Bargain Basement

club wed:

Raise your hand if you watch Ugly Betty. I love that show. And in many ways I identify with that spunky little assistant. But buying my clothes in Queens isn’t one of them. (No offense to Queens—I actually lived there for four years when I first moved to NYC.) As amazing and diverse as it is (the borough is home to the best Indian, Dominican, Korean and Cuban places in town), Queens isn’t what you’d call a fashion Mecca, as you viewers of Ugly Betty know so well.

ugly betty
Glasses? Check. Magazine dreams? Check. Heart of gold? But of course! A remedial style-setter? Sorry, Betty Suarez, that’s where you and I differ.

But as the Blues Brothers say “we’re on a mission from God,” and I’ve got to find my dream dress at even a dreamier price. So when my mom insisted that my sissy and I check out this bridal salon in nearby Queens, the Amanda in me got going and I pretty much knew what was in store, but in no way did I think it would be verging on ripped-from-the-headlines bad.

Here’s a real account of that fateful day:

My sissy and I climbed into my new-to-me Volv. and headed north to the Can Not Be Mentioned In Public Bridal Salon in search of a dress that my mom found on the internets that had been “inspired” by the dream gown I have been visiting online for weeks. When we arrived at the spot—which I may add is located in a residential neighborhood—we had two thoughts: 1. Damn that MapQuest, it sent us to the wrong address. 2. Are you kidding me? This is definitely shady bride town USA.

We found a parking spot in a nearby grocery store and were greeted by the owner of the Can Not Be Mentioned In Public Bridal Salon at the stoop of his shop/home/brothel. He quickly snapped his cell phone off and threw his cig. butt toward the road as he opened the storm door. My sister and I delicately walked over stained linoleum tiles and he ushered us down some wooden stairs. “We call this the underground bridal shop because we are literally under the ground,” he joked as we entered a dank smelling box of a room with ceilings so low I swear my hair was touching the asbestos-laden panels.

There we were stunned in a windowless, airless smelly and dingy basement lined with racks of plastic-wrapped wedding dresses. Since I was unable to speak, my sister whipped out my dreamy photo and showed it to the woman in charge. As she located it among the piles of “inspired” gowns, I asked the man why it was so difficult to get in touch with them. (Back story: A flurry of emails, phone calls and messages went back and forth and unanswered until my mom and mastermind behind locating the mainly online outfit, nailed down an addy and appt for me and my sissy.) The guy mentioned something about having an email server problem and a bad phone answering service. Riiight I said. Then the woman explained that the Can Not Be Mentioned In Public Bridal Salon is being sued by well-known co.s including David’s and Priscilla. That makes more sense I reasoned in my mind. The Can Not Be Mentioned In Public Bridal Salon also has a mailing addy on fanc. Park Avenue. When my sister asked what was up with that the duo did the duck and weave. And I swear Vincent D’Onofrio was going to bust up the place all CSI Miami-style any second. (Yes, I realize I’m mixing metaphors here—but that is how scary the place was—it needs double the explanation.)

My “inspired” dreamy dress located, I was ushered into a backroom piled high with crap covered in drop clothes. There, a part-time nursing student helped me step into the “inspired” confection. After being led back to the main room, I did what every mature bride of a certain age swathed in itchy poly-surely flammable blend of beading and did I mention itchy fabric does, I cried.

I cried at the fact that I felt like an infection was spreading all over my poor body as I stood in that reeking, water-stained basement where the guy from Silence of the Lambs probably sublets when he’s in town. I cried because I had had it (!) with wedding planning, the conversations and the running around. And I cried because I don’t have the duckets to buy a proper wedding gown. It was the worst feeling ever. And my sister, God bless her, kept asking the lady if they could do stuff to make the cheap Jack knockoff look a little better.

I ran away into the back room and ripped the itchy, tacky, spangled piece of poly-blend flammable something or other off my body. As I looked around the dingy dungeon I heard my sister in the other room. She was wheeling and dealing the fabrics, beading and embroidery to somehow make the dress look like it cost way more than $600. But I was completely over it. And I realized that this house was a bad house. It was quite possibly the site of an illegal sweatshop, counterfeit ring or worse, and underground, ahem, massage parlor. And that is how these shady dudes can keep their prices so low! Fearing a serious bust any second, I grabbed my sister and ran, not walked, out of that hole passing a few padlocked doors on the way. I’m pretty sure SVU wasn’t far behind…

Posted by Jenna at 10:37 a.m.