Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the second time around

so you know how your wedding dress is something you only wear once? well i move to strike that notion from the record. i'll cut right to the chase - i dyed my wedding dress black. and wore it saturday night.

to be clear, my wedding dress was very simple, as wedding gowns go. it was made of silk crepe and had no embellishments like beads or lace or tulle. the main attraction of the dress was the center knot and drape, which the whole dress was built around. and it was literally the only dress i have ever felt totally comfortable in, not surprising as it was made by a very talented designer, nancy sinoway.

for two years, the dress laid in anonymity in my closet. and i thought about it from time to time, especially as i struggled to find other eveningwear that i liked as much - and that i didn't require a pashmina or shawl or some other messy, matronly accessory. that was one of the things i loved most about my wedding dress - it had sleeves, which i require. because it was made for me, they weren't an add-on or a makeshift solution, they were actually a part of the dress - and a nice part of the dress, at that.

i wrestled with the notion of dyeing the dress - but nancy warned me that the fabric might not take right and then it would be a waste. i took it to heart, but over many months, kept revisiting the idea. finally, after consulting many friends and relatives, all with varying sensibilities about things, i arrived at a choice. clearly, i would never wear the dress again, and i could think of no good use for it as is - i'm jewish, so my children won't be christened, making the popular idea of a christening gown a no-go. the fabric and style of my dress really didn't lend itself to a basinette ensemble. and as my friend kim said so plainly, "people don't wear their mothers' wedding dresses." point taken.

with all those ideas in mind, and the fact that i loved my friend liza's idea that the dress could change and evolve with me, i decided it was a risk worth taking. if it didn't come out well, i'd be no worse off, i'd just have a not-white wedding gown, no less wearable, in my closet. but if it did, i'd get to amortize my parents' investment over several wears and i wouldn't need to search out a dress (or a pashmina) for an upcoming black tie wedding.

after a quick internet search, i found metro custom dyeing, a fabric dyer in the garment district here in NYC that dyes samples for designers. after a few phone calls back and forth, i was instructed to bring my garment in and have one of the dyers take a look. if they could be reasonably sure it would work out, they'd do it. when i arrived at the building, dress in hand, i had little flutters of anticipation...were they the predecessors to regret? i blocked it out and marched in to the warehouse.


the space was very industrial and commercial feeling. what i was doing felt less fashion-esque and more...factory-esque. but i definitely felt like they knew what they were doing.

it was actually a very cool place. they had all kinds of garments from dresses like mine to bedding to draperies and winter coats. clearly though, the majority of their work is commerical.



i saw them working on a few different fabrics for the straps of bras for a "large retail" client of theirs, and saw them doing all kinds of color-matching - clearly a more exact endeavor than my desperate, non-specific plea for "black."



i will say, my most nerve-wracking moment came when i saw the area where the dyeing happens - it looked like a ratty laundry room, and i felt my first true wave of fear. here i was, handing over my precious wedding gown -- expensive, custom-made, memory-laden wedding gown -- to a glorified laundromat.

with chemicals. fabric changing, unreversible chemicals.

my dress lay on the table like an unwitting victim to what was a very uncharacteristic experiment on my part. the dyer asked me to confirm that the dress was 100% silk, because "if it's polyester, it won't work." as far as i knew, it was silk. i ordered silk. i paid for silk. it BETTER be silk.

he explained that it would look okay if it was not, but it wouldn't be black. it would be gray. he showed me what the gray would look like, and in that moment, i decided i was on the right track in doing this. even if it was gray and not black, i could wear it again! so i forked over my $50 and held my breath.

well, it was 100% silk, and it turned out black. i love it, even more than i did in white. and i could not be more thrilled.

it is true that i could never have worn it again in white. and it is true that daughters don't wear their mothers' wedding gowns, and that having a dress that can evolve along with me rather than stay suspended in time is a wonderful thing.

but the thing i could not have possibly have known before now is not logistical or economical in nature - what i couldn't have known before is the way i would feel wearing it again - and that turns out to be the best reason of all.

one of the most special things about being a bride is the way you feel. and i felt that way again saturday night when i wore the dress - pretty, excited, at ease and comfortable in my own skin.

note: check out this story featured on glamour's wedding website!

8 comments:

Kimberly said...

Amazing Post!!! What a great thing, to quietly feel like a bride again at someone elses wedding.

Colette's Cottage said...

What a wonderful story- good for you for taking a risk!!
We need a picture of you looking amazing in your newly dyed dress!

Krista soon-to-be Skrtic :) said...

I just got married in early October and wore my dress again for Halloween! And I plan to wear it every year! Kudos to you doing something with yours too!

Jen said...

Hey Carla...love your story- now I need a pic of you in the fabulous black "weddding guest" dress!

The plans for mine- New Years Eve Party with all my friends who will wear their wedding gowns! A few of us also want to be photographed in our gowns together...we couldn't wear them on the same day so this is the only possible solution!

bloomie said...

All that and no photo of the newly black dress. Post a picture!

honey living said...

i will post a pic as soon as i have one! thanks for all the great comments.

jen - that's a great idea - i have thought about doing something like that. such a special and festive way to rewear!

shari said...

Wow! How Brave of you!!!!! My second wedding dress just keeps sitting in the hall closet . If i ever fit into it again i would love to dye it black and wear it again. Lots of beads though. Don't know if that would work. My first wedding dress was borrowed from my friend Janie. I was the 3rd bride to wear it. I enjoyed wearing it at the time, but always felt bad I did not have it to save. Maybe Janie could share it with me lol xoxoxox

Sani said...

I found your blog on Concrete Magnolia and I am so happy that I did! What a wonderful idea, dyeing your dress. I always felt that spending so much money on something you would only wear once was such a waste. People spend so much time and energy on picking a dress that you love so why not make it reuseable! I LOVE that idea.

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