“Yes, any time after 7:00 would be fine.”
I put down the phone, sighing. The advert had gone into the local paper that morning and the phone had been ringing non-stop. I felt like a broken record, going over the same details time and time again.
“White with seed pearls round the hem; silk flowers across the bodice; a square neckline; shantung silk; long sleeves; embroidered train; no, there’s no veil to match; yes, it really is brand new; that’s right, never worn.”
Most of the women who called couldn’t believe the bargain on offer: a brand new, silk, designer wedding dress for under £300. I could hear the excitement in their voices as I answered their questions, but the excitement always turned to pity when the final question came: “Has it really never been worn?”
I went upstairs to the spare room where the dress was hung on a rail, covered in light polythene, waiting for the lucky girl who was going to wear it up the aisle.
I had been so excited when I found the dress in a little shop in town. I had decided to eschew the big chain-stores and went, instead, to a small bridal boutique that specialised in American imports. I had spent hours poring over gossip magazines and scandal sheets, drooling over the OTT creations worn by country and western singers and soap stars, cutting out pictures of dresses I liked. Perhaps I liked the embroidery on one dress, the sleeves on another. I cut them all out and pasted them into a scrapbook that mum and I would look at over a cuppa and a slice of chocolate cake.
“Do you think you could carry off sleeves like that, Emily?” mum would ask.
“Well, if they were balanced by a full skirt, I think so. Pass us another slice of cake, will you?”
I loved my cake and, luckily for me, Tom, my intended, didn’t mind me being on the cuddly side. In fact, if I’m being honest, the real reason I wanted one of the American import dresses was that they came in more “cuddly” sizes than those I’d seen in the other shops. In most of the stores I had tried there would only be one or two dresses in my size to try on.
When I saw this dress in the boutique, I just knew I had to have it. It was perfect. I bought it there and then, even though it was two years until the wedding and Tom and I were supposed to be saving up for the deposit to our first flat together.
When I brought it home, I excitedly tried it on for mum.
“Oh, Emily,” she said, a tear running down her cheek, “It’s just beautiful. Wait ‘til I get the camera. I have to take a photo to show your aunty Marion.”
Later that evening mum and I uploaded the snaps to our PC, ready to email to Aunty Marion. It was only when I saw myself filling up the entire screen of the monitor that I realised just how “cuddly” I had become.
“Oh, mum!” I wailed. “Why didn’t you tell me how fat I looked in the dress? I can’t walk down the aisle looking like that. I might as well tell Tom that the wedding is off. Why would he want to marry a blimp like me?”
I ran into my room and threw the beautiful gown on the floor before collapsing into a sobbing heap on my bed.
That had been three years ago and only now did I feel ready to let go of the American wedding dress.
I busied myself making dinner and tidying around my flat whilst I waited for the potential buyer to arrive. Just after 7:00 the bell sounded and I let in a young woman with her mother.
“It’s through here.” I led the women through to the spare room and stood back watching the face of the younger woman as she fell in love with the dress the way I had done three years earlier.
“Oh, mum, it’s just beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is, dear. Look at the embroidery on the train.” The older woman fingered the fine silk. “It does look a little on the large size though, pet.”
. “I’m getting married in just ten weeks and I really need to get a dress quickly,” the bride-to-be told me. “You could take it in a bit, couldn’t you?” she pleaded to her mother.
“Of course I could. It was just £275, wasn’t it?” her mother asked.
I nodded, not able to trust myself to speak. I was giving up on my dream gown and had to bite my bottom lip to prevent myself from crying.
I took the notes offered, declining to recount them, and helped the women to recover the dress with polythene.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” the mother said on the way out, “why didn’t you wear the dress yourself? Did it not work out for you..?”
“Mum!” Her daughter looked embarrassed.
I smiled. “No, it’s OK.” I took a deep breath. “My circumstances changed between buying the dress and the date of the wedding. I bought the dress two years before my big day, you see, way too early. A lot can happen in two years.”
The other women looked at me sympathetically.
“Oh, no, it’s nothing bad!” I laughed. “You see, I went on a diet not long after I bought the dress and as neither my mum or I were handy with a needle, I needed a new dress by the time the wedding came round. Like you, I needed to buy something quickly and found the perfect one in a small shop in town. I never did love it as much as this one, though.”
“Why are you selling it then if it means so much to you?” the young woman asked.
I patted my expanding tummy. “Well, it seems I’m gaining weight again and I’m going to have to buy a whole new set of clothes for me and the baby!”
We stood there laughing, three women, three brides and a fabulous American wedding dress that would soon be worn at last.
©Nettie Thomson 2009