Reality Check, Please


I’ve been looking at evening gowns to wear as my wedding dress. Am I making a terrible mistake?

What is the real difference between a white evening gown and a wedding dress, other than price? I see that evening gowns are more often polyester. Should I care? I remember reading that it’s like a sin against style if your wedding dress closes with a zipper. Is it really?

Because aside from evening gowns being cheaper, I’m also finding them more appealing. Wedding gowns all look the same to me. Maybe I would feel differently if i put them on instead of seeing them on poorly designed websites. [Seriously, the wedding industry needs to get into a 12-step Flash Addiction program yesterday.]

Dresses marketed as evening gowns instead of wedding dresses take more license to be different. And much like with my engagement ring, the only thing I know I want in a wedding dress is “something different.”

Evening gowns also tend to be a bit more revealing. Because I’m not getting married in a place of worship and I have a rockin’ bod, I find that a plus.

I am, admittedly, terrified of buying an expensive dress via the Internet. [I'm old fashioned in that way. I also won't deposit checks with an ATM.] I want to see it in real life, touch the fabric, feel the weight of the whole thing, try walking and dancing in it. There are bridal shops in the area that carry “prom and special occassion” dresses, so that might be a solution.  But it also might make the savings go “poof!”

It is also entirely possible that the price differential between evening gowns and wedding dresses only exists in my imagination. For example, two Jovani dresses caught my eye last night:

[Sidebar: I think it is great that this double amputee model still finds work.  Really inspiring and inclusive stuff, Jovani.  Cheers.]

Can you tell which is marketed as Bridal?  Spoiler alert: the girl who looks more disgusted with the universe is the bride. [I realize that doesn't necessarily clear up the matter.  It's the second dress.]

The beaded one, even though it isn’t a wedding dress, sells for around 900 bucks.  Who knows if the beads are sewn on, individually or in strings, or just glued.  That dress could turn out to be a $900 dollar disaster.  Plus it is hard to say what it would look on a person with feet.

The second dress is available on the Internet for under $700.  Under $700 only seems cheap after you look at a bunch of wedding dresses, where prices are depicted in strings of dollar signs, with the second dollar sign not even kicking in until you’re in the >$2,000 territory.

Those were only the dresses that made me go, “Va Va Voom!” There were plenty of other dresses that I reacted to by thinking, “well someone could totally get married in that!” These were all in the $100-$400 range (click on the pictures for links to sellers):

In summary, I still feel adrift in this whole dress hunt. I should probably entirely ignore it until August, but it is a very tempting distraction when the alternative is an outline about wills and trusts.


  1. I wouldn’t buy one online, but that’s just me. Especially something like a wedding dress. Like you I want to be able to see what I’m getting in person… not on a shitty Flash site.

    Then again, I never tried on my dress until it arrived. I did get to see it in person in a smaller size. I figured, why the heck not take a chance.

    But those dresses really are VA VA VOOM! I mean, damn… those are hot!

    • Yeah, even when ordering from a shop there is a little risk unless you happen to fit into a sample. But it is so different to actually see and touch a real dress than to look at it online. Just think about stuff like the brightness of your screen!

      • Robin!!! That very, very last one on the bottom right is movie-star hotness.

      • That is my favorite of the ones on the bottom. I consider it less “me” than other options. But I strongly encourage someone to wear that to their wedding! It looks like something Daisy from The Great Gatsby would wear, which shouldn’t be a compliment, but, well, it is.

  2. I love all of these, and they would all look STUNNING on you. I agree with your aversion to buying online. This is your wedding dress, after all. Not just a fun summer dress.

    I know you and I have already had the “wedding dresses all look the same!” conversation recently, but I’d like to reiterate how much I love that you’re doing something different.

    *IF* Joe and I ever get married and do the 50′s sort of style like we discussed, I would want something like this:


    The only thing I don’t like is that little bundle of flowers at the waist. I would probably want a bow or a bigger flower bundle.

    Even though it’s still strapless like every single mother-loving wedding dress nowadays, I think it’s acceptably different enough.

    You, however, will look amazing with some sort of plunging neckline or other va-va-voomy such thing!

  3. Really? Zippers are a sin against style? I’m willing to best dressmakers made that up because zipper dresses? Totally cost less. Also, they do not take six years and a team of architects to do up. And as we know from wedding etiquette, anything that is easy is Just Not Done.

    I must be cranky today. But zippers>lace up/goddamn 900 buttons.

  4. I agree – I never have good luck buying online and would be super nervous to try it for a wedding dress. Unless it was easy to return and I found something with a cut I knew would look good.
    I look forward to seeing what you decide!

  5. Oh Robin…I am SO hysterically laughing at you all the time!!!!…I keep telling myself not to comment that I am SURE you don’t want to know that your future MIL is reading everything you say….and I just cannot help myself to comment on your heart warming, hysterically funny, sweet and so smart that I don’t understand everything you are talking about blog….but I am having so much fun …and I also know how terribly naive I am thinking that these are your best friends commenting also……but I adore these witty, smart great women ( and yes Sarah…I would LOVE to adopt you!!!! I would LOVE more children!!!! but my God I could never handle another blog…I don’t think…and as your MIL I should read it….)will you ever meet these wonderful ladies?????
    anyway…..I love the top two dresses but as your MIL here is my advise….I think you do need to try them on…feel them and see them…and if you want an opinion when you go…I would fly up anytime!!!!!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!

  6. I’m very nervous about purchasing just about any clothing online if I haven’t already tested it in person. Returning things is just too much of a hassle for me. It’ll sit there in a bag ready to go by the door for weeks.

    With that said though – I’m all for evening gowns as a wedding dress. I’m definitely planning on checking out Nordstroms and Bloomingdales when I begin the search (next Saturday – scared!)

    And finally – your MIL Viki is the coolest – how sweet is her comment! I know my In Laws read my blog, tho I’ve yet to get a comment. Instead they bring it up in obscure round about ways during our weekly skype chats and I’m like ‘wait why are they asking me all about that’ and then I remember, oh right – that blog post. ha ha.

  7. I’m quite sure there is absolutely nothing wrong with a zipper! I lucked out in that my future cousin-in-law owns a fairly upscale wedding dress store in which all the dresses are designed by her and her partner. They are lovely, simple, made of beautiful silks and no frilly beading in sight. And I believe every single one closes with a zipper! It’s just a sensible way to close a garment. So find yourself a gorgeous non-wedding dress, complete with zipper, and rock it.
    And so true about the amputee model! (lol)

  8. Okay, so first off to Vicki: Thank you for adopting me! You can read my blog anytime because I think you’re amazing, but you should know that I’m not nearly as smart, witty or entertaining as Robin.

    But on to the dress: As you know, my dress is a Teri Jon evening dress that I found at Sak’s (Bloomingdale’s had one too). I love my dress. Love it so much that I secretly try it on when no one is home and twirl around in it in my daughter’s room — she has the only full length mirror — like I’m a 16 year old dressing for her first prom. When I tried on the eyelet dress the other day, there was no contest for me. The evening dress IS my wedding dress.

    It fastens with a zipper. So oh, well.

    What I love about my dress (and buying my dress from the evening dress section of a department store):

    1. No train to trip over or bustle.

    2. It’s comfortable. I can breathe in my dress. My dress loves me as much as I love it.

    3. I had it pinned for alterations the day I bought it, and picked it up 2 weeks later. Now my dress is tucked away in the free garment bag it came in waiting in the back of my closet. I may get it cleaned and pressed before the wedding, but for all other intents and purposes, I was completely finished with my dress in 1 day. Everything about planning a wedding should be that simple.

    4. I can wear my dress out again without looking like Mrs. Haversham in her wilted wedding dress. I plan on wearing it out to our fancy anniversary whatnot every year until the thing is in tatters. Because the beauty of that is that we will be the only people who know that my dress was a wedding dress.

    All that said, don’t buy a dress online. I mean this with all sincerity. There are things you can buy online, but a special occasion dress is not one of them.

    My dress is not the dress I expected to like. I actually thought it was the plain jane dress of all the dresses I tried on. The dresses that drew my Magpie eye were so very pretty on the hangar and in the pictures with the models who don’t look like me, and my dress looked so nothing burger on the skinny model and on the hangar.

    But when I pulled it on and zipped it up, it was just perfect. The fit was gorgeous on me without making me feel like I needed to camoflauge this flaw or that flaw. (The alterations I had done were very minor: shortening the shoulder straps, shortening the hem so that my dress would not drag on the ground — I hate trains, even small ones, adding darts to the bodice to stop the armholes from gaping, and sewing a stitch in the center of the V-neckline so that it wasn’t quite so plunging.)

    The other reason to buy from the Department Store and not from an online dealer: online shops don’t allow returns. If you go to Saks or Bloomingdales or Macy’s, though, if they don’t have your size, they will order the dress for you to try on. If it turns out that you don’t like it after all, you can usually return it (some don’t make you purchase it up front, either).

    • I so happy how much you love your dress! Plus BLUE!

      And excellent point on trains. I am very klutzy and have to walk down fifteen marble steps during my ceremony. I think having fabric to trip over is probably not the best call.

  9. Your venue would be AWESOME for an evening gown. And the right evening gown on the right body is sexy and elegant, so I say go for it (I love both that you posted to). If I were getting married at an indoor venue, I’d totally be shopping evening gowns instead of traditional bridal.

    The other dresses you posted are simpler. They deserve a more casual outdoorsy wedding and a lot of fun accessories.

    The benefit ALL the dresses have over traditional bridal a) they don’t weigh 8 pounds (which, for the record, is really uncomfortable when that weight is all beads and boning), b) they don’t cost the GDP of a small country abnd c) yes, they dare to deviate from the strapless-with-bedazzler routine at most low-end bridal shops. (High end, on the other hand, oh my freaking goodness I loooooove those designs. oh well.)

    I agree, though. It’s important to try these on in person and see/feel the material. A lot of prom shops carry Jovani. A lot of internet retailers allow full returns (check and see!). And a lot of central department stores where I live (bloomingdales and Macys) have a gorgeous white dress section where you can try on and twirl. I learned a lot about quality and drape, and was surprised by how tempting some of the dresses were in person that’s I’d bypassed online. I had the same feeling in Saja and Nicole Miller. In-person matters a TON.

    And I found out that “wedding dress” is the most googled wedding term on the internet. Given how much time I waste searching for affordable-but-stunning pretties, I’m not surprised. You are in good company with your dress search, along with much of the engaged and pre-engaged female population, it would seem.

    • I won’t even look at high end bridal dresses. Because I could buy that dress, and I really don’t want to wake up one morning unable to feed a baby and think, “If only I didn’t spend 6 grand on a wedding dress!” I seriously turn my head in the opposite direction every time I walk past the fanciest bridal shop in town.

      And I agree with your indoor dress vs. outdoor dress analysis. I think the other thing pushing me toward glam-wow evening gowns over lovely, gauzy simple bridal gowns is the blast-from-the-past-iness of the venue. And my general disdain for accessorizing.

  10. You know who thinks having a zipper on your wedding dress is unfashionable? The people who make the wedding dresses that tie up, button up with fancy buttons, that you can’t pee in, and what not.

    I think those are STUNNING. Plus, this is just me, I think they’d be more flattering because of the weight of the fabric..rather than having 12 layers that you can’t breathe in, one-two layers of flaterring, moderately weighty fabric…I dig it. You’d be more comfortable and it would be WAY easier to dance in.

    Also, check this out: A dress with all kinds of zippers and it looks FAB. http://www.stylemepretty.com/2010/05/17/rock-and-roll-wedding-by-carla-ten-eyck/#comment-108540

  11. Wow! Those are va va voom. I am with everyone else who mentioned being nervous about buying online. I think you can totally rock an evening dress. I mean its your dress, you can wear what you want and what makes you feel good! Now is the time you can ‘splurge’ on a designer dress which is probably still way less than a wedding dress but more than you would spent typically. Also, my dress has a zipper and I can put it on over my head. Oops, sounds very un-wedding dress-like.

  12. I would only buy a dress online if it came with a free shipping on returns policy. Nordstrom has this.

    Yes, I want an evening dress too…not a bridal dress. To me all bridal dress look the same, and I definitely want something that looks different.

    Do what’s right for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with zippers.

    • I’m actually surprised at how many online retailers have free shipping on returns! It’s more than “nearly none,” which is what I would have guessed. But it still is a slooooow way to shop.

  13. I love that calvin klein dress. It was definitely in the running. And I have no problems with zippers. hello modern (or more like mid century modern) technology.

    • Ha! A note about that Calvin Klein dress and the frustrations of online shopping is that the page says “an absolutely stunning silk dress” but in the product details says, “100% polyester.”

      Not that I’m adamantly opposed to polyester. I just feel like I maybe should be.

  14. I had an idea of what I wanted my wedding dress to be, short with straps and a v-neck, that apparently are very uncommon in wedding dresses. I saw a dress I really liked on Nordstroms.com that was on sale, but I was too afraid of buying it without trying it on. It ended up selling out right before I decided I was going to break down and buy it. So I tried on dresses at a bunch of different places and couldn’t find anything I liked. Eventually it reappeared on the Nordstroms.com website, no longer on sale, and I snatched it up. It ended up fitting perfectly.

  15. This post cracks me up ;)

    My Irish wedding dress is zip up, with “fake” crystal buttons. If I had chosen corset it would have ruined the whole look. Plus, I intend to go up to the hotel room when I need to pee, unzip, step out, pee and step back in. I don’t want to take my dress into a cubicle. Too much trouble.

    Also I think the difference with wedding dresses is that most of have better structure to them. And the aforementioned difference in fabric quality.

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