My wedding dress was a v-neck sheath with spaghetti straps and gorgeous lace. Structured, but not constricting. It had a low cut back and those circular buttons all the way up the back of the skirt. It was beautiful. And as the clerk at the bridal consignment shop took it out of my arms and hung it up from a rod to inspect it, she asked, “Has it been worn?”
I said, “No, never worn.”
Seeing my wedding dress hanging up behind the counter was much harder than I had expected. The store itself was overflowing with secondhand tulle, pearls, and rhinestones. Stacks of filmy candle votives and wooden boards slathered in chalk paint were nestled haphazardly in narrow aisles. All that fabric deadened the sound in the large room, and everything felt too close, crowded, suffocating. But I couldn’t stop looking at my dress even as another clerk began to explain the consignment policy to me.
I can imagine it wasn’t the first time they’d received an unworn wedding dress, but my face was flushed red with embarrassment as I signed the papers. They were completely professional and gave no indication of surprise, but in my mind I imagined them exchanging a knowing glance. At the time, this felt significant in a shameful way. I took one last look at the suspended dress and headed back to my car, trying not to linger too long, ripping the band-aid off, knowing it would hurt less in the long run. I sat in my car a moment, bubbles of grief starting to pop within me. This was just one more step in dismantling the vision I had had for a wedding that would never happen.
But as painful as it was, I knew that giving the dress away was the only thing I could do. I couldn’t keep it, hidden at the back of my closet or packed away in a box. What was I saving it for? Another wedding for a marriage to another man? No, I had imagined myself in this dress getting married to one particular person, and it’s like I had imprinted him onto that dress somehow. I couldn’t move on from him unless I moved on from everything.
Instead, I kept thinking about the next woman who would find that dress hidden in the rows and racks of white lace. It would be even cheaper for her than it had been for me, a dress that I’d found on sale at a boutique. It hadn’t been tailored yet. She would be amazed at her good luck. She would feel the wedding gods smiling down on her. I kept thinking of how she would tell all her friends the story of finding her wedding dress at the consignment shop, in perfect condition. I told myself that the dress had never actually been meant for me. That I was just the last step on its way to its true owner, that if it hadn’t gone through me she would have never found it in that way, in that shop, at that price.
And in this way, there was a glimmer of redemption in the folds of silk and lace and slow yellowing.