Monday, June 25, 2012

The Eternal Question...


After he's popped the question and you've saved a date, I bet one of your biggest priorities is saying yes to the dress.  It's no small task, obviously.  As a Catholic bride, there are probably even more things you feel like you have to consider, modesty being one of the major ones. It was important to me to wear something modest and classy, but as I was dress shopping, there were a few subtleties and nagging questions that I still think about sometimes.  I figured I'd share them with you, and I'd love to hear what you think.


JPII said, "the dignity of every woman is the duty of every man."  Incredible, right?  I feel like so many issues surrounding modesty can be summed up by the idea that we're created in His image and likeness, and as such, possess tremendous dignity.  We women possess it in a special way- through beauty!  We long to be seen and be called beautiful, and men, in turn, long for that exact beauty.  It all fits together so perfectly.  Sadly, it's easy to see the ways beauty has been twisted, in both men's and women's eyes, by the culture, but it's something we can get back when we know and understand who we are before God.  So, both yours and your husband-to-be's dignity merit only one response: pure love, without any lust or selfishness.  As long as we're on earth we won't be perfect at it, but we can invite it in the best way we can.  The sacrament of marriage does this in such a real, amazing way.  Think about it: a bride veils herself, literally, not because her body's bad or because she has something to hide, but because it is so good, and she is so worthy, that she's not meant to be put on display.

All that said, how the heck does it translate to choosing a wedding dress?  There's lots to consider, and for me it came down to one issue in particular: strapless or strapped?  I pictured what I wanted right away: I wanted my dress to be clean and minimal, with no beads, lace, or trains.  It was finding something to match the image in my head that was the hard part.  Eventually, I fell in love with a gorgeous, and strapless, ballgown style with a pretty sash.  Right away I had a feeling it was the one, but right away I also panicked a little.  My biggest anxiety was that people wouldn't think I was a "real" Catholic if I was wearing something strapless.  Maybe that's weird, letting what I saw as everyone's expectations be the deciding factor, but that's seriously how I felt.  I did, after all, hope that our wedding Mass would be an opportunity to evangelize in a humble way- we offered confessions beforehand and had a litany of the saints as part of the music, but mostly I just hoped that without doing anything but be joyful at receiving the sacrament, we'd witness to the beauty of the faith and the contentment of having waited for one another.  A little later, I realized it was prideful of me to only choose a dress based on how I wanted people to see me, but I still really did want to wear something that would honor both Andrew and the Lord.

Then more anxieties crept in, of the more earthly variety.  Simply put, I wanted to feel pretty and not frumpy.  I was convinced that adding something to what I saw as the perfect dress would ruin the look of it, and that on a 105 degree day, layering anything on top would be impractical.  I wanted so badly to wear whatever I chose for the right reasons, not for selfish, superficial ones.  Ultimately, I did pick the dress I loved, and wore it without any straps or modifications.  I reasoned that I felt comfy in it and not overly exposed (you know how you usually know deep down if something is immodest based on how self-conscious it makes you feel?), I could get it tailored so I wouldn't be yanking on it all day, it wasn't skintight, and the neck was cut straight across, high enough to cover all of my breastage and most of my back.  I truly felt at peace with my choice, and not like I had to justify it to myself or others.  There's a big difference between those feelings, you know?  Sliding scales admittedly aren't the best gague of modesty, but I did feel like the neckline of my dress was higher than some other dresses I tried on, with straps or in halter styles, that were lower-cut.

I don't really know if there's a simple, black and white answer to the strapless question.  I mean, those super tight dresses with necks that dip low and make you look like a mermaid are kind of obviously out, but there really are ambiguous areas within good intentions.  I say if you don't feel comfortable going strapless, what with the possibility of constantly hiking it up, then by all means, skip it and you'll find your perfect gown in another style. On the other hand, within reason, it seems a little legalistic to me to make too many rules for yourself based on expectations.  Rules exist to cultivate true freedom, not suppress it--that includes freedom from anxiety and freedom from lust.  Wear what you know, in your heart, veils and radiates your beauty.  You'll be a blushing bride for a reason--reserving your body for your soon-to-be husband encourages the kind of virtuous shame that protects what's sacred.  The right kind of outfit magnifies your dignity, rather than diminishes it.

Ladies, toss in your two cents!  I hope I didn't come off as some total relativist in this post; my intention was just to offer my ideas about a balanced, virtuous approach to choosing a dress.  Tell me what you think!  What's your take on strapless?  And what criteria have you found helpful as you go shopping?



17 comments:

  1. I knew I didn't want strapless because I didn't want to wear it in the church (probably because strapless isn't normal for me to wear anyway) and I knew I'd be tugging on it all day. I wanted something beautiful and classic, but I didn't want to be TOO covered either. I went with lacy cap sleeves, a high back, and I'm not sure how to explain the neckline but it showed skin without showing cleavage, which was important to me.

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  2. I didn't want strapless because I didn't want to be tugging at it all day, and I wouldn't feel comfortable in church with it. I tried on quite a few different styles and ended up with a square neck, short sheer sleeves, and a medium v-back. It was beautiful and I was comfortable.

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  3. Catholic Bride :)June 25, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    You are def a girl after my own heart! I feel like you read my mind! I recently got engaged and have been struggling with this. I believe that you can find tasteful, classy strapless dresses. However, I know that my priest would probably prefer if both my bridesmaids and I covered our shoulders. I don't want to look frumpy, but I do want to be respectful and modest. I'm praying Mary will guide me on this one!

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  4. You know, a good strapless dress should never involve tugging. That's where the fittings come in. I found my dream dress on eBay, my mom did all the adjustments and I never had to tug on it once. For the Mass, I found a UK site which will make little jackets to wear with your dress which won't slip or slide or be a pain.

    Dress with jacket: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/102327291706377086806/albums/5568554999209112369/5568555165684010354?authkey=CNS7_duX8eWe5wE

    Dress without Jacket: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/102327291706377086806/albums/5569680667651857073/5569688292779586818?authkey=CPbA4oDX2vfGnQE

    Even when I was DANCING up a STORM ... I was covered and comfortable. It CAN be done! :)

    As for my girls, I found awesome red dresses at ... of all places ... Speigels! They were classy and three of the girls have worn them since. Winning! Here they are: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/102327291706377086806/albums/5568554999209112369/5568555323078820738?authkey=CNS7_duX8eWe5wE

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    Replies
    1. So beautiful! Very classy.

      Do you know where the original owner got it? It is a dream dress!

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    2. Actually, the eBay seller was a dress shop, so I think I actually was the original owner. It's from a Spanish designer called Pronovias in their Atelier Diagonal line. It's one of their Traditional (Clasicos) styles and the style number is 1836.

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  5. Nothing creative to say, just that I loved this post. I'm glad you chose strapless and that you were comfortable with it. I just got my dress and it's strapless as well, and I was (and still am) a little nervous about it. I'm still debating getting a shawl or something like that for the church...but maybe I won't. :)

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  6. Yes, after doing a little research I found the cutest lace bolero shop on etsy. Look under the shawl section in weddings and there are a lot of options . Great for the ceremony!

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  7. Jenn-

    I LOVE your dress and your jacket! So beautiful. Do you still have the site where you bought it? I am most likely going to do something similar.

    Thanks!

    Betsy

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    1. Totally realized I missed this comment! Sorry! I got my wrap at Wrapor.com. http://www.wraporshrug.co.uk/ It was absolutely worth every penny, and I was on a pretty strict wedding budget, so you know I was watching those Lincolns!

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  8. Like you, I wanted a simple wedding dress, no beads or sequins or crystals or lace. Mine was strapless... plain white silk, with some pleating on the bodice and sash that gave it some interest. It had something shorter than a chapel train. I wore a sky blue shawl over it for Mass, secured with an angel pin, in honor of Mary and St. Michael, who are the patron saints of our marriage.

    I've put some pics here:
    http://www.snapfish.com/snapfish/shareereg/p=79221341285748402/l=23080829019/g=93889755/cobrandOid=1000/campaignName=ShareeNewReg_30FreePrints_2010Feb/otsc=SYE/otsi=SANR/pns/snapfish/share/p=79221341285748402/l=23080829019/g=93889755/cobrandOid=1000/campaignName=ShareeNewReg_30FreePrints_2010Feb/otsc=SYE/otsi=SANR/retusr=true

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  9. I added straps to my wedding dress. I just didn't feel right in a strapless dress at Mass. The seamstress added them with snaps so I could take them off for dancing at the reception.

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  10. No, not relativistic: one of the holiest and most modest women I know wore strapless at her wedding, but self-created a kind of sheer jacket to wear during Mass. It didn't dip too low in the front or the back, but accentuated her beauty.

    I like the idea of wearing a blue shawl for Mass! Until Queen Victoria's wedding in the 19th century, the traditional wedding dress color was blue, a sign of purity (like Mary) and fidelity. Neat idea!

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  11. I started out with the intent to NOT go strapless. After 3 dozen or so dresses, I realized that strapless was simply the most flattering for my petite frame, and thereby the most comfortable. I've never had to "hike" a strapless dress up. I'm small-busted and didn't run the risk of "falling out". Frankly, I looked divine, not bare. Strapless worked for me :-)

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  12. I already have my dress and since we're going to be have a traditional Tridentine nuptial Mass (Latin Rite), the guidelines are a little stricter. This includes the bridesmaids wearing mantillas and modest dresses, i.e. the lowest the neck line can be is two finger widths below the collar bone and the hem has to touch the ground when kneeling. So the expectations for my wedding dress also fall into these guidelines. I chose a dress modeled after Kate Middleton's dress, very classy, along with a Cathedral length veil. http://www.davidsbridal.com/Product_Long-Sleeved-Satin-and-Lace-Ball-Gown-WG3401 this is my dress.

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    Replies
    1. I LOVE the Kate-inspired trend! Your dress is gorgeous, Julia!

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  13. I decided to go with a long sleeved dress. It was important to both me and my fiance that I walk down the aisle veiled in purity, and for us that means sleeves and a full veil. I decided to go with this one, with laces sleeves added (but the lace motifs taken off of the skirt). I can't wait to wear it in October!
    http://www.bridalsposa.it/gallerie/collezioni/jasmine_collection/big/F151007-F.jpg

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