December 6, 2010

Portland's Best Wedding Dress Shops [Things I Love]

Maybe I've watched too many episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress," but I really expected wedding dress shopping to be a horrific experience. Quite to the contrary, I had the BEST time shopping for dresses! I had anticipated that I would have to go to at least a dozen shops only to find something in a dark corner of some dingy or over iced shop. Not true. Two dresses. Two dress shops. Bang. Bang. Done! Here's the skinny.

Since Si and I are doing a separate civil ceremony in England before our big wedding in Italy (for the oh-so-un-romantic requirements of visa applications) I need two dresses. Damn. Poor me.

For the civil ceremony I wanted a vintage dress. So I did a little web searching while I was still in England this summer and spent all of the months of August, September and October pining over the blog for Xtabay.

Here's an example of the GORGEOUS things they have going at Xtabay.
(I hope you ladies don't mind me publishing this photo)

Figuring the pictures were too good to be true, or that the dresses wouldn't fit my strange body shape I had prepared myself for a miss at this Portland vintage staple. That miss never happened. What luck I had! That day the shop owner was there. I know Xtabay enthusiasts share my sentiments, but she is really something special. She took one look at me, and knew which dresses would look nice on me. She grabbed a few from the shelves. She made simple, relaxed suggestions. Not once did I feel harassed or like she was trying to sell me the dresses. She didn't have to. The dresses spoke for themselves. The dresses fit me so well, and looked so great that I was absolutely torn between three dresses. THREE!!! I'm still a little upset for not also picking up the pink cocktail ditty, but I am so incredibly in love with my Fred Perlberg Dance Originals that I got. Here's a pic of a Perlberg 1950s party dress, but I won't publish pictures of the dress until after the ceremony for fear of my dear Simon catching glimpse of it.

Fred Perlberg Dance Originals
This one's not got a bit of white on it so it's clearly not my dress, but it does show how nice these dresses are. Thank you Xtabay!
I promise I'll post photos of our civil ceremony. For sure!

After having such great luck with Xtabay, I figured that I wouldn't push my luck for a while. I waited a few weeks. Simon came to visit for Thanksgiving, and only after he left (and I had gained a good 10 pounds, haha) was I ready to go dress shopping again. I once again scoured the internet. I asked all of my recently married friends for recommendations and narrowed my list of bridals shops to a small list. A very, very small list. I should be honest. I only had this one shop on my list: The English Department (on Alder between 11th and 12th in downtown Portland). I had looked at all of the rest and they made me panic. So The English Department was really my only hope for this first attempt.

So last Friday, I talked both my parents (yes, my dad too) into joining me. Once again prepared for potential disappointments, I really just wanted to try on a dress or two, see the shop and get a feel for bridal shopping. To be completely honest, I was really looking for any opportunity, any excuse, to go back to Xtabay. I was not hopeful for The English Department at all. I would have been happy to leave somewhat dissatisfied and make a bee-line right back to my new favorite vintage shop. Only problem with that plan is that I felt so comfortable in this shop. The whole time. Seriously. Just like at Xtabay, I was again torn between not one, not two, but THREE amazing choices. Only difference here is that I haven't chosen yet. Debate is between a modest mermaid (I know, I never would think it, but it looked great on me) and an absolutely traditional and magically me strapless dress. Will keep everyone posted on those. The dresses that I loved the most from The English Department were from the same designer, Jenny Yo. Here are a few examples from her collection:


Now,  I know I always brag about Portland and bore my friends with the many reasons why I love it here. I don't hate to say it. My dress shopping experience in the small, romantic boutiques of Portland has just been so fantastic. I want to say thank you to all of the lovely women who helped me while I was shopping for my dresses, express my continued and undying gratitude for the support and love of my parents who accompanied me to these stores without complain, and encourage anyone who needs a great dress to go to either of these shops. They both are truly, truly special places.

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