While browsing Facebook recently, I noticed a friend of a friend had tried on her wedding dress 18 years after her wedding and shared photos. She remarked on all the ways in which her dress no longer fit, noting that she couldn’t get it zipped even with help from Spanx.
I mentioned it to my husband, Josh, who said, “You should try on your dress, Rachael.”
“I’m afraid to,” I said. “After 11 years and two babies and … life in general, I know it won’t fit right.”
I was in the best physical shape of my life on my wedding day. I was getting regular moderate exercise, and I was at my lowest weight and smallest waist measurement of my adult life.
Add two babies and some life experience, and I weigh 10 to 15 pounds more than I did on my wedding day, especially if I’ve really been indulging in Moose Tracks after my daughters go to bed. I know my weight gain is laughable compared to what many women gain in a decade, but it still affects how a dress fits.
My chest, belly, and thighs have inflated and deflated, pooched and shifted and settled. My hips and pelvis have widened after pushing out two human beings. Also, my breasts never shrank back to their original size after birthing and nursing my second daughter almost six years ago. I’m slightly envious of B-cup ladies.
A few times during the past 11 years, I’ve thought about trying on my wedding dress, but I kept the thoughts private, afraid of how disappointed I might feel if I couldn’t pull the thing up over my hips.
“Trying your dress on could be a fun experiment,” Josh said, promising he would cast no judgment if I filled my dress a little more this time around.
Eventually, curiosity got me. I pulled the large David’s Bridal bag out of the storage closet in our basement and hauled it upstairs. My mom had been the last person to handle my dress, carefully hanging it and tucking it into the bag after my wedding. A few times over the years, I unzipped a section of the bag and peeked inside, but I’d never taken my dress out.
I laid the bag on my bed and unwound the cloth loops that kept the dress on the hanger, and I stripped down and stepped in. I felt a zing of nostalgia as I pulled the gown over my hips and chest, and Josh carefully zipped the back while I sucked in my stomach and squished my breasts together.
All the way even!
But I couldn’t breathe deeply. And I had a bad muffin top above my chest and under my arms.
“It’s making a line down your back,” Josh pointed out.
I twisted my neck around so I could gaze at my backside in the mirror. The dress was squeezing the skin on my back together, creating a vertical crease in the middle of my back, like cleavage.
“I have back fat,” I said. “How nice.”
Josh took a few photos of me. In the photos where I face the camera, the dress is unzipped a bit in the back to eliminate the muffin top look. In the photos showing the back of my dress, the zipper is up all the way and my hair is long enough to hide my back fat cleavage. Sneaky, right?
“Mommy, you look beautiful!” My 5-year-old said as Josh snapped pictures.
My 9-year-old asked if she could try on my dress.
“It will swallow you up and you’ll trip over it,” I said. “Maybe when you’re in high school.”
However, I dug in the bottom of the storage bag and let my daughters take turns wearing my veil and tiara. They were dressed to go to swim lessons in an hour, and the combination of swim suits and wedding veil looked silly, but they were pleased to wear my wedding things.
As Josh snapped pictures of our daughters, it was an illustration of how much my life has changed since the last time I stepped into my dress.
Eleven years ago, I was a young professional journalist living in Northwest Indiana. I had no children. My life was mine to do with as I pleased. I could stay up late and eat ice cream when I wanted to – and still stay skinny.
Now, I have a husband and two children. I am one part stay-at-home mom, one part work-from-home mom. Young humans rely on me to keep them alive and get them to school on time and in clothes that are seasonally appropriate. I have to share my Moose Tracks with them. Good thing too, or I might not have been able to zip that dress up at all. Thanks, kids.
After trying on my dress, I had a little extra pep in my step the rest of that day, pleased with myself for being able to still fit into my gown, even if it was a tight squeeze. In a few more years, when my oldest daughter is in high school, I’ll pull my gown out again and both of us can try it on. If all goes well, it will fit my daughter nicely and it won’t fit me any worse. Wish me luck.
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