Some fashion rules, like not wearing white after Labor Day, are meant to be broken. Others, like not wearing white to someone else’s wedding ― especially when that someone is your daughter-in-law-to-be ― are a bit more rigid.
Perhaps no one has a keener understanding of the latter than Amy Pennza, an author based in Kirtland, Ohio, whose own mother-in-law showed up to Pennza’s 2004 wedding wearing a long, white gown ― or, essentially, a wedding dress.
“That’s probably the one thing I would tell anyone who is planning a wedding ― find out what your mother and your mother-in-law are wearing,” Pennza told HuffPost on Thursday, laughing. “I did not.”
Pennza, whose tweet documenting the fashion faux pas went viral last week, says the incident, which she’s “had plenty of time to get over,” has become the stuff of family legend. Everyone knows about it, but no one ― not even her mother-in-law ― is sure why it happened.
“She just remembers seeing it in Dillard’s and it fit and she felt good in it and it was on sale,” Pennza said. “I have a vivid memory of getting dressed, I’m like half naked with all these people around, and the photographer is taking photos. She came in fully dressed into the foyer and the sun was lit ― in my memory it was a blinding light ― and it couldn’t have been more of a pure, snow-white dress. And I go, ‘You... could be the bride!’ She had this look on her face ― I think someone had already gotten to her at that point and said, ‘What are you doing?’”
Pennza explained that the family had quite a few weddings and wedding-adjacent events that summer to shop for, and while that doesn’t excuse the behavior, it does make more sense in the context of knowing (and loving!) her quirky, deal-hunting MIL.
“If you know her, you’re like, ‘Yeah, that sounds about right, she definitely did that,’” she said. “A year ago IHOP did this marketing stunt where they said they were changing their name to IHOB. When the story broke, she went to IHOP, a place she never goes. She bought a gift card with $10 on it because she thought one day the old logo would be worth money.”
It’s her mother-in-law’s keen ability to spot a bargain ― when we spoke to Pennza, her mother-in-law was taking her children garage-saling ― that Pennza thinks explains it (even if that’s not necessarily the answer people are hoping to hear).
“I wish there were more of a satisfying answer because I feel that way, too, in terms of why she did it,” she said. “I can’t wrap my mind around why she would think that, because she knows you don’t wear ― well, maybe she doesn’t know? I should ask ― you would never wear red to a funeral, you wouldn’t wear white to a wedding. The only possible explanation is that she just could not turn down a sale. She was like, ‘Well, I have a formal event to go to, so I’m wearing this dress.’”
Pennza is shocked that her tweet blew up the way it did. She posted the tweet, she said, to get a laugh out of her mother-in-law ― who, for the record, has long since apologized profusely for the episode.
“Our whole thing since then has been drilling it into her that she can’t wear white to a wedding,” she said. “I thought it would be funny to troll her a little bit. I did not anticipate it becoming this big of a thing.”
On the other hand, sharing her own story has had its upsides.
“I saw someone else reply that someone wore lingerie to their wedding,” Pennza said. “I was like, ‘Wow! At least I’m not alone. There’s a small club of us.’”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.