With a trip to Hong Kong already planned, what a better place to shop for that all important wedding dress-a mission I was not enthused about. Not wanting the fuss Pinterest places on “your special day” “your perfect gown”, or the ignorance of some sales people in the big city, I knew this would be no easy feat.
The other task of course, was the noticeable size difference between the slender, doll-like figure of the dainty Asian woman, compared to me- a naturally big boned Westerner. In China, having meat on your bones means that you are fat. No grey area. No sugarcoating. The word itself ‘pang’ 胖, slung around all too often for my sensitive soul.
I’d have to suck it up this time and deal with such critique, if I wanted to have any sort of frock to cover my meat at our wedding. I discovered online ‘The Golden Plaza’ in Hong Kong, a 3 floor wedding extravaganza, dedicated to all of one’s wedding needs (and who knew there were so many). Since it’s just us two here in Asia, I brought the groom with me for moral support- just until I felt brave enough to go it alone and let these shop assistants have their way with me. And have their way with me they did. After giving him the nod to leave, it was me and them and my description of “something simple” was entirely ignored as corseted dresses with frills, crystals, sequins, feathers were thrown in my direction for me to have a ‘try try’. I told them I didn’t want the sparkly additionals, which I learned in Chinese are called, “bling bling”. I stood up on ‘the platform’, thinking how ridiculous I looked, and perhaps maybe wedding dresses weren’t for me. Passers by stopped, complimenting my white skin tone and telling me how fabulous I looked. Cultures may look at things differently, but this was taking the piss.
I was a hairy marshmallow on steroids.
Three shops and several unhelpful shop assistants later, I stumbled across another wedding dedicated shopping centre, ‘The I Do Centre’. Jaysus, that name did not entice me. Shop One welcomed me with a shitty attitude when I approached her speaking Chinese-“you can speak English” she said, looking down her upturned nose. “你不会说普通话吗？” “Can you not speak Chinese?” I asked her. She rolled her eyes and stressed to me several times, “our dresses are only custom made,” the words dripping out of her mouth. What a delightful replacement for feathery dress pushing sales people. A custom dress was what I wanted.
The snoot, however, was not.
Off I went to Shop Two, where I was met with much friendlier faces and a woman who was not on a mission to get me looking as close to a cupcake as possible. This woman was soon to become, the dressmaker. After quickly chatting about some ideas, she suggested some dresses that she thought I might like. As I was undressing she commented “usually the white people are so fat, but you not fat- only little bit this part” she took the liberty of grabbing a handful of hip. After trying on the dress she’d chosen for me (much less sparkly), I stood back and had a gander in the mirror. I commented that I didn’t think it was so flattering on my aforementioned hips. “Mmm, ya, I think so too”, she said. She assured me the material of this dress was not the most slimming and the next dress she’d picked should be better.
“But. If not better, then I think it’s-” she smacked my hips on both sides “your problem!”.
The following day, I went in for a longer consultation, spending a tiring but amusing three and half hours with the dressmaker. She attached bits of material here and there to this dress to give me an idea of how something might look, she beckoned her assistant to hold the back of that dress in place and duck down so she could photograph what it would like with the correct fit, she gave me a pin cushion and some fabric and told me to “have a play”, with the dress on the mannequin so we could both visualise what I wanted.
As she measured every angle of my body, I made typical bridal comments like “that number should be smaller when I come back next time, weh.. weh..” but after leaving, my body craved something sugary and lacking nourishment to help me recover from the decision making the afternoon had demanded of me. After ordering two and half meals to share with the groom (who I’m sure thought I’d been kidnapped by now), I dashed for the metro with my oversized takeaway bag of Mcdonald’s, shoving past people here and there “Excuse me-Sorry-Excus-” Oh yes. There she was. The dressmaker’s eyes looked from my large takeaway bag of Mcdonald’s bag to my slightly ashamed face.
“Safe home”, she smirked. And with that, my Hong Kongese fairy godmother was gone.