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Wedding Dresses & the Junior League

At one point, I, Dorena, and a close friend, owned three wedding dresses collectively.  That’s right.  THREE.  I know.  Three dresses; three  women.  Three fancy dresses.  Three beautiful creations that might possibly represent a milestone in a woman’s life.  Only one successful marriage. How about those stats? 


Dress Number 1 was my own purchase in the fall of 1997.  Originally, I wasn’t even going to purchase a dress.  I had just finished graduate school and didn’t have a ton of cash.  Thinking I could rent a more elegant dress than I could out-right purchase, Mom, Dorena and I hit the shops in Dallas.  After a disappointing morning of overpriced chiffon and lace, we stopped at Campisi’s for some awesome pizza.  I was a little discouraged, but with some encouragement from Dorena, who is as experienced a shopping huntress as they come, we pressed on.  It was in the afternoon, the dress fell into our laps.  


Inside a small bridal shop, there it was.  It was stunning.  The dress was long-sleeved lace with lace, rhinestones and elaborate beadwork.  The bodice had a high collar and a low, but not too low, heart-shaped neckline.  Buttons raced down the back to the bow that fell at the small of the back.  The skirts had embroidered lace around the hemline and down the train.  The train could be hooked up under the ornate bow on the back.  


Check the tag, I told myself.  There’s no way you can afford this.  I turned the tag over and gasped at the price:  $100.  For a rental fee, this was amazing.  All of the other dresses I looked at were between $250 and $400.  The price was great, but would it fit?  Only one way to find out.  It was time to boldly go where many a tear was shed – the dressing room.  The dressing room:  where dreams were dashed or fulfilled.  It was an August miracle.  The dress fit.   To top off the rhinestone amazement, the dress did not need alterations.  


Guarding the dress carefully, we walked to the clerk to reserve the dress.  Would Murphy’s Law still be on vacation?  Would the perfect dress be available?  Yes!  The dress was available – for purchase only.  For the amazing price of $100.  Murphy was obviously super busy with someone else, because this was my day!  With this dress, all of my dreams would come true…While the dress was an amazing success, the marriage was not.  Ended just before year ten.


Dress Number 2.  One of my best friends was engaged to a guy she’d met through friends.  It was a long distance relationship, but they managed to get together almost every weekend.  When time came to buy a dress, I suggested we head back to Texas.  Gainesville, actually.  At least that’s where we ended our quest.  She knew what she wanted, how much she wanted to spend ,and away we went.  We didn’t search very long before she found her dress.  


The dress was simple and elegant.  The dress had sheer sleeves and top attached to a bodice with a subtle, as opposed to mine, heart-shaped neckline.  Beads were arranged on the skirt in an understated pattern.  The train was minimal, but graceful.  Now that I think of it, I have always had friends with exceptional personal fashion sense. 


However, as quickly as the dress was found, the engagement fell apart.  Turns out, there are lots of crazy folks out there and none of them are us - I think.


Dress Number 3.  In the summer of 2011, Dorena had just married my fabulous new brother-in-law, Chuck.  A great man, she met in the Single’s Class at church.  So, in this case, Third Time, or Dress, was a blessing.  What’s great about experience, age, and a great figure?  Dorena bought an affordable dress from JC Penney’s – no stuttering – I said JC Penney’s.  


The dress was a lovely, elegant simple dress that she wore beautifully.  Stylish, with straps, this dress was perfect for a simple, summer wedding that took place in a country church on the edge of the city. Minus a little decoration on the straps, it was satin with no beads, no lace, but had a delicate heart-shaped neckline.  Hey, at least we’re consistent in something.  The bodice was horizontally pleated and flattering on someone who is a size 8.  UGH.  


At the end of the summer, I was heading to see Mom and Dad.  I decided to unload the three dresses at the local Junior League Thrift Shop.  Everyone agreed.  They were just taking up space and we weren’t ever going to wear them again.  Why not share them with a thrift store for resale?  It would help us by opening up some much needed closet space and make available three great dresses at affordable prices.  That revenue would in turn be used to aid the community.  What could go wrong?


First, carrying three dresses with the combined fabric yardage of five football fields, in my guesstimation, is a lot of work.  Second, one never realizes how ridiculous one will look when carrying three wedding dresses into a thrift store.  Third, it is always wise to anticipate these outcomes before dragging three wedding dresses across a hot parking lot, two of them used and only one of them successfully, into a thrift store.


After waging war with the door, I entered the community-supporting-going-green-by-recycling-everything-under-the-sun junior league store.  Dresses were deposited on the counter and for the longest moment, not one word was spoken.  


The woman behind the counter gazed at me with disbelief.  I was surprisingly mute as I could read on her face what she was thinking: What woman has three wedding dresses?  Someone with incredibly bad luck?  Three dead husbands?  What woman turns in all three at the same time?  I do believe I could have read more questions, if I’d stayed a moment longer.  


As I turned to leave, she managed to squeeze out the following words: Do you need a receipt? It was at that moment, I thought I just might explode with nervous laughter.  I turned and respectfully said: No.   


Hysterical laughter did ensue once the car door was shut.  At first, I thought I should be appropriately contrite.  Those three dresses each represented important events.  My BFF  got out of a terrible relationship, went through a very awful breakup that turned into legitimate stalking (Dress 2), and later landed with a terrific Christian guy (Dress 3).  Recovering after The Incident (Dress 1), was taking much longer than I planned.  Was laughter really acceptable at this moment?  


After the laughing was over, including tears streaming down my face and my abdomen muscles aching from actual use, I decided that laughter was indeed fitting.  Nothing felt better than having the confidence God could help me find humor in the present moment.  While saying that I was completely content at that moment was untrue, I was beginning to see a future without the awful baggage, and excess fabric, I’d been dragging around for many years.  

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