The Final Fitting

(so I don't forget)

I was worried that my sister was going to be one of those bony brides. You know, those whippet-thin stressballs with xylophone breastbones? Whose collarbones protrude and whose scapulae are scalpel-sharp, more wing than bone?

Carrie used to be thin, but-not-too. As her wedding approaches, her dress size has shrunk alarmingly for such a tall woman. At 6'0, she's always been perfectly able to carry a few extra pounds - I would say she looks better with a bit of meat on her. She's gone from a size 10 to a size 6ish over the past six months or so. She says it's Pilates, but I was skeptical.

All my worries were put to rest last week when I saw her at her final wedding dress fitting.

She found the dress online and pursued it with lovesick fervor. She discovered that the designer was having a trunk show in Portland at an upscale boutique, so she emailed the guy personally and begged him to send a sample of The Dress. He was happy to oblige.

Incredibly, the sample size he sent was too big, so she snapped it up and began the arduous alteration process. Working closely with a talented seamstress, Carrie had The Dress recut to show off her beautiful back. What was once a straight-across backline is now a deep V-style that follows the sinuous line of her back to its midpoint.

The Dress is silk with silk embroidery on the bodice. It has tiny slips of sleeves - about three inches wide - that come to rest at the very edge of her broad, strong shoulders. The color is cream dreaming of white - a color difficult to describe, but one that flatters the skin much more than pure white ever could.

The bodice is a fitted, gorgeous tangle of embroidered flowers - you'd miss them if they didn't have backstitched whispers of baby-beige thread to set them off just the slightest bit. The merest edges of the bodice - the deep V in back and the scooped neckline as well as the place where the bodice meets the skirt - have the subtlest sprinkling of beadwork. It's as though an angel seamstress cried stray silvery tears as she stitched and found them too pleasing to brush away.

The skirt is a masterpiece of simplicity. No beading or lace anywhere, just a marvelously weighty double-layered silk waterfall that cascades to a small train. Invisible snaps sewn between the silken layers make it possible to gather the train into a low, elegant billow of French bustle so that she can dance - and oh, will she dance! - at her reception.

When Carrie emerged from the curtained dressing area a hush fell over the entire crowded bridal shop. The low murmur of the other excited brides dwindled to awed hush as she took a few tentative steps toward me and our mother. She was Grecian in her stillness - radiant and heartstopping, the prettiest hint of uncertainty playing tag with delighted pride across her flushed face - the gods' own daydream of a bride. All my concerns about her thinness evaporated, and it occured to me in a rush that Carrie has simply been on the best diet of all - new love.

The unbroken fall of silk. Her height. Her caramel sweep of hair. Her regal bearing. Her swan neck, the color of fresh peaches. Her slim (but-still-not-too) silhouette, the gentle swell of her breasts, the rising bloom in her cheeks...all these elements met in a total eclipse of beauty. No jewelry - Carrie's the pearl, her eyes sapphire-blue; no need to gild that lily. Her feet were naked, as they will be on the Hawaiian beach where she is to be wed, her toes brightened with polish the exact color of molten silver.

In the timeless and lovely way of brides, she looked not to the mirror but to our faces for confirmation...

...and in our tears she had her answer.