I just finished a conference call with a client that so horrified me that I had to sit down and write this blog immediately. You are going to be just as shocked as I was when you learn about the cruel and torturous process of "paper dolling" brides who can't fit into sample size wedding gowns.
My client, a lovely bride, went shopping for her wedding gown at what is supposed to be the nicest bridal boutique in Waltham, Mass. She did it properly -- made an appointment and brought some girlfriends with her to give her their honest opinions -- and she was very excited to start the process. Wedding gown shopping makes the engagement start to feel really REAL and it's a big deal.
Like most women in the world, this client isn't a bridal sample size eight (really a four) and there was no way she was going to be able to actually properly try on anything in the fancy boutique. I ran into the same problem when I got married. Most of the time, they have you put on the gown and it won't zip -- heck, the fabric won't even begin to meet in the back. So they clip it to your bra or foundation garment to hold it up in place so you see -- sort of -- what it will look like when you wear it. Not the most flattering or ego-boosting experience around, but it does get the job done.
But enough about me... my bride's experience eclipses mine completely.
First off -- she's not fat. She's average. When she called the shop to make her appointment, they told her size wouldn't be a problem, they had a way around it. They would "paper doll" her. Not knowing what that meant and being too shy to ask (visions of the toilet-paper bridal shower game swirling), she readily agreed and made the appointment and invited her friends along.
Upon arrival at the salon, she was whisked away to a dressing room to try on her first picks. She changed into the robe provided, and then the process began to unfold, hideously, in front of her. Remember, she's in a room that has three full walls of mirrors, and then a curtain for a doorway. It probably had a platform -- most of them do at the nice shops. They had her take the robe off and began to pin the dress to the front of her, as if she were a real paper doll. She didn't actually get into the dress at all, but rather, they clipped it onto her bra and undies and attached it to her all the way down. Then they proceeded to put a veil and jewelry and the whole she-bang on her as if she was really a paper doll being dressed up in a wedding gown. Weird.
There's only one major problem with this strategy -- paper dolls are one dimensional and ONE-SIDED. So from the front view, she looked nice (sorta... she said the whole experience was so bizarre that trying to process how the dress looked became secondary). But from the back, her ass was hanging out! No really, there was nothing covering her backside at all other than her panties. And she realized when she turned to face the sales associates that they were receiving a 270 degree panoramic view of her butt in the wall mirrors behind her.
The salesgirls oohed and ahhed about how pretty she looked but the bride was literally speechless, and mortified. Her friends, hearing the clerks' enthusiasm, wanted to see and clamored for a look from the other side of the curtain. Before the bride could even open her mouth to say "NO," the sales associate whipped back to the curtain to let everybody standing outside the doorway have a look. At her nearly-bare backside. From every conceivable angle.
Really? REALLY? The poor girl was mortified. As she faced them, they were seeing the least flattering view of her tush in a wide-screen. If she turned away from them, she was sticking her ass in their faces. She was trapped, speechless, frozen, and traumatized. Fortunately, her girlfriends were equally horrified and one of them actually reached out and pulled the curtain closed before anybody else wandering around in the bridal salon dressing area could have a peepshow too. But the bride was done. She got un-paper dolled as quickly as possible and hopped back into her street clothes. The shopping adventure was finished for the day, despite her earlier plans to visit several bridal shops. At that moment, she never wanted to try on another wedding gown ever again. She couldn't even look the salespeople in the eye as she beat feet out of that place, fighting a genuine anxiety attack the entire way. Oh. My. God.
I honestly thought I'd heard every horror story possible from the more than 400 brides I've sent down the aisle in the past five-plus years. This one was completely new, even for me. Fortunately, this bride's wedding isn't for another 18 months so she's going to take my advice and wait a few months to let the PTSD abate before she tries shopping again (at a different boutique). And she will make sure that nobody plans to paper doll her at the next shop.
You have a right to dignity and privacy and modesty when you are gown shopping and any salesperson who doesn't treat you with the proper respect doesn't deserve the immense commission she's going to make off of selling you that gown. Even if you like the dress, go somewhere else to buy it if you are treated in a manner that you deem to be inappropriate. Don't let them humiliate you or intimidate you. And remember, if the words "paper doll" come up, RUN!