The dress was first my little sister's. She married the year before I did and did all the running around, comparison shopping and kept copious notes. It was awesome. She and I are of the same mind when it came to wedding dresses. Neither of us wanted to buy one but wanted the. Perfect. Dress. She found the Perfect Dress.
Within the year I was engaged. I started looking for a wedding gown. I remembered my sister's wedding gown but started closer to home. There was really nothing like that one so I broke down and begged her to help me track that dress down.
The dress belonged to a home business in a very small town in northern Utah. The home itself was in an unincorporated part of town. We drove two hours and arrived at a house that was probably built in the 1970s and had clearly had no upkeep since. The woman's daughter had taken over the business. She was high strung and spread thin with the business and raising a bunch of boys.
We described the dress to her and were then directed into the garage which had been converted into the shop. The orange shag carpet was covered in crumbs and some parts smashed down with sticky residue. In one corner sat an industrial sewing machine. Hanging all over the place were exquisite gowns that were clean and protected by a plastic covering. The juxtaposition was appalling, I must admit. My sister produced a picture of the dress and the lady realized it was a dress she had made for a tall bride and was not, in fact, a mermaid wedding dress. It was rented out. Come back later.
A few weeks later I made the trek back to the house. The dress had been returned and I had to show the picture again. The woman was flustered but started digging through the dresses, explaining that the bottom of the dress had been changed along with the train so it wasn't the same dress as my sister's and did I want her to rip it off so I could have the same? She produced the dress and I was smitten all over again especially with the changes to the bottom of the dress. She made me wash my hands before I touched anything even though my feet crunched as I took a step through the morass then I put it on.
This is where it gets really weird. While I'm standing in the dress, she finds where the alterations need to be made and suddenly wields a razor blade. She starts ripping it apart where she plans to take it in and I can't stop wincing. She's getting irritated with me because I have some weird phobia of razor blades slashing so close to my skin. She's also extremely distracted as her boys keep coming in and out of the shop for one emergency or another. I gathered that her boys were supposed to be taking a bath but there was a mouse in the tub. She left me with my arms above my head without a word to me and disappeared.
That's just about the time that the baby, Henry (I kid you not - the baby's name was Henry), crawled through the door wearing only a dirty t-shirt and crusted snot on his face. He looked up at me and smiled, then peed all over the carpet. His mother returned and stepped in the wet spot and called to her older boys to come and get Henry. I was ordered to take off the dress. I did, being careful to not drag it on the carpet at all. She then disappeared to the corner and sewed furiously.
This was repeated 3 times with her leaving to put out a proverbial fire and I was left either in the dress or sitting on the edge of a couch that didn't smell very good and I was pretty sure wasn't particularly clean.
You may be asking why I stayed through this. The place was filthy but she clearly thought highly enough of her work to keep the dresses clean. You must remember that I loved that dress nearly as much as I loved the man I was to marry. I could have had a different dress and still gotten married but the dress came in a close second place to Scott. It didn't occur to me to leave until the fourth time she left to yell at her kids.
I was sitting on the edge of that sofa, feeling awkward and insecure when movement caught my eye. The mouse entered the shop from the house, scampered towards me and stopped six feet in front of me. It then went up on its back legs and stared right at me. I didn't scream. In fact, I wasn't even surprised. I realized it was par for the course. Sitting there in the middle of all that filth, surrounded by expensive and exquisite wedding gowns with a mouse for an audience, I found the hilarity of it and started laughing. The mouse didn't find the humor and left before the home/business owner returned.
Two weeks later I picked up the intricately beaded, exactly fitted, meticulously clean wedding gown. The owner had previously admitted to me she was not going to be renting dresses much longer. Materials for my dress alone ran up to $1,000. She then asked for the rental fee of my exquisite dress. $90. No deposit.
Totally worth it.