HOW do you know when you’ve found The Dress?

I knew the question was a mistake the second it was out of my mouth.

Mammy Dunne is sensitive about such things. See, she found The Dress, her own one for her wedding back in 1970. She had it made in fact, by a woman in Cabra.

It was beautiful, satin, long tight sleeves, nipped in at the waist, a kind of boater neck line. With her long dark hair and slender figure she was very Jackie O.

“I could have kept it for you lot,” she said bitterly, biting savagely into a Weight Watchers biscuit – oh the diet’s on for the wedding – “but by the time I came back from my honeymoon it was gone.”

Turns out my Granny, a devoutly religious woman by all accounts, had given my mother’s wedding dress to the local parish priest, to be cut up and made into vestments, as he was going out on the missions. He needed something white you see, for the heat. The louser.

She had thought Mammy Dunne would be delighted by this, happy to be helping as any good God fearing Catholic would have been in those days. But Mammy Dunne was in love with her dress and felt cheated.

I think secretly part of her wanted to try it on just one more time, to relive the magic of the day, but it was not to be.

I went dress shopping on Saturday with Best Friend and had a ball. I felt like a princess, a phrase I swore blind would never leave my lips as I’m a) obviously not royal and b) not 11, but the fact remains, I felt amazing in the gowns.

Even the shop assistant’s cheery “you’re welcome to try on some dresses girls, we keep our bigger sizes upstairs” the minute we walked into the shop didn’t deter me – I know I’m obviously not a size 10, but come on, play the game a bit love!

Have to say she knew what she was doing though – a quick once over and she came back with an armful of satin and chiffon which fitted almost perfectly and suited me. How do they do that? No measuring tape, no questions, just a weary eye ran over my figure and she had me to a tee.

“Try this one on,” she urged “pulled a simple soft ivory creation out of the pile. It looked like nothing on the hanger and was heavier than what I had in mind.

I made a face, but when in Rome, so I stepped into the dressing room, revealing my industrial-strength sucky-in underwear to the world and slipping the dress on over my head.

The shop woman pulled back the curtain and set about hooshing the dress around on me, pulling down underskirts, sticking her hands into the top and rearranging my bosoms and lacing up the corset – she really put her back into that one. Have you ever seen Gone with the Wind? Where Scarlett O’Hara’s maid is lacing her into a corset and she’s hanging on to the four-poster bed screaming ‘tighter, tighter’? Well it was like that, only without the four-poster bed.

“There, all done,” she said finally, breathless, turning me around towards the mirror.

Where I instantly fell in love.

Was that me? But, but, where were the rolls of flab? The enormous arse? The thighs, mein Gott, the thighs? What had happened to my pasty skin?

Who was this curvy, glowing woman in the mirror with the waist. A waist! Reader, I have a waist! If a dress could make me feel this good without my hair or make-up done, without a veil, without shoes or even, without the groom by my side, just think how good I’d feel on the wedding day?!

I felt my hand involuntarily twitching towards my Laser card, wanting instantly to put down a deposit but thankfully Best Friend still had her wits about her and hustled me out of the shop before I could do something rash.

“Try on some others, let’s visit a few more shops before making a decision,” she begged knowing well that if I bought this first dress without at least trying on any others, she’d be the one who would have to listen to me whining for the next eleven months that I’d made a mistake.

And she’s right, of course she’s right.

So the hunt is on for The Dress and I have Mammy Dunne’s word that she’s not going to give it to the parish priest. You can’t say fairer than that!