Aliyah l’Chupah: Downtown for the gown

After receiving all sorts of tips and warnings about shopping for a wedding gown, Shyra and I decided it was time to dive in and start the process. We still don’t have the hall, the date, or anything else for that matter, but at least my daughter should look good…

So we set aside an afternoon and planned out our time to meet in Tel Aviv and hit ‘Bridal Alley’ on Dizengoff Street, so named (by me, just now) for its incredible abundance of stores with wedding gowns, tuxes, bridal shoes and beauty salons. We didn’t have much in terms of specifics, after all, how could we decide in advance which of the zillions of stores we would like to hit if we’d never seen any of them? So around 3PM we hit the very first bridal shop at the top of Dizengoff Street.

The shop was clean and elegant with a lovely but modest array of wedding gowns hanging neatly in a row along one wall. The far end of the shop held a full-length mirror just to the right of a single changing stall. It was right at this first store that we discovered the truth of a rumor we’d heard: you must make an appointment to try on wedding gowns. Undeterred (what choice did we have?) we showed the shop-owner a photo of a gown Shyra found online that she liked. We were shocked when the proprietor said that two others had shown her the same photo that same week! What were the chances?

Despite not having an appointment, she let Shyra try on several gowns. I melted watching my baby girl twirl in front of the mirror, pretty as a princess, in each gown. That store’s shtick was custom gowns, sewn in the US. If I had to compare it to a store I’d say Macy’s. No store we went into had the same shtick. We thanked the owner and moved on.

The next store was the Neiman Marcus of the stores. We walked in to find lots of fancy decor, fancy gowns, and a snooty woman looking down her nose at us with a permanent frown wondering why we were there without an appointment. We were just ready to leave when a much nicer other lady came over and said we could try things on as long as the appointment was late. The stuff was stunning – all custom-made by their designer, and priced that way too. As I pulled out a camera to take pictures of Shyra to compare each look  we learned a new wedding gown store rule: no photographs. That was one rule I couldn’t follow so I snapped pics with my iPhone as surreptitiously as possible. Finally, we graciously thanked them for their help and moved on.

The following store had a different flavor – it looked more like a beautiful dress shop whose merchandise all happened to be gorgeous wedding gowns. I’d say this was the Saks Fifth Avenue of the bunch. Their thing was French imports and their gowns were absolutely stunning, but ‘off the rack’ as they say. The woman was nicer about our not having an appointment, but equally strict about the no-photos.

Finally, with just a bit of time until the stores closed for the day, we found a shop that my friend had recommended as the best place to buy a gown. I’ll have to call this one the Loehman’s of the four. It was down an alley, downstairs, a bit darker, less organized, and lots of random dresses that didn’t seem to have a particular theme. And, of course, we had no appointment and this woman would not think of letting Shyra try on dresses without an appointment. Well, except for one that Shyra noticed right off the bat. And once Shyra was in the changing room anyway… Luckily the current appointment left fairly quickly so she changed her tune and let Shyra try on whatever she wanted. Gown after gown was simply not right for one reason or another. Finally she tried a gown that would have been so much better if only one detail was different. Voila! There was another gown with the detail that Shyra preferred. She tried it on and instantly had such a smile on her face. And she looked so beautiful! A few whirls and twirls in front of the mirror later and we had ourselves a gown!

About the Author

Laura Ben-David is the author of numerous articles and the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has done public speaking about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Contact her at laura@aliyahbook.com or follow her tweets at http://www.twitter.com/laurabendavd