I could go on and on with my first impressions of The White Sarcophagus, but I won’t belabor things. Bay Bracken hired me to work a few hours and she said she would pay me a few dollars. Since I hadn’t had a traditional wedding myself, I was wide-eyed and enchanted by the bridal business and its potential to jettison me to a new career in the fashion industry. The satins, the crinolines, the dyed to match shoes, and all the accessories were sparkly and beautiful; as pure as the driven snow. And no, the “boutique” wasn’t really called The White Sarcophagus, but since it’s only been out of business for a few years, there might still be a few victims and survivors out there who would be damaged were I to use the actual name of the enterprise in this series of recollections.
The White Sarcophagus or The Bridal Barge; take your pick.
November and December are two of the slowest months in a bridal salon. Very little happens because wedding season is over and engagement season is yet to begin. Occasionally, a bride will find a diamond in a Thanksgiving drumstick, but December is the most popular month for engagements and brides begin their dress hunting pilgrimage in January. Business being slow, I had plenty of time to study the merchandise and learn the ropes. Most of the traffic through the Sarcophagus consisted of brides and bridesmaids coming for fittings with the seamstress, Sally, who worked every Thursday night. The alteration hours were the time to sell a bride her veil and shoes.
Veils were easy to sell, but brides needed a lot of coaching. There were so many possibilities–the blusher, the mid-length, and the cathedral length. Two-tier veils trimmed with thin satin ribbon. To bead or not to bead, was often the question. And was a bride bold enough to walk down the aisle with a lace mantilla? Not many were. The most important thing to do was confidently convince a bride which veil would be just right for her.
We had a large assortment of sample veils at The White Sarcophagus and except for a cathedral length which had been sucked up in the vacuum a few too many times and had a two foot rip on the end, most of them were still quite crisp and clean. “Try this one” I’d say and then I’d squint a little in contemplation.
“No, that looks horrid. Try this one.”
A veil is an innocuous little scrap of tulle or netting which usually looks good on any face. A bloated and unattractive face hidden behind a gauzy white cloud and a few Swarovski crystals was suddenly enchanting. A blusher over a leathery and electrically tanned visage was an instant skin softener. By the fourth veil, I had usually found a winner for the bride-to-be and I could tell her those three little words:
“It’s absolutely perfect!”
“You look gorgeous!”
“Cash or charge?”
Once the transaction was complete, I’d call the order in to Annabella Bridals in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mrs. Lundgren was my contact at Annabella and since I never talked to anyone else, it was difficult to get a good mental picture of what the bridal veil “factory” might look like. I imagined it was just Mrs. Lundgren working the phones while an elderly seamstress stitched away on an old Singer treadle sewing machine in the middle of miles of netting and ribbon.
It probably wasn’t really like that.
Mrs. Lundgren was always pleasant and friendly, though, and she always ended my order call with a “Yah,” and then three little words:
“Thanks a bunch.”
November and December were good months at The White Sarcophagus. Business was slow, but the UPS truck kept bringing boxes from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and brides-to-be were veiled and happy.