There’s a skinny closet in the smallest bedroom at my mom and dad’s house, a room so small that a twin bed fits in it with only a bit of room to spare. This closet is home mostly to the sparkly dresses that my sisters and I wore to formal dances in high school. The bright red mesh and sequined number that I wore to Junior Prom is in there beside other bedazzled and velvet-strapped numbers. In one twill dress bag are two plain white dresses.
Like my sister Cait before me, I decided to have my wedding dress made for me, rather than buy anything in a shop. By the time I was ready to get married, my tastes had changed significantly from high school and so I traded tulle and beading for far simpler organza and lace. More than that, the idea of entering a bridal boutique made me squirm. The chapter I’d read about the wedding dress industry in Rebecca Mead’s One Perfect Day convinced me that I didn’t want to go the conventional route. I took my quandary to then-local seamstress, Tara Banerjee. She sketched, together we shopped for fabric, and all thanks to her, I was able to wear just the sort of dress I had been picturing in my head but didn’t see reflected back at me in any shops.
After my wedding, I had my dress cleaned and I hung it up in the skinny closet where dresses go to likely never be worn again. But last week, when I was home at my parents’, I decided to slip it on. I can’t say precisely what had stopped me before. Custom? Fear of spoiling it? For who? Wasn’t the point to have a dress made simple enough that it felt like something I’d want to wear again? What’s better than a dress that be worn over and over again? Why not slip on your wedding dress after an afternoon swim and before a summery date night?
So. In case you need it—here’s permission to first, wear absolutely anything to your wedding that you’d like to, and second, to wear it again whenever you very well please.
When I got married on the very hottest day of 2012, I was in the thick of writing survival tips for a life in our tiny New York apartment, but I hadn’t yet started to write about my forays into a more intentionally streamlined closet. I wasn’t clued in to small designers and I had my dress handmade in part because I simply didn’t know where else to look. To be clear: I loved having the opportunity to work with someone on something made just for me. If you’re in LA and looking for someone to make a dress just for you, or to alter something you’ve already found, you’d be right to contact Tara, The Williamsburg Seamster. But in case that’s not in the cards, here are a few other options for simple dresses that could be wedding dresses, or date-night dresses, or picnic-in-the-park dresses, if that’s your style. It’s a matter of mindset, really.
Dear Golden: I’ve been stalking the antique Edwardian dresses collected by Dear Golden shop owner Lauren Naimola for years now. They’re exquisite. Wedding material and then some, I say. (And by then some, of course I mean after-dinner ice cream shop runs.)
Doen: I love the romantic dresses from Doen. They’re like the modern sister to the vintage beauties found above. (They sent me one of their Primrose dresses earlier this spring and I wore it on my birthday—and on many other regular work days this summer.) Many of their designs come in white (the white Tansy Dress is one that’s currently in stock) and I think lots of them could be just right for an outdoor wedding.
Elizabeth Suzann: Sometimes formality is less about cut and more about fabric. I could see just about any Elizabeth Suzann design cut from ivory silk working for a simple wedding. An ivory Mara Jumpsuit in silk seems just right for saying vows or sailing into the sunset, don’t you think?
Hackwith Design House: Hackwith Design House has a range of gowns. Some of them are formal enough that you might feel a bit overdressed on a date night, but others, like the Myrtle Dress are more nimble. And it’s out of stock right now, but it’s worth checking back (or checking out their Sustain Shop) for something like last season’s Wrap Dress. Not strictly a wedding gown, but wouldn’t it be lovely?
Mara Hoffman: Mara Hoffman often has at least one beautiful white dress in her summer collection. This year, I love the big-pocketed Agnes Dress. It’d be so lovely to wear on a wedding day and just as great to wear on a summer jaunt to get pizza, napkins, of course, required.
What about you guys? Formal or simple wedding dresses? To wear one day only, or any old day you like?
For the curious: