This Purim, for the first time in more than three decades, I wore my wedding dress. It was a strange experience.
The idea was born out of desperation. My husband and I only began thinking of costumes for the Megillah reading and Purim spiel we attend every year just hours before it was due to begin, and because it was Shabbat, we had no chance to purchase anything. My usual backup, a beautiful kimono he bought me on a business trip to Japan, seemed inappropriate this year. While I want to express solidarity with the grief-stricken country, this didn’t seem the way to do it.
My second backup, a long, embroidered Arab dress and white hijab from Jordan, also was problematic. An expression of solidarity with Middle East women protesting for freedom? A worthy feeling, but this year the outfit could also be interpreted as something far less sympathetic. So, that was out, too.
As a last resort, my husband went to the basement to retrieve my wedding gown, last worn nearly 31 years ago (our anniversary is in a couple of days).
It was never a dress that I loved — it was suitable rather than amazing — and I never bothered to store it properly. For years it has hung simply covered by withering plastic next to winter coats and gaudy costumes we don’t wear but can’t bear to discard.
“I’m sure it won’t fit,” I muttered as he helped me navigate the stiff fabric.
But it did. The sleeves were a little tight — no joyful dancing this time around — and the dress hugged my waist as if it was Scarlett O’Hara’s girdle. But I could move and I could breathe, and I reasoned that after giving birth to three children that was as much as I could expect.
We went as Will and Kate, the Prince of Wales and his soon-to-be bride.
I thought I’d feel a pleasant sort of triumph, but I didn’t. It wasn’t only the stares and the comments that made me feel so uncomfortable, or the gentle snickers. Is that really your wedding dress? Every woman here will hate you! Nor was my discomfort necessarily caused by the way the gauzy material and flowered appliqués felt so much more rough and bothersome than I remember. Had the fabric hardened over the years? Or had my skin grown soft? Or was my wedding day such a blur that I didn’t notice?
I think there was something far deeper happening as I listened to the chanting and grew increasingly uncomfortable. Truth is, I had been thinking of my wedding gown because I just settled on the dress I want to wear to my oldest daughter’s upcoming wedding, and the juxtaposition of new and old drew forth a wallop of emotions that I didn’t expect. Somehow the passage of time was encapsulated in these two pieces of clothing, and happy as I am about her wedding and my new role, I am clearly not ready to acknowledge the speed with which my life has been lived.
How can I have changed so much if I still fit into the dress?