Aside from the choice of who would be standing next to her at the altar, the entire celebration revolved around the bride's choice of what she would wear. The Dress. It was daunting to think of the pressure to find just the right one, one that was all Julie, and showcased just how radiantly happy she was. Would she go with sweet and innocent, with billows of silky flounces bobbing with her every step, or perhaps regal and elegant, with a high lace neckline and sweeping train, a dignified nod to the classic style of Grace Kelley? Or would she dare bare it all, with an alluring and oh-so-female snug waist and hip, showing just enough skin to remind Nathan why he proposed to her in the first place?
Every dress Julie tried on seemed to fit her in a different way, matching each unique and varied part of her personality. But what was ALL HER? Her mother's voice was so loud and determined during each attempt at a new gown, that Julie found herself drowning in more than just a lake of ivory, ecru, and cream-colored silks.
Connie seemed to have an opinion on everything and was not afraid to let it be known. With the authority that only a mother of the bride could exude, she picked at each selection, tearing them apart with her scissor-sharp words of distaste. Oh no, that one simply won't do. It makes your hips look much too wide, dear, with the waist banded like that....Oooh, that one is decent, if it didn't have that horrid ornament on your shoulder like some sort of vulture. What were they thinking with those feathers....? I like the skirt, but the ruffles around the bottom are way too much, they would over power your delicate frame, my dear....This IS a designer boutique, isn't it? I am underwhelmed with the designers represented here!
Julie pretended she didn't see the eye-roll her dressing assistant tried to smother. She knew what the woman was thinking. After all, the same train of thoughts had coursed through her mind since she was young. Her mother could be so demanding and condescending. She expected the best from everyone, and had a definite idea of what their best ought to be.
Julie's grandfather began a law firm in Chicago in the early 1940's, establishing a clientele of questionable moral character, creating a highly lucrative business. Her father, Frank DiCarlo, now ran the firm, and under his iron hand, had controlled and created connections all over the country. He tried publicly to weed out the clients with a more seedy past, yet Julie suspected there was a lot more that went on behind the closed doors of his office on those late nights.
Her mother, Connie, remained oblivious to the business affairs of her husband, or possibly chose to remain so. She reveled in the DiCarlo status that afforded her expensive shopping trips and the multi-million dollar penthouse apartment in downtown Chicago. Julie could hardly believe that her mother had come from any other background than the highly privileged. She acted as though it was all she had ever known, despite the fact that she had been a waitress in a small Italian restaurant when she met her tycoon husband. She slipped on the role of DiCarlo's wife without even a hitch, demanding loyalty and perfection from staff and servant.
When Julie and Nathan had announced their engagement at a family dinner party, Connie had gone into hysterics of excitement and planning. She knew the best shops in Chicago, and what designers were the current favorites of the elite.
"We must find you a Monique Lhuillier, or maybe a Lazaro. The Perasso girl wore one of his, and Patricia swears he has the most divine collection."
"I haven't decided yet what type of wedding I want, Mom," Julie interjected quickly. "Isn't that where you start first?"
"Oh pshah!" Connie dismissed derisively. "We will start with the most important element first....the designer, of course!"
So now here they were trying to get, in Connie's mind, Chicago's Wedding of the Century, underway by selecting the pivotal dress. But how could Julie ever decide on the perfect gown when she didn't even know entirely who she was? She no longer wanted to be Connie DiCarlo's quiet and mousey daughter, hiding in the shadows, letting her mother make every decision for her. When she said "yes" to Nathan, she was choosing to be Julie, the Bride.
But who was Julie, the Bride?