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Perfect Timing

For this bride, finding her dream gown came easily. Finding her husband was harder.

In July 2001, while shopping for handbags at an uptown thrift shop, I found a wedding gown stuffed into the racks. Although I certainly wasn't looking to get married, I knew that if I ever had a wedding, I wanted it to be tulle-free. And this gown, donated by a dressmaker, fit the bill: simple, heavy silk with a bateau neck and single line of beading around the waist.

I'd never tried on a gown before, but I was bored and unemployed, so I pulled the dress into a dingy changing room and zipped up. It fit perfectly. Perching the bustle on a plastic folding chair, I pondered, When my time comes, will I be able to find this dress's equal? Perhaps. Will I regret not visiting a dozen bridal salons? Probably not.

I approached the counter, yards of ivory crinoline trailing behind me. At $150, this gown was no impulse purchase, but since it fit so beautifully, the salesclerk offered it to me for $70. Frantic, I called my roommate. "I need you to tell me I'm not crazy," I said. She wouldn't do that, but she did give her blessing. Once home, I looked up the "real" price of the dress online: $5,000. Clearly, this dress was worth preserving, even if the dry cleaner wanted $450 to do it.

Fast-forward to the following fall: I was five months into a relationship with the kind of guy who wouldn't tell me his middle name, let alone call me his girlfriend. Our uncertain status kept me continually on edge, but one evening, after a pleasant dinner in Chinatown, I let down my guard and listened to my answering-machine messages in his company.

"This is the dry cleaner," a voice boomed. "Your wedding gown is ready to be picked up."

"I have to go to the bathroom," my date muttered, running down the hall and slamming the door.

"I bought it over a year ago," I shouted through the keyhole. "At a thrift store. For $70."

Finally, he came out of the bathroom. He broke up with me on the spot.

He claimed it had nothing to do with the dress, but I knew better.

The next afternoon, I retrieved my three-by-five-foot box of shame and wept my sad tale to the dry cleaner. As he rang up the sale, he sighed and said, "Honey, he's not the one." A few days later, my mother made an emergency trip from New Jersey to transport the dress back to the suburbs, where no future boyfriend might find it.

She needn't have worried. Shortly afterward, I met my husband-to-be at a bar in the West Village. Cute, kind, and affectionate, he held my hand on our first date; when I took him to a party to meet my friends, he didn't run for the bathroom once they told him about the dress. He stayed, and even appreciated my eye for a deal.

Just as when I first tried on the gown, I knew from the moment I saw him that he was an exact fit. And this July, four years after I found the perfect dress, I finally wore it for my wedding to the perfect guy.


From the Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide


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