A Short Work of Fiction (Mostly): The White Dress


She stood in front of the three paneled mirror and thought she understood, for the first time, the meaning of the original sin.

The conversation had gone something like this:

“But I already have a dress.”

“Yes, but shopping for a wedding dress is something that you only get to do once in your life, hopefully. You can’t just go with the first dress you find.”

“I like the dress I have.”

“Just go and try on a few for fun. You don’t need to buy anything.”

And so she’d allowed herself to be persuaded. She thought that maybe this dress shopping business wasn’t really all about her so much as it was for her mother and friends. Wedding gowns had never much appealed to her. She found them uninspiring and she was too pale to really look good in white. She had no vision of what “the perfect dress” might look like.

At least, not until now.

The dress wasn’t perfect. It was two inches too small in the hips, for one thing, and two digits too large in the price tag. But never mind that. It felt right. It made her feel the way she had always wanted to look.

Later that night she tried on the dress she’d already bought. It was a beautiful designer dress that she’d gotten at a resale shop for less than $50. There were elements about it that she hadn’t liked: a poorly placed seam here, a badly turned hem there, but at $50 they were the kinds of flaws that could be overlooked. Now they were all that she could see. Now, instead of merely disliking them she hated them. Now, instead of wearing dress she liked well enough she wore resentment, disappointment, and compromise. Because the perfect dress was out there, and now she knew that this was not it.

Her sensibilities warred with her better sense. The dream of her own beauty hung in her minds eye as a tantalizing vision. It was so close to her grasp! All she had to do was buy it: expense be damned.  But the reality of her pocketbook weighed on her reason. She was a miser at heart, after all. She couldn’t have both. There would only be one wedding so there would only be one dress.

Her accusing reflection stared back at her from the mirror in triplicate. She looked at each one. They were all her, all three of them, but when she walked away there would only be one. She could be true to her dreams; her own vision of beauty and romance or she could be true to her own sense of economy and value. Like Eve in the garden she had discovered the sin of knowledge and she would have to sacrifice a portion of her self for it.

She wondered whether this was the point. Everyone told her that a wedding was all about the bride, but she knew that this wasn’t true. After all, marriage was between two people. In the end a wedding was all about marriage, ergo, the wedding was not all about her.  She wondered if being clothed in disappointment and regret might be a penance- a lesson in humility that only she was in a position to learn. She wondered whether this act of choosing a gown was a purification to cleanse her of her pride. She wondered whether or not this was the kind of purity that a wedding dress was meant to represent.

With the zipper she split the dress down the back and allowed it to shed off her shoulders. It crumpled around her knees and she stepped out of it. Without her body in it the dress lay in soft, formless peaks on the floor. It was a harmless thing. She stood nude and put the gown back in its garment bag and hung it on the back of the door. The weight of the dress no longer tugged at her shoulders but the decision still weighed on her mind. She closed her eyes and balanced them against one another. She held her breath. She waited for the scale to tilt.

The decision was not clean or swift. She stood in its wake, regretful. With an effort she put it out of her mind.

“For better or worse,” she thought, “I am not that kind of a girl.”

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on October 29, 2010.

One Response to “A Short Work of Fiction (Mostly): The White Dress”

  1. I was always wondering what was going through your head. Wonderful and beautiful, but yet bittersweet.

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