I think that Jeanne should name her next S.J. Couture collection "Crepuscular Rays." Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It's the scientific term for those sun rays that stream through a break in the clouds or a notch in the horizon line. They are often accompanied, in my mind at least, by a choir of angels singing. I say this because I think I saw crepuscular rays emanating from the box that contained my SJ Couture wedding dress when it arrived on my doorstep in Seattle. And this is coming from someone who thinks that the idea of "THE dress" is hogwash.
Before I started working with Jeanne, I had schlepped in and out of many a bridal boutique, where I (1) was asked wear a surgical mask in the dressing room, (2) had my size 14 body attached to a size 6 sample with potato-chip-bag clips, and (3) was admonished, in a tone that seemed like it should have been reserved for someone about to bet her life savings at the races, that I needed to buy the dress immediately and pay a rush fee or risk generally ruining everything. I had grown weary of this, so I was browsing only online and in department stores where I knew the salespeople would leave me alone. At one such department store, I had to ask for help anyway after becoming stuck in a super-stretchy mermaid-style dress that was supposed to be "excellent for tummy control," but ended up being excellent at controlling all bodily activities, including standing without falling over.
I had my heart set on a vintage (or at least vintage-inspired), not-strapless, tea-length dress, but I was not sure I was going to find it. I searched on eBay and Etsy, and I and even visited a store that specializes in vintage wedding gowns, but nothing fit right. I had almost given up hope and was seriously considering wearing a bedazzled track suit to my wedding when I found S.J. Couture online.
Jeanne makes several beautiful tea-length dresses, and I was excited to find out that she is based in Scottsdale, where my parents live. My mom called Jeanne and talked to her about samples. A few days later, I received four samples that Jeanne had sent Federal Express, beautifully wrapped and topped with a handwritten note. (Did I mention that I had previously been asked to wear a surgical mask while trying on dresses? Oh, you didn't know that "operating room chic" was a major bridal trend in 2013?) I tried the Penelope, Sabrina, Amanda, and Becky designs in the comfort of my own home, with every combination of shoes and Spanx imaginable. I treasure the pictures that I took that day using a dilapidated tripod and the Photo Timer App on my iPhone.
I ended up choosing Penelope because, well, how could you not choose Penelope? She's the perfect combination of elegance and cheer, with lace overlay in an unexpected geometric pattern and sheer organza straps that tie into a great big "Party Time!" bow in the back. I sent Jeanne my measurements from a local tailor. In stark contrast to the bridal-shop admonitions, Jeanne completed the dress ahead of schedule with no rush fee. It fit perfectly right out of the box. I didn't even have to get it hemmed. A few weeks before my Seattle wedding, I decided that I wanted to add a simple ribbon belt for a bit of contrast at the waist. Jeanne whipped up not one but two belts, and I received them with plenty of time to spare.
Best of all, Jeanne went out of her way to include my family in the long-distance dress-buying process. She hand-delivered the dress to my parents' house in Scottsdale so they could see it, and then she shipped the dress to me. She also designed a dress for my mom, who was having trouble finding a mother-of-the-bride dress that was not ruched and/or sequined within an inch of its life. On the big day, Mom felt wonderful in fresh cornflower-blue silk, with flutter sleeves and a graceful tie at the nape of the neck. I am so grateful to Jeanne for that.
I do not believe in "THE dress," but I do believe in my dress. Penelope is beautiful design to begin with, but the experience of working with Jeanne--her pride in her work, her attention to detail, and especially her kindness to my family--made the dress truly special. Jeanne has my highest recommendation