I readily admit that I do not like New York City. Living in Princeton for almost all of my 25 years has left me severely biased toward the suburban lifestyle, but I have also found that accomplishing any mundane task in New York is almost always harder or more expensive than doing it anywhere else.
Case in point: shopping for bridesmaids dresses. Both boutiques and larger department stores ask that you make an appointment, and most recommend calling two or three weeks ahead, especially if you want a weekend appointment. As it turns out, this guideline, when applied to New York City boutiques, should say “call two to three months in advance.” I set out to make three hour-long Saturday appointments and ended up squeezed in last thing on a Friday night, first thing on a Sunday morning, and into the one available Saturday time slot that month.
Also not to be underestimated is the effort involved in getting all of your bridesmaids gathered in one place. I have three bridesmaids and am currently in awe of brides who manage to get as many as 10 all into the same dress and lined up at the right church. Of my three, two — an architect and a law student — already live in New York; the third, a lawyer, had to come in from Cleveland, Ohio. It still took the better part of a month to nail down a weekend when everyone would be available.
Available is different from present. On the Friday morning of our weekend shopping expedition, I was prepared to meet all three bridesmaids for our first stop, an appointment at Bella Bridesmaids in midtown that evening. By Friday afternoon, one had developed tonsillitis and a 103-degree fever and another was stuck in the Cleveland airport waiting out snowy weather in New York.
The three musketeers had quickly become one, but we kept our appointment. We told the saleswoman we wanted knee-length chiffon in a peachy-orange color, under $300. No problem, she said, dresses that length don’t go above $275.
We grabbed some possibilities off the racks, and my friend popped out of the dressing room to model each new style. Definite losers included a short, polka-dotted dress that most closely resembled a nightgown and a floppy, loose-fitting pink number with lumps in all the wrong places. Our clear favorite was a dress by Lela Rose — strapless with a matching belt and fabric draped in just the right places — in a color called “firecracker.” The price: $278. Of all of the knee-length chiffon dresses in the store, we had landed on the single most expensive one.
The next morning at the Wedding Library on East 60th Street the fever had dissipated, the flight had landed, and all three bridesmaids were herded into a single dressing room. Three girls who had met for the first time only minutes earlier were forced to overcome any body image issues and try on dresses together. There’s no better way to make fast friends than to shake hands and then immediately strip down to your underwear.
Our final appointment was on Sunday morning at David’s Bridal, where “you get what you pay for” came true once again. The nicest chiffon style there looked decent on all three girls — a challenge given their three different body types — and cost half as much as the early favorite from Bella Bridesmaids. The fabric, though, looked cheap, and the dresses, judging by the holes, tears, and broken zippers on the samples, were poorly made.
So we will probably end up with the first dress from Bella Bridesmaids — a style and color only one bridesmaid has seen in person. The store has a Cleveland location, so no further trips to New York are necessary, and matters of ordering and fitting are now firmly in my bridesmaids’ hands.
And despite its inauspicious start, my weekend in New York left me positive that everyone, and everything, would come together in the end. Why, you might ask?
On Friday night I left my friend’s midtown apartment at around midnight and headed for the subway back to Chelsea, where I was staying. As the minutes ticked by on the downtown E platform with no train in sight, a man played guitar for the gathering crowd, his open case quickly collecting dollar bills. One song ended, and he started strumming and singing the familiar tune to the Temptations’ “My Girl.”
And then something amazing happened. As he approached the familiar refrain — “I guess you’d say/What can make me feel this way?/My girl (my girl, my girl)/Talkin’ ‘bout my girl (my girl)” — he paused, and the entire crowd took the cue and started singing along. I smiled and stepped onto the train that had just pulled in.
Only in New York.