This essay is part of Fashion in Isolation, a special issue on the intimate, contradictory, and ultimately inescapable relationship we have to what we wear.
When I got married I wanted to wear a dress, but nothing frilly, no veil, no train. I was inspired by a friend who got married in something she “felt good in that day,” which was a hot-pants ensemble she already had in her closet. I couldn’t commit to that level of nonchalance, but I vowed to find my own version of a bridal outfit.
I met a Parisian dressmaker in the East Village who said she could make me a simple dress. I chose a white silk with a bluish cast from a fabric store in the Garment District and brought several yards of it to her for a fitting.
I soon realized that the problem with this dress was that I would look like I was going to a party, and I wanted my clothes to communicate that this occasion meant more than that. I decided that the solution would be to wear something on my head: a wedding hat.
I already had a hat I felt good in, a winter hat I got years ago from a fiber artist in Ohio. It was a wholly original design, a cross between a crown and an origami pinwheel, and made from a rough, oatmeal-colored wool. If I had to eat my hat, it would probably be very fortifying.
I brought this hat to another East Village designer who specialized in wedding chapeaux. We had a conversation about how she would replicate the hat in silk to match my dress. But when I went to pick it up, I saw that she had translated my oatmeal pinwheel crown into something traditionally bridal: a smooth silk cap dotted with teardrop-shaped crystals. It was beautiful, to be sure; it just wasn’t what I imagined. I felt like my hat was crying.
I soon discovered other things I hadn’t imagined: my newly-made wedding dress reeked of cigarettes and hung on me weirdly. I gave it to a fashion designer friend for a diagnosis. The seams were so crooked, she told me, the Parisian designer must have sewn them drunk.
I gave up trying to communicate anything with my wedding clothing. My dress got cleaned and sober and I wore it with my weepy hat to marry my beloved. It was a brilliant day and then it was over. I put the dress and hat away.
I haven’t looked at the dress in years, but I see the hat all the time because our daughter has commandeered it as a bed for her stuffed animals. It sits upside-down on her dresser, by her alarm clock, with the tears still glistening on it. A tiny bear and cow are nestled there. It’s perfect now, I think. It says everything. I’ll never wear it again.