(Not) My wedding dress

Wedding Dresses

A few weeks ago I found my wedding dress—and none of these is it. Sorry, guys, but I don't like how the dress looks in the picture I have; plus, I want it to be a surprise to everyone who'll be at my wedding. I do, however, want to show you my runners-up and tell you the story of how I found my (yes, it's cliché, but it's true!) "dream dress." —Cari Wolfert

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Photos, from left: Courtesy of Christos, Dan Lecca, Courtesy of Amsale

It all started with Kleinfeld's Anniversary Blowout Sample Sale. I got an e-mail early this past November (a year before my wedding) that it was coming up, and—being a perpetually savvy shopper—didn't want to miss out on the opportunity. I also didn't want to go unprepared, so the weekend before the sale, I made appointments to start trying on styles at different salons, just to see what was out there and what I liked. Now, while I'd studied, critiqued, and written about thousands of wedding dresses during my years on this job, I'd never actually tried one on. I had an idea of what I liked, but I knew that, ultimately, what would sell me on a dress would be how I looked in it.

The first dress I tried on was at Exquisite Bride in Millburn, NJ. It was strapless with a fit-to-flare silhouette and a small burst of off-center sparkle at the waist. I liked it, but I definitely wasn't ready to end my search. Another dress I really loved that first day was the Femme dress by Christos (above, left). I'd made the mistake of telling my mother, who I took shopping with me (Hi, Mom!), that I was "open to the idea of lace." Of course, to her that meant that I was obsessed with lace and would be appalled at the mere thought of wearing any other fabric—which was so not the case. What I was really looking for was a lace dress with a modern silhouette that would juxtapose, and update, such a romantic fabric. So, in that respect, Femme was perfect—the low-cut sweetheart neckline and slim fit were modern and sexy; plus, the lace pattern itself was very flattering and not frumpy like some others I'd seen. But somehow, I found myself comparing everything to that first dress.

Next I made my way over to the Priscilla of Boston salon in Short Hills, NJ, where I found Saffron by Melissa Sweet (above, right). It was silk organza, which wasn't what I was looking for (I'm having a fall wedding in New York City, and I'm not sweet enough to pull off anything too flowy), with embroidery, crystals, and silk flowers. And, though I wasn't in love with the dress's overall style, it did help me to realize that the fit-to-flare silhouette was what I should probably go with.

Finally, I headed to the Amsale salon and tried on the Nicole dress (above, center.) Before I started shopping, this was the type of dress I thought I would end up with. It has a clean, modern aesthetic that's different from a traditional ballgown, but is still very wearable. Now, there's a long-running joke in the office and with some of my friends that I have—how should I put this?—a boring sense of style. I don't wear anything that's too outlandish, flowery, or bright—hey, my apartment colors are beige, gray, and black. So, yeah, I guess I am a little boring. I did love this dress, and thought it was "me"... but I didn't go with it. Why?

Because I couldn't get that first dress out of my head!

Yes, the style I ultimately chose—"The Dress That Must Not Be Named," if you will—was the very first one I tried on. It had just the right amount of "something special" that every bride looks for, but it was also simple yet sleek enough to fit with my venue and the size of my wedding. In fact, I even ended up going to the Kleinfeld sale and just ended up trying on that one dress, but, unfortunately, the sample wasn't my size. Instead I placed an order with the Amsale salon. I bought the dress with more than enough time to spare (it won't come until the summer) but I seriously cannot wait to try it on again. And, of course, to show you after the wedding.

A salon employee later told me that many brides end up choosing the first dress they try on, because it's in that dress that they see themselves as a bride for the first time, and actually fall in love with that "vision."

Someone else told me it's because smart women first gravitate toward what they like most—I like that theory better.

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