For those of you considering less expensive department store dress options, I can heartily recommend Sue Wong options. I can also heartily recommend Bloomingdale's customer service and returns, which was important, because the dress was only available online (I ordered it in three sizes to try on, no shipping costs) and I then ended up returning it (in store, for a full refund to my credit card, all before the bill came due).
Although this particular dress is no longer available, here was the in-store model image:
And here's pictures of me in the dress:
I liked it. I even loved it. Enough to momentarily forget my hatred of photography and be comfortable enough to laugh with abandon, regardless of how it might look on camera. Actually, it didn't come out too badly.
As beautiful as it was and as beautiful as I felt, it didn't feel quite right for our particular wedding. The beading was intricate and subtle all at once, it was well-made with quality fabrics, and the flowy kick-bits on the bottom made me happy. But it didn't feel like it belonged with our setting, decor, or more casual feel. And really, although it was flattering, I liked the cut and simplicity of the dress I ultimately chose just a little bit more. But if my dress hadn't been around to compare, I could have been very happy with this $328 wedding dress victory. Yeah. $328. Let that sink in for a minute as you curse the $1000+ price tag we all feel like we're stuck with in weddingland. Because $328 is the sort of deal you can uncover after a year of sifting through expensive salons, every dress website in existence, quite a few vintage and resale shops, and a night or two banging your head against the wall in complete and utter frustration. So it's hard, but don't let anyone tell you it can't be done and that you need to spend $1000+ for a stylish high-quality dress. Or that wedding dresses have to come from wedding dress shops when there are decidedly stunning options elsewhere, just waiting to be discovered.