a name and a dress

In 1999, we were to attend a wedding for my Patient Husband’s cousin, and being socially savvy, I knew I’d need to wear something dressy for the occasion. (Because while I’m a total klutz about interacting with human beings, and I admittedly have no sense of style, I can remember rules very well: I know you need to dress up for a wedding.)

I went to a local store and one dress looked perfect. It was actually a jacket and skirt combo, tailored, pretty — and all black. I vaguely remembered Miss Manners saying something about not wearing all black to a wedding, and also the family legend about how my great-grandmother had worn all black to my grandmother’s wedding, complete with a black veil, sobbing and crying “My daughter!” through the whole ceremony.

Do you think Great-grandma disapproved? Maybe?

But I didn’t disapprove of this cousin’s choice of marital partner, nor would I have been likely to weep violently if I had, so even though the dress looked awesome on me, I didn’t buy it.

I couldn’t bear to let it go either, though, and we didn’t have a ton of money in those days. So I came up with the perfect plan: I had them hold the dress behind the counter and told them I’d be back once I made up my mind. Then I went home and called my mother because she’d know what was the right thing to do. She told me not to wear all-black to an afternoon wedding, and the case was settled. Sadly that evening, I told my Patient Husband about “my stylin’ dress” and that was the end of the matter. The next day, I went elsewhere and bought a different one.

People do, apparently, wear all black to weddings nowadays. It’s not just for mourning any longer, nor for mothers-of-the-bride who liken their daughter’s wedding to a funeral.

(Nor is it as my cousin said happily to me way-back-when, “the mafia-whore look.” Yes, we’re both Italian. No, no connection to the mafia. But apparently a short black skirt with black nylons and black shoes is “the mafia-whore look.” Said when we were both wearing exactly that to my grandmother’s funeral. I’m never going to forget that, and now neither will you. Enjoy that thought.)

I wore the other dress to the wedding, but I never really forgot that special black one.

On Christmas day, I opened a box to find my stylin’ dress.

I looked up at my Patient Husband, shocked, and I couldn’t even ask him: how had he known which dress it was, let alone the size?

“You made it easy for me.” He laughed out loud at my incredulity. “You’d had them hold it for you behind the counter.”

It’s still one of my favorite dresses, and four babies later, it still looks good on me, but I like the memory best of all. Thank you, Patient Husband!


  1. Kaci

    That’s something my dad would have done, snuck off and grabbed the dress. Hehe.

    I wore a black dress with a kind of tan pattern on it that was pretty to my cousin’s wedding, so yeah. Maybe not the black veil, though. 😉

    1. philangelus

      I really think the “all black” rule really went away in the late 80s. It’s just not an issue for anyone any longer as long as the dress doesn’t look like a mourning dress. Something stylish and classy that happens to be black is just another dress. I didn’t know that at the time because it had never occurred to me to wonder.

      But hey, if you’re *going* to do all-black to a wedding, then I think the veil and the sobbing should be a requirement. 🙂

      1. Kaci

        I told my mom I was going to wear a black wedding dress if I ever get married. She didn’t like that idea; so I suggested a white pantsuit. That also got shot down.

        What’s wrong with it? 😉

        Can’t really make my self cry, but I’d go for the black veil.

        1. philangelus

          I think even I with no fashion sense would notice if the bride were wearing black and a mourning veil. 🙂 I think you’d need a bouquet of dead flowers to make that outfit perfect.

          1. Kaci

            Probably just died black roses. Dead ones are a bit too much. Either that, or purple ones. Though, honestly, red-orange hibiscus is more me than a rose. 0=)

  2. Jason Block

    Great story! Love that! Nice way to start the day!

  3. cricketB

    Somewhere there’s a whole set of dress rules, down to hour of the day and your exact relationship to the hostess.

    Instead of the veil, try a hand-knit capelet, shawl or sash. Stockings if you have too much time on your hands.

    Raven wore this to Sit’N’Knit today, over black snug sweater with skirt and dark tights.
    Very different from her usual Tshirt look, but that shawl is worth it!

  4. knit_tgz

    If one day I get married (I hope to, but no prospective husband yet), I would like not to wear white. I am not fond of white. Of course, I respect tradition, hence I will probably wear a light colour. But, if it would not offend people, I would really like to wear a stronger colour, maybe a deep blue or a burgundy. Of course, as a Catholic Christian, I do not want to detract attention from the ceremony and from God, so I will probably go with a light golden ivory or something.