates out of her flat in Bukit Batok. She said Friend X had gotten her gown from that studio. I thought, “Wow! Friend X looked great on her wedding. Yeah, okay. Let’s give it a shot!”
So I made an appointment with said wedding gown studio at Bukit Batok and I went to see her yesterday.
I had set aside two hours of my time for this. I realised that it wasn’t going to be easy because (1) I had little idea what I wanted, (2) I was on a budget, and (3) I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to wear a white gown. I had no delusions that my choices were going to be limited and that I should not expect gowns made of quality ethereal materials.
But what I did not expect was the lackluster quality of the service.
From the moment I entered her flat, the boss was more preoccupied with her phone than with helping me. I was brought into a room where she stored her gowns (maybe there were about 15 white gowns) and invited to take a seat. She asked, “So, how can I help?”
My sister answered on my behalf because obviously I really didn’t know how best to answer the question. “We are looking for a gown that’s not so elaborate. One that’s not covered in laces and beads … something simple.”
“Are you looking to rent or buy?”
I answered, “Rent.”
“Well, if you want to rent, your options are quite limited.”
Look woman, I’ve not even seen your wares yet! Just show me what you’ve got?
I said, “Okay … buy then. We are open to buying as well. Just show us the gowns first?”
So she took out a grand, stunning total of TWO gowns.
I crinkled my brows in confusion. Is this the part where I jump out of my chair in delight and exclaim, “Oh my god! They are beautiful! I’ve always wanted a big white dress like this!”? I did not feel that impulse. Instead, I asked, “Is that all?”
Gown person said (mind you, she talks with a semi-lethargic, I-don’t-really-care tone), “Well, what do you want?”
I stood up and approached her gown collection. “Well, I’m not sure if I want something off-shoulder. And, I don’t want something with too much details around the bust area because I don’t want to play up my boobs. I’m looking for something with much cleaner lines.”
She looked at me with half-asleep eyes and said, “Well, the two gowns here are the closest to what you want.” Wow. Full marks for effort!
My sister – who, by the way, is about five months pregnant – stood up and asked, “How about the rest of your collection? Any chance there may be something else?”
Gown person pointed to the rest of the gowns and said, “They are over there. You may look for it yourself.” And then … proceeded to sit down in a chair and started messaging on her phone again.
So my sister started ruffling through the gowns and she dug out one that was a one-shoulder dress. It was reasonably nice except for this galaxy of sparkles that decorated the waist like the Milky Way. It even had a golden star in the middle! She asked me to give this a shot and said perhaps we can ask for the sparkles to be taken out.
“Can we try this?” I asked the gown person.
With her half-asleep eyes now threatening to go into full closure, she appraised my person and said, “I don’t think you can fit this gown.”
I gave out a sigh of exasperation and said, “Okay, so how do we go from here then? I think this cut is quite alright. I just don’t like the sparkles here. What do we do?”
“Oh. You can order it. We take your measurements, make the gown and you come and try again.”
“Okay, but if I’m not even allowed to try this, how do I know if I really want to buy one?”
“Usually you can put it against yourself and see already.”
AAARGH. Oh god. She probably was the valedictorian in the school of customer service! I gave her a polite smile and said, “Well. Let me think about it and I’ll get back you.”
Total time spent at this place – 15 minutes.
The wedding industry must be booming because obviously, she wasn’t interested in doing my business at all. She did not ask me what was the setting of my wedding, she did not even bother pulling my clothes around me to just take a look at my body shape, she did not explain the designs of her gowns a little bit more to educate me on why I should consider them, she did not even explain what shade of white I should be wearing … NOTHING. Just, “Here you go. Take it or leave it.”
If this experience was anything to go by, it’s no wonder most brides feel the need to drop a ton before their weddings! How is it possible for anyone to properly shop for a gown if everything on display was for a size 2 girl? How is it possible for anyone to enjoy this experience if they are being made to feel like elephants whenever they step into a bridal gown studio?
Is it so difficult to have on your shelves a size 10 or size 12 shift that NORMAL size girls can wear and you then proceed to stick on pieces of cloth to simulate a one-shoulder gown, Velcro a big pouffy skirt around the waist to show a bride-to-be what a huge skirt would do to her silhouette? I don’t see how it helps ANYONE with the decision-making process when they (1) can’t try on anything unless they are already a waif and (2) feel like shit!
I speak only for myself here but WHITE is a colour that I don’t wake up every morning thinking how I’d look in it. If I can’t even try on a white dress to see how I’d look in it, what makes you think I’d throw down hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to make one?
I refuse to be a size 2 bride.
I am paying money to get a gown. I’m not paying to get my self-esteem cut into shreds. If you don’t have a gown that I can try before I buy (or even a method to show me how I’d look in a dress), you really shouldn’t be taking my money.
Maybe I will eventually lose some weight, drop a dress size even … but that’s it. That’s just so I won’t look swollen on my big day, that’s just so I would be a little more toned around the arms etc. But I’m not going to shrink to half my size only to fit into a dress. The weight loss is unrealistic and unhealthy. In fact, raise your hands if you know of a bride who lost an incredible amount of weight for the wedding only to pile it all back on after. I don’t want to be that!
And to that gown person …
The reason why people make an appointment to come to your studio is so they can get your undivided attention and professional advice. You may not be an upmarket designer gown studio but you are still running a business, and you are therefore expected to deliver some form of customer service. Put that f___ing phone away and focus on your customer! And, honestly, the design of the gown is NOT about your personal tastes, but what the bride is comfortable with. If I don’t want sparkles, and I ask you for ideas on how to change it, the correct answer is NOT, “I think the original design is the best.”
First gown-shopping experience was an epic fail. If you guys know where else I should go to find a decently priced gown, please drop me an email and let me know.
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and thinks the bridal gown industry is one of the fashion segments that continue to perpetuate the “Skinny is best” stereotype. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.
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