Book Review: The Magic Room, by Jeffrey Zaslow

January 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm , by

As much as it pains me to admit this, I have become addicted to reality TV—especially wedding shows. And I mean all of ‘em: Say Yes to the Dress, Girl Meets Gown, My Fair Wedding, Bridezillas … the list goes on. They’re always all about the bride (duh), and, of course, the dress. Who will design it? How much will she spend? Will she bond with her mom over a box of tissues like she’s always dreamed?

It’s all so dramatic and that drama, sadly, often overshadows what weddings are really about (or supposed to be)—love. Oh, did all of those reality-show tricks make you forget? Jeffrey Zaslow, author of the bestselling The Girls From Ames, hasn’t forgotten. His new book, The Magic Room (Gotham), tells brides’ tales from the gown-hunting trenches, but from a genuine, warm-hearted angle that underscores the process as a special milestone for mothers and daughters.

The Magic Room chronicles the stories that happen inside Becker’s Bridal, a mom-and-pop boutique in small-town Fowler, Michigan. It’s no Kleinfeld, but its legacy as a bridal destination is just as impressive: Founded in 1934, it’s been owned and operated by nearly four generations of the Becker family.

The Beckers have seen their share of brides and moms visit the store’s “magic room” (the mirrored alcove in which you’ll know if you’ve found the one—the one dress, that is), and Zaslow shares six brides’ unique life stories, including the meet-cutes with their fiancés and why they’re shopping at Becker’s, a store that’s become more than just a place you go to pick out a white dress. It’s where you go—with your mom by your side—to decide what you’ll wear on the day that your life changes forever.

One of my favorite brides was the spunky 40-year-old Meredith, who brings her mother and sister-in-law to Becker’s to her help choose her gown. Though 40 isn’t old, per se, it’s certainly older as brides go, and both Meredith and her mother were beginning to think she was never going to find someone to share her life with (she had even sworn off dating!). But one evening at a Polish social hall, Meredith met Ron, a 42-year-old “friend of a friend of a friend.” Now, she’s in the market for a wedding dress. Which one will it be? You may be surprised.

If you’re looking for a slice of truly homespun Americana that’ll make you say “awwwww” (or, okay, even if you just need something to fill the gap between Four Weddings and Brides of Beverly Hills) you’ll devour The Magic Room. Even I, a self-confessed wedding reality show junkie, appreciated the reminder that the big day should come with more than just glitz and glamour.


Go Ask Gab: Heels That Don’t Sink

May 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm , by

Gab, I am going to be in a wedding that the ceremony is outside on grass. Our dresses are long, so I can’t wear flats and while I need a stable base to stand on during the nuptials, I also need to keep those puppies on the whole night. Can you suggest a pair of classy, stable shoes that are also inexpensive? - Cara

Last weekend I attended an outdoor wedding in a pair of black strappy skinny heeled sandals. My friend told me I was making her nervous because I kept fidgeting during the cocktail hour, but I couldn’t stand still because my heels just kept sinking! At least I aerated the grass right?

This is definitely something ladies should consider before attending an outdoor event, whether you’re throwing it, a guest or even the a bride yourself. You basically need a shoe that’s a wedge because it will give you the height and the comfort.

Here are some styles that are sturdy + inexpensive + dressy (ie. no cork or wood bottoms). All of these options are especially great because they are neutral-colored and fairly inexpensive. If you don’t love the wedges, you could also wear something with a thicker heel. And if you choose to just ignore the fact that you will be standing on grass (like I did last weekend) just make sure you wear shoes that won’t get stained. Let photos be the memory of that day not dirty heels!

Kelsi Dagger, $89

Kelsi Dagger, $89

DV by Dolce Vita, $87

DV by Dolce Vita, $87

Mia, $69.95

Mia, $69.95

Calvin Klein, $98

Calvin Klein, $98

Asos, $83

Asos, $83

Talbots, $149

Talbots, $149

Go Ask Gab: The Royal Wedding Hoopla

April 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm , by


Kate Middleton Doll, $100;

Ahhhh the Royal Wedding is almost here! It seems that everyone’s been talking about it for months now. (Am I the only one avoiding morning TV?)  The hoopla surround this event is crazy. Seriously, do we all need to know about her diet or the number of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends that will be attending? It’s one thing to buy a replica of her ring on HSN but Kate and William tea bags!?! Guesses about her honeymoon lingerie!?! (Calvin Klein does make some excellent pieces.) E! online even has your royal name generator (you can all refer to me as Princess Gabrielle Tildsley Porcarocock of New York, NYshire). The most ridiculous news was the jelly bean found resembling her face expecting to get £500 in auction. Maybe I should have looked down at the handful I just ate before shoving it in my mouth.

But, honestly aren’t we all just tuning in for the DRESS?!? Who will she wear? Rumors seem to point to either Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen or possibly Sophie Cranston of Libélula designing the future princess’s gown. I am kind of equally as curious about the bridesmaid dresses, rumored to be designed by Alice Temperley. I think the bridesmaid dresses tells you something about the bride and since I’ve worn one or two (or 7) in my day I know what I am talking about. Hopefully they will be as lucky as me to not wear anything tragic.  And yes I’m ridiculously excited to see Judd Apatow’s new film Bridesmaids coming out May 12th!

So are you going to get up early and watch? I most certainly will be! I do love a good wedding and look for any excuse to wear a hat in public… and drink champagne at 6am!

Wedding Traditions: Out With the Old

September 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm , by

I’ve been to lots of weddings in my time – church weddings, beach weddings, a traditional Indian wedding and even an Armenian one – and I’m always fascinated by all the cool traditions that brides (and grooms, from time to time) choose to work into their special day. But according to a report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the times are a changin’. Formerly standard procedures like asking the bride’s father for her hand in marriage, decking out the wedding-mobile with “Just Married” and heading off on that fairytale honeymoon right after the wedding are dying out. Researchers found that couples find them too cheesy or impractical to do today. In the ’60s, half of all brides changed into a “going-away suit,” and today just 7 percent do. (I’m surprised it’s even that many – where do they go?) About half as many brides wear something old, new, borrowed and blue now as they did 50 years ago. And forget about schlepping over the threshold: Only 13 percent of grooms today sweep their new wife off her feet, compared with 68 percent that did the symbolic move in the ’60s.

But other, more modern traditions have taken off: best-man speeches (done at 78 percent of weddings, hopefully before the speaker has had a chance to hit the bar), favors for guests (48 percent) and signing of guest books (43 percent). And the down-on-one-knee proposal has gained popularity, too.

What was your favorite wedding tradition you had on your own big day? Do you regret skipping out on any? Or did you do all the traditional things and end up regretting it? (Garters, anyone?)
Photo courtesy of aleske.

Go Ask Gab: Wedding Wear Made Simple

May 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm , by

I have 5 weddings to attend this year. I don’t want to have to buy 5 dresses! Any ideas on how to make one or two dresses work for all?  — Whitneygag-wedding fab

Last year I had 3 weddings. I bought one dress (a navy strapless from J. Crew) and styled it differently for each. For wedding number one, I paired it with nude sandals similar to these Boutique 9 heels, a nude patent skinny belt and turquoise and gold earrings similar to these from Banana Republic. For wedding number two, I wore the same nude shoes with a statement necklace. For wedding number three, I kept the statement necklace but wore purple shoes like these bow heels.

It’s really all about buying a simple, classic dress and pairing it with fun, modern and inexpensive accessories. Change your look up based on the season, the dress code and the crowd you’re with. Here are some ideas:

The Dress: Go for classic, timeless black, whether it’s a halter dress, a long asymmetrical dress or a sleeveless sheath.

The Jewelry: If your dress is plain, then you need some statement jewelry. When wearing a halter or asymmetrical dress choose bold earrings. With a strapless or v-neck, rock a bold necklace. Feel free to add some gold bangles, a crystal bracelet or a cocktail ring depending on what you want your look to be.

The Bag: This is a good area to add some color. I love this ribbon clutch from Boden. You don’t need to carry much for a wedding so a little sequin purse always works too!

The Shoes: Of course you can always choose a black or metallic sandal, but in my opinion your shoes are the area for you to have fun and express yourself! I love this bow sandal: Black patent with a pop of neon for only $27! Or you can pick a neutral colored shoe with a little bit of an edge like this ruffled sandal.

At the end of the day, just make sure you’re appropriately dressed: Unless you are the bride, no one is really going to be paying attention to you anyway!

Got any more wedding-related or other fashion questions? Email me at

Blooming Tables (And Cakes!)

April 27, 2010 at 10:52 am , by

So, I am not engaged. I have a lovely boyfriend, but he hasn’t put a ring on it just yet. My friend Ella, however, is engaged, and I was lucky enough to accompany her to the Wedding Show sponsored by New York Magazine earlier this month. The event was amazing – photogs and caterers and venues galore! – but what impressed me most were the beautiful tablescapes. They were full of gorgeous blooms and really inspired by nature, with grasses and trees and other little touches brought in from the outdoors. Even the cakes were in bloom! (And, as Courtney points out, pretty buds are an easy way to add some spring to your home.)

More flower-inspired decor pics after the jump.

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My Observations on Special-Occasion Style

November 17, 2009 at 10:15 am , by

sue and pab in DRI just returned from a wedding in the Dominican Republic. The bride is an accessory director at a major fashion magazine and we worked together at a former job. She is beautiful and smart and fun to be around—and she’s also incredibly fashionable, though she never looks like she’s trying too hard at it. The crowd at this wedding included lots of fashion types—editors, designers and publicists—and when it came to their attire, they did not disappoint. I think I learned a little something about style at each glamorous event.

Thursday night: Cocktail party at a beachside house
Attire: Tropical chic
I wore: A plumy silk Rebecca Taylor bustier dress and Miu Miu sequined heels.
What I observed about style: It’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. All the ladies pulled out their cutest cocktail dresses and fabulous shoes. Black wrap dresses need not apply.

Friday: Cruise on a catamaran
Attire: Beach casual
I wore: A gold silk mini from J. Crew and a brown Tomas Maier bikini.
What I observed about style: Shorts and a t-shirt are not appropriate beach attire. Whether they were wrapped in a sarong, or wearing an easy jersey dress, all the women looked amazing.  The key accessory: simple non-logo sunglasses.

Saturday night: The wedding
Attire: Formal
I wore: A long black asymmetrical Prada gown (before you judge my frivolous spending habits – it was a sample sale find and I got for a song!) and an Alexis Bittar gold cuff.
What I observed about style: When in doubt, wear chiffon. It moves so beautifully when you dance, and in general it’s very drapey, making it much more comfortable than a structured strapless dress.

So, tell me….what have you observed about style from the events that you’ve been to?

(Photo of me and my cute hubby by my good friend, the amazing fashion writer and amateur photographer Selene Milano Angel.)