Once at David’s Bridal, the saleslady Annette asks Susan what size bra she wears.
“When I told her, the entire dressing room came to a standstill. Okay: so I have large breasts. That does happen to women, occasionally. But one of the mothers-of-the-brides trying on a suit stopped in mid-twirl before the mirror.
‘OhmyGod. That’s your size? she exclaimed, staring at me over the rim of her glasses. ‘If I were you, I would have surgery.’
I wish I could say this was the first time anyone ever said something so awful to me. But it wasn’t. Unfortunately, women feel compelled to remark about my breasts all the time in dressing rooms. It’s another reason I hate shopping.
My first impulse, of course, was to reply, “I wish you would have surgery. Have someone sew your mouth shut.”
But instead, I said, ‘Really? You’d cut up your body just to fit into a dress? What’s wrong with you?’ Then I whirled around, yanked the curtain shut across my cubicle in defiance–and burst into tears.
It gets better. Read the rest after the jump. Annette turns out to be the best saleslady possible. She comforts Susan and brings her all the Carolyn Bessette Kennedy-style gowns that she asks for before convincing her to try the pouffy white dress of the book’s title. She looks so gorgeous that she stares at herself in the mirror for 4 hours.
“And as I stood there, something else occurred to me: why did it take so long to have this experience? Every woman should have this experience–and not only if or when she gets married. Every woman should see herself looking uniquely breathtaking, in something tailored to celebrate her body, so that she is better able to appreciate her own beauty and better equipped to withstand the ideals of our narrow-waisted, narrow-minded culture.
When men shop at ordinary department stores, they are treated like brides all the time. I’ve watched a salesman literally get down on his knees in a dressing room to pin the cuffs on a pair of off-the-rack slacks [my fiance] was trying on. I’ve seen salesmen fawn over my brother, adjusting the sleeves on a sports jacket. I’ve heard them tell my father, ‘Let me get you the single-breasted version. That will look better on you.’
Men’s stores seem determined to make every schmucky guy who walks through their doors feel catered to, powerful, supremely attractive. At the time that I was planning my wedding, in fact, a commercial for a popular menswear chain featured the owner assuring his customers, ‘You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.’
When was the last time women heard that from a salesperson? Most clothing stores only inflame our insecurities and our sense of limitation. ‘If you have wide hips, don’t wear stripes,’ we’re instructed. ‘Designers don’t make that in your size.’ ‘At your age, you can no longer get away with a hemline like that.’ Even the bridal boutiques, while telling women that this is ‘our special time,’ implicitly punish anyone who can’t fit their sample size.
David’s Bridal, I thought. What a bizarrely feminist place: a froufrou heaven staffed by women dedicated to making sure that other women look astonishing. In the dressing room, I saw three-hundred-pound blondes, wiry black women, Asian brides with asymmetrical haircuts, voluptuous Hispanic girls, acne-splattered bridesmaids, birdlike middle-aged women saying, ‘So what if this will be husband Number Three? This time, I’m doing it right.’ And every woman was treated like royalty. Yes, they have sizes 2 to 32. yes, they have all price ranges. Yes, they will alter it for you. Yes, they will make you look beautiful. For you–you, my dear–are a goddess.
You can see why I love this excerpt, can’t you? It’s exactly what I want my shirts to do for large-breasted women. It’s what Crescendo Apparel wants its clothing to do for hourglass and pear-shaped women. Susan Gilman has given me a new respect for David’s Bridal.