Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brides-to-be do some Goodwill hunting


It was 4 a.m. and raining — hard.

I sat on a blue sleeping bag on the sidewalk with no food, sleep or shower.

Definitely the opposite of a blushing bride.

With two girlfriends in tow, I camped out Friday in front of the Goodwill store on Central Avenue in search of a wedding dress.

Each year Goodwill Industries-Suncoast hosts a wedding gala, selling dresses donated by local bridal boutiques at a fraction of the cost. The dresses ranged from $60 to $375.

Darla Cameron, a St. Petersburg Times news artist who is engaged, joined the hunting party Thursday.

"I need to face my fear of weddings or wedding culture," she said. "It turns women into crazy bridezillas."

Nicole Norfleet, a Times business news intern who is happily unattached, would pull dresses. We'd wear camisoles and running shorts to make trying dresses on easier.

We drove by the store at 3365 Central Ave. around midnight. Only four women were lined up. Back to bed.

Hours later we returned. Darla and I compared wedding notes while Nicole took a nap.

We were as different as our footwear. She wore hiking sandals; I wore gold and rhinestone sandals. Darla plans to get married Texas-style with barbecue and cowboy boots. I want a genteel backyard Southern wedding — parasols and sweet tea — in Atlanta.

But we had one thing in common: the dress.

The J.Crew "Sophia" was perfect. Its long silk bodice is simple and unadorned but elegant and classic.

But we needed to make sure there wasn't something better out there.

Outside, mothers, sisters, friends and even aunts from Ocala chatted about the impending nuptials. Homesickness quickly set in.

"Don't worry. Our moms would be here," Darla said.

At 6:01 a.m. the doors flung open, and we walked into a blitz of wedding items. I slowed to look at ivory shoes.

"Stay focused," Nicole said. "We're only here for a dress."

Women scattered across the floor as they entered, snatching up dresses as they went. There was no pushing, no elbowing. Everything was orderly as brides-to-be swapped dresses amicably.

Trying on wedding dresses is an ordeal suitable for the Ironman. Each dress was weighed down by yards of fabric. Zippers never seemed to close. A size 6 could fit like a glove or swallow a woman whole.

Each dress was a blur of beads and bustles, tulle and trains. The dresses were more "Jackie No" than Jackie O. I looked on with envy as women appeared princesslike in dresses I had passed over. I could see them falling in love in the mirror.

"We have a sale," a sales person shouted each time a bride found her dress. I started feeling left out.

I picked up a sheath dress by Demetrios. On the hanger, it was nothing special.

"At least try it," Nicole said.

Minutes later, I was still marveling at it in the mirror. It was nothing like "the dress." This dress was only $180, a relative steal. It was nearly everything I thought I didn't want: beads, lace and strapless. And I couldn't take it off.

After preening in a display mirror and being pushed to try on a veil, I headed back to the dressing room. I liked the dress, but I didn't feel like a bride, just a sleep-deprived 21-year-old.

After 45 minutes of stripping off clothes and shimmying into nearly a dozen 30-pound dresses, Darla gave me an exasperated look.

Time to go.

I left deflated. The sales chant followed us out. Bride after bride was giddy with her purchase. Just not these brides.

"It was a good start," said Nicole, our voice of reason.

She was right. We plunged in head first and came out unscathed.

The right dress is still out there.

Jackie Alexander can be reached at (727) 893-8779 or [email protected]

Brides-to-be do some Goodwill hunting 06/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away


    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'


    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  3. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day


    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event


    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.
  5. As the curtain rises on the Straz Center's biggest shows, the spotlight is on parking


    TAMPA — The Broadway Series, the most lucrative shows of the year for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, start this week, and this year the center wants all the drama to take place on stage, not during the drive to the theater.

    With downtown Tampa getting busier at night and on weekends, city officials and administrators from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts have been working on ways to unsnarl traffic and help visitors find parking when there are lots of events at the same time. CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times (2009)