The drama of a dress

Let’s give a big Murderati welcome to guest blogger Julie Kramer. Her debut thriller, STALKING SUSAN, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery, the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction, was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and is also an Anthony nominee for Best First Novel.

Lucky for us, her sequel MISSING MARK will be released tomorrow, July 14, from Doubleday.

A wedding dress is the most sentimental garment a woman will ever own. What would it take to part her from it? Economics? Anger? Grief? Space?

I’ve always been curious about the wedding dresses advertised for sale in the newspaper want ads and now on the internet.. Each dress held a potentially riveting backstory…perhaps of pain, perhaps of relief.

Writing my second book, MISSING MARK, I asked myself the question that sets many authors on the path to plot: what if?

In MISSING MARK, my TV reporter/heroine answers an ad reading “Wedding Dress For Sale: Never Worn” and is drawn into a dangerous missing person case. She meets a bride not only left at the altar, but left with many unanswered questions about her errant groom.

In real life, I’m a journalist. And we’re very nosy. So recently I’ve been calling the wedding dress ads and asking the brides or almost brides ‘what happened?’ The answers ranged from ordinary to fascinating. Although none was as wild as what happens to my fictional bride.

Some women simply need the money. Times are hard. Sacrifices need to be made.

One woman was almost killed by her ex-fiancee (now in prison) and doesn’t want any reminders of the relationship.

One became pregnant and the dress won’t fit on her wedding day.

Another simply wasn’t sentimental. The dress was just old fabric that took up a lot of closet space.

One bride found a dress she liked better than her first pick.

A couple women preferred not to answer. I suspected their stories might be the most interesting of all. But then I do have a vivid imagination.

No wonder, tales of weddings gone wrong have long been a stable in literature. Whether you’re looking at Shakespeare, Jane Eyre, or Nancy Drew…a wedding dress is certainly worth a thousand words. Often even 80,000.

My book also deals with issues of the media and missing people, along with a rare medical condition, but I imagine when book clubs sit down to discuss MISSING MARK, the big question will deal with whether they still own their wedding dresses. If not, why not? If so, what would it take to make them part with the gowns? And is a used dress from a bad breakup tainted?

Twenty years later, I still own my wedding dress. It’s boxed in the basement. I’d never sell it. But I’d give it away. Nothing would please me more if a young friend or relative wanted to take it down the aisle again. I think wearing a wedding dress from a happy marriage might spell good karma, but most brides these days seem to want to start fresh. And the brides I phoned about their want ad gowns hadn’t had many callers eager to write checks.

How about the rest of you? Wives, would you ever sell your wedding gown? Husbands, would you care if your wife did?

Wasn’t Julie a beautiful bride?

Hey, all, Pari again. If you want a real kick go to Julie’s book trailer for MISSING MARK.
And join us next week for Rhys Bowen.

20 thoughts on “The drama of a dress

  1. Karen Dionne

    Terrific post, Julie! Twenty years ago, mistakenly believing I was the unsentimental type, I gave my wedding dress to a thrift shop. Can’t tell you how many times since I’ve wished I still had it. When my daughter married two years ago, I know she wouldn’t have worn it because it’s not her style, but it sure would have been fun to see her try it on.

    Congratulations on MISSING MARK’s release!

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Julie

    Good to see you here on ‘Rati and thank you again for doing such a good job of moderating our panel at Mayhem in the Midlands in May.

    I had a bit of a giggle at your post, because my wedding did not involve a big white frock. Andy and I had already been together twelve years by the time we decided to make it official. We picked a date, gathered a couple of witnesses, and that was about it. In fact, it got to about 10:30pm the night before the big day and I said, "Hm, I suppose I’d better iron something …"

    I picked a yellow summer dress out of my wardrobe that I’ve worn numerous times since. Andy wore a shirt and chinos, on the grounds that the only time he’d used his suit – made-to-measure though it was – had been for funerals, and he didn’t think that was appropriate.

    We spent the afternoon of our wedding riding rollercoasters at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

    Many congrats on the new book!

  3. Pari

    I still have my wedding dress though I haven’t been that size for at least a decade. Like Karen, I’d like to see my daughters try it on. I hope it’s not too yellowed by then.

    It’s funny because the dress didn’t cost much; I got it at one of those hippie-dippie Indian shops, you know, with the cloths we used to put on our ratty couches in the 70s? But I loved it far more than the ones I tried on at the more expensive, snootier places.

  4. Louise Ure

    Welcome to Murderati, Julie.

    Like Zoë, I didn’t have a real wedding gown. We got married at City Hall on our lunch hour, and I’d do it exactly the same way if I had the chance again.

  5. Christine

    Hmm. I just got married last year, so we’re still newly weds. I don’t think I’d ever sell my gown. If, god forbid, something horrible happens in our marriage, then I’d donate it to a thrift store and hope that someone else gets better luck from it. If, hopefully, we stay happily married, then I’ll hang onto it, and if someone down the line would like to wear it, I’d be more than happy to give it to her.
    As for used dresses – one of my best friends found her gown in a thrift store – she thought it was perfect as soon as she saw it and has been married 11 years so far. I wanted to wear my grandmother’s gown, but no one in the family had any idea what happened to it! I ended up finding one that was very similar when I started looking for myself.

  6. toni mcgee causey

    Julie, great story, and welcome to ‘Rati. And congratulations on the release! This is a fascinating question and I am now going to have to pick up your book to see what you did with it.

    I wore my mom’s wedding dress (my aunt had worn it, too). I had always loved it when I saw it in photos and knew it was what I wanted. (It was a simple, short dress, not a gown.) We planned the wedding to be very small (in my mom’s living room–she was married in her mom’s living room)… but we ended up with over 200 people. Since it was casual, they just all kept calling the day before and asking if they could come. A lot of them brought food. It was a blast.

    I wouldn’t ever sell this dress, though I would give it to a granddaughter to wear, if she wanted. The entire family has to pretend to plan to keep it in the event something happens to me. It’s one of those rules we have here in the deep south.

  7. JT Ellison

    Welcome to Murderati, Julie!!! I adore the premise for your book – I’ll be in line tomorrow!

    My dress. Oh, my dress. I so wanted to wear my mom’s (I agree about wearing a dress from a happy marriage – I’m superstitious) but she was minuscule when she and my dad got married, so no go. I wanted something special, though, that covered my arms (this trend of strapless gowns in church bothers me), creamy, thick satin and pearls up the back, had a cathedral-length train, the works. I ended up buying the first dress I tried on, an off the rack from Valentino that fit every ounce of criteria (and whose price made my dad sigh in relief.) It’s lovingly boxed and hopefully awaiting another turn. I would never give it away. It was my dream come true. Just like my marriage.

    Here endeth the TMI. Thanks for the reminder today, Julie. I’ll be smiling for the rest of the day.

  8. Brett Battes

    Congratulations on your release tomorrow, Julie! And great meeting you in New York at Thrillerfest. See you on July 30th at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. (For those interested, Julie and I are doing a joint signing at 7 pm that night. Would love to see anyone who can make it.)

  9. JD Rhoades

    Welcome, Julie! Love the post. I assume my wife still has the wedding dress in storage somewhere, but have no idea where. So if she sold it, I’d probably never know.

  10. PK the Bookeemonster

    Wedding dresses are mysterious things. There is usually "the one." It is *usually* worn only one day. One of my favorite shows on tv is Say Yes to the Dress and all the horrible and wonderful things attached to the search for the dress. My husband watched one episode with me and was horrified at the behaviors.
    Julie, I really enjoyed your first book and I have the second one on hold at the library (sorry can’t buy, still unemployed), but I very much look forward to its release this week.

  11. Julie Kramer

    Thanks for all the warm wishes for my MISSING MARK launch. I’m as nervous as a bride just before her wedding day.

    If authors had as much say on their book covers as brides had for their wedding dress…I wonder what the store shelves would look like. Would love to see the Murderati authors post their own wedding photos someday.

  12. Fran

    Hi Julie! I look forward to saying "hi" in person on the 22nd (it IS the 22nd you’re at Seattle Mystery, isn’t it?).

    Wedding dresses. Ah well.

    Before I came out, I did get married to a very nice man. I borrowed a wedding dress from a colleague at work, white lace, pearls, the whole bit. I was so relieved it was over and I could take the bloody thing off, you’d think that would have been a dead giveaway that the marriage was not a good idea.

    When my lady and I had our commitment ceremony, I wore a blue silk dress and I wore it again in California when we got married. Now THAT dress I will keep forever! I discovered that it wasn’t the dress, but the association of love with the right person that was important.

  13. Julie Kramer

    Yes, Fran. Wednesday, July 22 at noon at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Would love to see you in person. That blue silk dress sounds like good karma for special occasions. I’ve often lamented that traditional wedding dresses are one time only outfits. You can’t wear them out on the town to celebrate an anniversary or such.

  14. NS Foster

    Sounds exciting! I will definitely watch out for this book, Julie.

    My wedding is actually September…and I’m trying the thing on for the first time tomorrow morning. So this was also aptly timed. I plan to give it away to one of those second-hand wedding shops. I tear up to think of some other woman finding it THE dress and within her budget. However, I have been slowly getting more and more sentimental over this wedding over the last year so maybe I’ll change my mind yet…

  15. anne

    I still have my wedding dress in a pricous box.My mothre told me that the wedding dress should be stored in a cool and dry place. Do not hang up the dress, or it will be stretched by gravity force even be torn. Wash hands while collecting the wedding dress. If it spots with cosmetics, there will be yellow spots.I don’t know why I do like this. But I really hope my little daughter would put it on one day.

  16. Natasha

    Wedding is the most auspicious moment of one’s life; it is the time, which the bride or the groom has been dreaming since their childhood, the memories of which last forever, which is in most of the cases is the only opportunity for the couple to enjoy the stature of king and the queen.I still have my wedding dress in the box. It would bring me the good memories when I was old.


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