I wore an off the rack, final sale, $200 dress for my engagement-party-turned-surprise-wedding. Over a year later, I wore it again. Talk about cost-per-wear and no regrets.
I had a surprise wedding — for reasons known and unknown (and to be shared in dramatic detail one day in my memoire!) — where guests showed up to what they thought was an engagement party when really I had gotten married on my Williamsburg, Brooklyn rooftop the night prior. Surprise!!
In the very limited time I had for planning and also before I had decided on these nonconventional nuptials, I shopped around with my mom for dresses and outfits. I definitely did not want a traditional bridal gown and, at the time, thought I’d also be needing things for a shower, bachelorette, etc, so we went to Saks and Bergdorfs and Bloomies and the usual suspects. And. We. Struck. Out.
There was NOTHING either of us loved, or even liked.
We also popped into little boutiques and shops all around NYC. No luck.
On one final occasion, we stopped by a BCBG across from Madison Park and there were several white dresses on sale.
Nothing called to me – but I picked up a bunch just to try on. (I always tell people you never know until you try it on, so I took my own advice.)
When I got to THE DRESS, it fit beautifully on top but was kind of blah on bottom, especially for a full-length “gown.” Lots of fabric that overwhelmed my frame and an A-line silhouette that really had no wow-factor. The fabric was also like a casual cotton lace, but the cut was more formal and the construction was very cool. I thought it could maybe work for a shower, or possibly be cut into a shorter party dress, or somehow tailored into something more special.
Given that it was final sale, the only one in my size, and only $200, my mom insisted we take it knowing I’d eventually find an occasion for it (even if not a bridal occasion)…
It also didn’t hurt that it was a total hit with all the women in the fitting room. We all had a little moment.
This is a photo of the BCBG Elisia dress on their 7 foot model. Just kidding. Kind of.
Being that I am 5’0″ with a petite curvy frame, it did not look like this on me.
Having said that, even the model didn’t look amazing in the dress because the dress as it was, was not really amazing. But it did have something…
photo: elizabeth griffin
By the time I went for alterations with the dress, I had hatched my surprise wedding plan and had less than a month to get it all together.
To alter the dress to fit me like a glove and to transform it into a mermaid silhouette to accentuate my figure (as pictured above), it would be an additional $200. Kind of crazy that the alterations matched the cost of the dress but, again, given how inexpensive the dress was (basically free in the bridal world!!), I decided to go for it to see if it would be the right look for the party night. Also, my mom was paying for everything and she was loving this dress on me and since we have a very honest relationship, I trusted her vibes.
Since nothing in my life at that time was as expected or as it seemed, in a twist of fate, this tailor ruined the dress and then left the country never to return. For real. That actually happened. And I also only had about three weeks until the party. Cue the panic.
Thankfully, I was able to purchase a new dress on bcbg.com (still $200 final sale), have it rush shipped, take it to my local tailor (also charged $200) and try again.
While also shopping for alternatives in the event of a worse case scenario.
I also needed a few things for under the dress. On top, it required no bra and fit perfectly (up until the night of the party, of course, when I must have lost a pound or two and it wasn’t as perfectly snug. Fashion tape to the rescue!). But for a little added insurance, I purchased a set of white lace bridal Nippies (only $10 for a set of 2) to pair with a white lace Commando thong (just $22). I was turning out to be quite the Budget Bride!
When the second dress came back from the second tailor, it was PERFECT. I absolutely loved it and really had no desire to get a more formal gown or more traditional style.
Except for one thing…
The fabric at the bottom of the dress only really flared when I was walking. Which was fine. But I wanted a more accentuated mermaid look for added drama (given I would be in an off-the-rack, cotton lace, BCBG dress for one of the most special occasions of my life).
The tailor had no solutions so, with a week left, I did what any girl would do…
I cried to the only two friends who knew about my surprise and one of them (God bless you, Joanna!!!) had an idea.
Buy a bunch of slips from Amazon Prime to see if a wire one could kick out the bottom of the dress. GENIUS.
The dress now, though, was so tailored I was worried it wouldn’t fit a slip. I had amped up my workouts and cut out alcohol and eaten clean and ALL OF THAT in my limited countdown so that it would not need a stitch of shapewear.
When the four slips arrived two days later, the first couple did nothing. But the third did the trick! It was like magic and so thin that it added no bulk. It also had no shapewear in it so it was not at all tight or constrictive or heavy or uncomfortable. It was super sheer. With a circle wire ring at its bottom to give the dress everything it deserved in its new incarnation.
PS, the slip was only $20!
As for the final touches, I found an amazing Kara Ross white cork bag with a singular white mother-of-pearl and gold accent at a sample sale. The original price was $695 and I scored it for $150!
I also found these Alexis Bittar mother-of-pearl and crystal jewel encrusted statement earrings ($195) and bangle bracelet ($172.50) that were a perfect match for the clutch.
For shoes, I found a blinged out pair at Lord & Taylor for only $119. But first, I must have tried on every single high-priced designer pair in nude, gold, champagne and white. Nothing was exactly right for this sort of boho glam look. Until I gave up my notions of what I thought I wanted and cast a wider net. (A running theme here!) And not that I had a Cinderella moment, but when I tried on this shoe, the shoe fit.
photos: elizabeth griffin
THE BIG DAY
A few other unexpected things happened before my “surprise party” but by the time I slipped the dress on, I was already a very elated newly married woman and very much looking forward to celebrating with my husband (!!!) and our friends and family. And in the dress, I felt comfortable yet glamorous and most importantly, confident and very much myself. I can’t imagine having worn anything else.
Fast forward to over a year later, when we finally took our Honeymoon (also a story for my memoire!!), and guess what?! I wore the dress again. How many brides can say that?!
More, it was the first dress ruined on the bottom by the first tailor. My bff Joanna (again with the great suggestion) thought I shouldn’t let it go to waste and should chop off the bottom and #makeitwork. Which. I. Did.
So the dress(es) have now been worn in Williamsburg Brooklyn en route to Parlor in Soho NYC as well as the Maldives.
Who knows where I may show up in it next……..
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and editor-in-chief of DIVAlicious®, the creator of BEAUTYfull™ a trusted beauty/fashion expert, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a brand consultant and ambassador, a creative director, a published contributor and writer, a leading NYC-based professional makeup artist, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines.
Serving up style with a side of attitude, her site DIVAlicious gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be smokeshows. The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, fitness, wellbeing, men’s and unisex offerings.