Weighty Issues

I am very careful when I measure someone for a bridal gown. It’s important to me to get the most accurate measurements so that the bride has to do the fewest alterations possible. I have heard that there are unscrupulous bridal salons that measure large or small so that the bride has more work to do (thus, lining their coffers twice). I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I operated like that. My job is to get her the best size I can. As a result, my brides typically have dresses that really fit them well.

Unfortunately, I have had women who fight me on the sizing issue. Most often they want to go smaller than what the size chart suggests. I try to impress upon them that a larger dress can always be taken in. Not so much with a smaller one. If a bride orders a dress that is too small, it’s possible it will be unwearable. There is a finite amount of seam allowance. If the bride needs two inches and there is only an inch in the seams, she’s screwed. This is particularly the case with dresses that have overlays, such as lace or chiffon, as french seams are often used.

Ultimately, the choice of what size to go with rests with the customer. I can recommend a size 6 all day, but if she wants a 2 there’s little I can do (except refuse to order the gown, which I had to do once). Usually I defer to her judgment rather than argue about it. I have had brides tell me that they “know” they will have lost 30 pounds by the time the dress comes in. There is no way to really know that. What if she breaks her leg and can’t exercise? It’s happened before. In these situations I am just sure to document everything. I let the bride know that I am recommending a different size. I tell her that if it comes in and doesn’t fit, there is no recourse. These gowns are not returnable and she will not get a refund. The bigger size is typically the better bet, but some people cannot be reasoned with. They’d rather squeeze into a smaller size than admit a larger size is better. So, I order the dress, cross my fingers and hope that she has lost what she says she will by the time the wedding rolls around. If not, I have taken enough notes to be able to protect myself and the business.

Another size issue that irks me is the policy some manufacturers have of charging plus-size women extra for their gowns. I know, I know, it takes extra fabric to make a plus-size dress, but it takes less fabric to make a size 0. Are they giving slimmer women a discount because their gowns require less fabric? I don’t think so. Picture sitting with a woman who is making the most important clothing purchase of her life. She’s getting married, she’s happy, she’s signing on the dotted line. Except…you have to tell her that her dress costs more because of her size. It’s humiliating for me (just how the hell do you phrase that nicely?). It’s humiliating for her, because it seems that the designer is saying “You’re not a normal bride. You’re extra. There’s too much of you”. We as women are told that enough in this world. We certainly don’t need it during stressful wedding planning. Also, as I mentioned earlier, bridal sizing is so tiny. There are women who do not normally wear plus-sizes who have to pay extra because the designer cuts the gowns so small. In my opinion, it’s a really bad business practice. The amount charged is so minute in the grand scheme of things. The designer cannot possibly be making a huge profit using this system. So why even bother alienating customers?

As a woman, I understand that weight and size are touchy subjects. No woman wants to be in a bigger size than she anticipated. Add in the fact that bridal gowns run REALLY small, and the subject can get even touchier. But why are we so obsessed with numbers? I particularly see the issue with girls who are around a size 8. Bridal sizing may put her into a 10 or 12, which to her seems unacceptable. I have had women say “I am NOT ordering in the double digits!”. Well, sweetheart, you may be an 8 ordering a 10, but I promise that you’ll look far more unattractive if you stuff yourself into an ill-fitting dress like a sausage. These women really crack me up. No one will know what damn size you order! There is no neon sign on the dress saying “Attention: Charlene ate too many Ho-Hos!”. A dress that actually fits gives the slimmest, most flattering profile no matter the size.

I have personal experience in this arena. When I ordered my wedding gown, I had to go two sizes above my normal dress size. I am a hippy girl. The size that worked for my bust and waist would have been snug in my hips. Sure, it would have been nice to have ordered that smaller size, but the dress would have looked hideous. I would have looked way chunkier in a gown I was shoehorned into. It’s possible that I may not have been able to wear it at all. So, I sucked it up and ordered the larger size. On my wedding day the gown looked great because it actually fit.

It scares me when I think about our society’s fixation on size and weight. Of course it’s best to be healthy, but health comes in many forms. I have known some pretty unhealthy skinny girls and some larger women who run marathons. Only their doctors know for sure which is which.

When I run all of this through my head, I think of the future. I would like to have a daughter someday. If I’m blessed in that way, I would like for her to love herself for many reasons. I would like for her to be proud of her strength, both physical and mental. I would like for her to be honest, kind and a little bit tough. Most of all, I want her to love herself. ALL of herself, whether she is a size 2 or a 22.

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Your Gay Friend Is Not An Accessory.

I’ve seen a trend of late in bridal: Bringing the gay best friend to an appointment as the fashion consultant. At first I thought it was really sweet. I saw it as a sign of progress in a world that sometimes still seems medieval. Then, it really started to bug me. If you just assume your gay friend is going to have the best fashion advice, isn’t that discriminatory, too?

I know that people mainly mean well. They watch Say Yes to the Dress and watch Randy save the day with his sage wisdom and want to recreate that in their own wedding planning. I see where they’re coming from. For these women it’s aspirational. Aren’t you just a little Carrie Bradshaw with your gay bestie? That is precisely what bothers me. Have gay people just become accessories? Are these women carting around their gay friends as fashion gurus just the way Paris Hilton toted her little dogs? It’s actually a little sickening.

The other thing that burns me up about it? There are some guys that are perpetuating the stereotype…and they don’t even have an eye for fashion! A little swishiness does not a Tim Gunn make. I’m sorry, but some of these gentlemen are just plain awful at helping brides pick out their dresses. A fitted mermaid gown with a horizontal seam along the knees on a girl who’s 5-foot-nothing? That would be a big no. A dress with a really shallow bustline for a girl who’s an F cup? Not unless you like Poppin’ Fresh Dough (or wardrobe malfunctions). But there is Mr. Best Friend acting like the Bride is a fool if she doesn’t choose the gown he likes. And what does Miss Bride do? She eats it up with the proverbial spoon. He said so, he’s gay, so that’s that.

Listen, there are some gay men who truly have fashion sense. They know what looks good, and it’s almost as if they were born with an extra style chromosome. I loooove when a man like that accompanies a bride I’m working with. Selfishly, I also love picking his brain about what he likes in terms of fit, color and style. I’ve been in the business a long time, but I’m not above getting a new perspective.

I am so happy about the new strides our country has made in terms of gay rights. I think it’s far past time. I just don’t want the pendulum to swing too far the other way. Positive stereotypes are stereotypes, too, and it never serves us to think that one particular group has the corner marketed on a certain trait. I know gay men who love to hunt and fish, and wouldn’t know a french cuff if it hit them in the face. I know gay women who wear pink and think Home Depot is a nightmare. Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, etc.: We are all people and I don’t think pigeonholing is ever the way to go.

Brides, if your friend is gay AND truly has style, bring him along. If not, don’t waste your time.

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Send In Your Questions!

I’m going to be adding an advice component to the blog, so please send me any wedding-related questions you may have. I will do my best to answer all inquiries, and they can be about whatever you’d like. You can leave them as a comment here or email me at beheadingbridezilla@yahoo.com. Can’t wait to tackle your questions!

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Proposing on a Holiday = Lame.

Usually I address the ladies, but this one’s for the guys proposing to their ladies or gentlemen. It will also apply to the small percentage of ladies who propose to their boyfriends and the growing number of women proposing to their same sex partners. Basically this one is for whoever is proposing to my much beloved Bridezillas (or Brozillas as the case my be!). Proposals are beautiful no matter when they come along, but proposing on a holiday is like mailing it in. It’s expected, and it’s a little lame.

Your significant other is probably expecting it. What do you think she’s going to think when she sees the telltale small box under the tree? When you take her out for Valentine’s Day to a restaurant you would never take her to and can scarcely afford? She’s going to smell it from a mile away…especially since most of you act weird as hell when the deed is close to being done. I have girlfriends who incorrectly supposed their SO’s were getting ready to break up with them because of the awkwardness involved.

Proposing on a holiday is just trite. It’s been done again and again. Don’t you want to be a little more creative? If you just have to pop the question on a holiday, how about an unusual one? Tie the ring to a tree on Arbor Day. Propose during spectacular fireworks on the 4th of July or wrap the ring up in red, white and blue on Flag Day. Another option is to choose a date that’s special to the two of you alone. An anniversary, while a holiday of sorts, works as it’s particular to your relationship. Try doing it the day after Christmas to throw her off. Better yet, do it the day before Valentine’s Day. You can still celebrate the following day as planned, but now she can gesture for the menu with her newly-sparkly left hand.

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Trashing the Dress is Just Plain Trashy.

Some of you may have heard about a fairly new bridal trend called “trashing the dress”. If you haven’t heard about it, I’ll lay it down for you. It’s pretty simple. The bride gets married. She takes some pictures and maybe goes to her reception. Then, she fucking ruins her brand new beautiful dress. That’s right. She destroys the dress.

It stands to reason that the bride spent at least a couple of hours finding this delightful little number. More than likely she paid anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars purchasing it. I have such a hard time understanding how someone would want to ruin what they searched so hard to find.

Apparently, some people see this as some sort of performance art. How avant garde! I’ve heard of people hanging the actual soiled dresses in their homes. Some want their photographers to document the trashing so that they can prove to future generations just how badass they were. “That’s right, Sophie. Grandma spent $5,000 on a Vera Wang wedding gown, but was enough of a rock star to destroy it after!”. It’s kind of akin to a musician smashing his/her guitar. I get the sentiment behind it, but it always makes me sad to see a a beautiful instrument in pieces. Perhaps I feel the same way about the dress since I’ve spent nearly a third of my life in the wedding business. I bleed silk and tulle, so this hurts my soul a bit.

The other thing that I hate about this is that it just seems so bratty. It’s no secret (if you’ve even read the title of this blog) that I find some of today’s brides to be a little spoiled and entitled. I think a lot of the wedding shows on TV today are showcasing and glamorizing a certain type of bitchy behavior. The Bridezilla certainly makes for good ratings. Unfortunately a lot of that has translated to the real world, as average brides try to emulate these wastes of humanity. I have seen a real uptick in this type of attitude since these wedding “reality” shows have become popular. I see trashing the dress as the ultimate example of this concept. These women are basically bragging that they have the means to waste thousands of dollars, which is really shitty in this economy. It’s like burning $100 bills during the Great Depression. There are people who are struggling to eat, and you’re destroying a beautiful gown? Did it ever occur to these brides that they could donate the dress to a woman in need? Maybe someone who began to plan her wedding and then lost her job, making her dream dress out of reach? I find it really difficult to fathom wasting a commodity like that when there are people who would be thrilled to wear it. How about a charity like Brides Against Breast Cancer, which not only benefits brides on a budget but gives the proceeds to cancer patients? Trashing the dress is just a trend I can’t get behind, even if it is (supposedly) for the sake of art.

In the end, the gown belongs to the woman who buys it. She’s allowed to do what she wants with it. I just hope that this is a fad which is on its way out. When so many are struggling, it seems like a cruel and unnecessary extravagance.

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Your Chocolate Fountain Looks Like Shit…Literally.

I know I will probably be blasted for this, but I really hate chocolate fountains. I just think they’re ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong…I love chocolate as much as the next girl. I just don’t think a molten river of it is required to make a wedding day complete. Truth be told, I find them tacky.

I had a lowly strawberry. Now I have a strawberry that I’ve dipped in chocolate! Amazing! I happen to think that the strawberry was pretty good by itself. If chocolate-covered strawberries are your aim, why not just serve those? Same goes for enrobed marshmallows, pineapple, caramel or what have you. I’m not back behind the bar mixing my own drinks at the wedding. Why, then, am I dipping my dessert in chocolate? I also find the quality of chocolate to be suspect in a lot of these displays. Who wouldn’t want Valrhona or Ghirardelli in any form? Like I said, I adore chocolate. I don’t, however, want something with the flavor of chalky, cheapo off-brand Halloween candy. Like those chocolate coins we used to get as kids? Gross. I can still taste the waxiness of them as I write this. So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you MUST have a chocolate fountain, make sure that baby is loaded up with something delicious. And don’t even get me started on white chocolate. Ugh. It’s not even real chocolate, for Christ’s sake!

Then there is the matter of the aesthetic value of the fountain itself. I was not trying to be funny when I titled this post. I’m sorry, but the liquefied chocolate in these fountains seems like something that would be found in a sewer. Does any bride want to remind her guests of fecal matter during a dessert presentation? Not unless she’s into that type of thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame (which is perhaps suitable for a different sort of blog).

I offer this bit of advice: Brides, do the elegant thing. Stick to some pastries or petit-fours if you want to do something besides cake. Go all East Coast Italian and do a Venetian Hour. Just skip the chocolate fountain!

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A Love Letter to My Lesbian Brides…

I admit it. I’m prejudiced. I am prejudiced toward lesbian brides. I love them. I’ve worked with a fair few and most are right up there in my pantheon of favorite brides. I got to thinking about this the other day and wondered why this was so.

My first experience was with a couple who I’ll call Liz and Nancy. They were a little shy when they first walked in. This was a few years ago, and I guess they were afraid that I might judge them. They sheepishly told me that they were getting married, to each other, and that they each needed a dress. Liz was a little more glam and couldn’t wait to get the whole process started. She wanted to try on dresses and get the feel of her wedding decided. Nancy was a little more reluctant. She confided in me that she had gained a lot of weight since she and Liz got together. I told her that it happened to me when I met my husband, too. When you’re happy, you eat! She smiled at that and said that she had always visualized herself wearing a pantsuit or an informal cocktail dress at most. I agreed to help them find what they were looking for.

Right away I was impressed by their relationship. Liz knew that Nancy was nervous about the process, so she made a lot of suggestions for her. She would often say things like “This neckline will look great on you” or “I think this one will be really flattering on your waist”. The kind and gentle manner in which they treated one another was so refreshing to see. Some other couples I’ve worked with (gay and straight) have been at each other’s throats. It was nice to see two people remembering what weddings are about in the first place.

As I suspected, finding a dress for Liz was easy. She looked great in nearly everything she tried on. She found one that worked for her and was done. Nancy was taking a little longer. She was clearly uncomfortable in a lot of the gowns she had chosen. Liz was amazing with her. When Nancy tried on a strapless number Liz brightened. She said “Look at your beautiful shoulders in this one!”. Nancy instantly stood up a little straighter. She started to smile. She began to see herself as her partner saw her, a few extra pounds be damned. Before long, she had chosen a gown for herself, too.

The time I spent with Liz and Nancy flew by. They were just as sweet to me as they were to each other. There was no attitude, no drama, no entitled little princess bullshit. They were just two women getting married, happy to have someone help them out with the details.

I have had similar great experiences with lesbian brides throughout the years. As I said, I really wondered why the percentage of amazing brides to bridezillas was so skewed in the lesbian community’s favor. Then it dawned on me. The right to marriage is a relatively new concept in the gay community. There are couples who have been together for 50 years, longing to be married like their heterosexual counterparts. Could it be that the lesbian brides I’ve encountered are so nice because they’re just so grateful to be allowed in the marriage club? Do they actually appreciate the institution more because they were on the outside looking in for so long? Maybe we all have something to learn about marriage through the eyes of those who are just now being allowed to tie the knot. Perhaps if straight people were as grateful, there would be less divorce, strife and infidelity in straight marriages.

I am ecstatic that some states have already allowed gay marriage. I truly believe this is the civil rights fight of our time. Some are afraid that gay marriage will “ruin” the institution. If the people I have worked with are any indication, gay marriage might just do the exact opposite. Maybe it will save it.

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Be a Supportive Bridesmaid!

I know from experience that female relationships can be as complicated and fraught with danger as diffusing a bomb. I realize that no outsider can know the exact dynamics of any relationship. Seriously, though…is it that hard to be a good bridesmaid? Sometimes getting maids to behave themselves during a bride’s wedding planning can be like pulling teeth.

We all know the drill: You have to deal with your friend, whose personality seemed to change the second the ring appeared on her finger. You may have to wear an ugly dress (although bridesmaids choices have gotten increasingly better in recent years). You feel like your wallet is constantly open, shelling out for bachelorette parties, showers and gifts. There are other girls in the bridal party whom you cannot stand. I get it. Still, being a bridesmaid is time to just suck it up, plaster a smile on your face, wear the ugly dress and practice saying “Yes”. If you can’t perform your duties without drama, you should step aside and let the bride choose someone who can.

Of course you are honored to be chosen as one of your friend’s bridesmaids. Perhaps you even have the coveted spot of Maid or Matron of Honor. Here are some tips to help you be the best bridesmaid you can be. The bride will thank you for it.

1. Be There.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but being a bridesmaid means being there physically AND emotionally. Many brides are hyper-organized. They will have the dates that they need you present mapped out so far in advance that it might seem silly. I assure you, it’s not silly to her. Add those dates to your calendar and do your damnedest to make sure you don’t have any conflicts. Have to attend a funeral? She’ll understand (maybe!). Making a hair appointment on the day she has earmarked for shoe shopping? I’m willing to wager that she won’t like that quite so much.

The emotional part is a little trickier. Weddings can be a powder keg of personalities and feelings. Your bride might be a little more touchy than usual. Think of it as a year-long case of PMS. You don’t want to provoke her! She may call you to tell you that she’s fighting with her mother over linen colors. Maybe her fiance just doesn’t get the importance of the bridal registry. These issues may seem trivial to you, but put yourself in her shoes. She is trying her best to make this a perfect wedding. You may know that going for a perfect anything is a fool’s errand at best, but perhaps she has lived her whole life dreaming of this day. Roll your eyes on the other end of the line if you must, but make sure she feels like she’s been heard. Offer helpful suggestions and if all else fails, take her out for a cocktail or three!

2. Don’t Be Jealous (or if you are, don’t let it show!).

Sometimes our friends have transitioned into a different phase of life than we have. You may still be the out-all-night party girl while your friend is home watching Dancing with the Stars with her betrothed. When it comes to life changes, someone’s got to be first. Most women are genuinely happy for their girlfriends when they enter a different stage of life. Others are blatantly obvious in their jealousy. Let’s say you’ve been with your significant other for 4 years and you’re still waiting on that proposal. Perhaps you have just ended a relationship and you’re still a bit bitter about the idea of “happily ever after”. Then, your best friend calls you ecstatic because she’s gotten engaged. And they’ve only been dating for a year! Are you able to put aside your own feelings and be truly happy for her? Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow. Even if you’re beyond jealous, you have to try to put that aside for now. Your own situation may make you angry or sad, but don’t use that as an excuse to rain on her parade. Besides, what if you decide to get married one day? Having it out with your friend now is one way to insure that you’ll have one less bridesmaid when your time comes.

3. Give Opinions, but Don’t be Opinionated.

Let’s say you are out shopping for bridesmaids dresses and there is one that the bride is clearly gaga over. It’s Big Bird yellow, it’s poufy and you hate it. There’s nothing wrong with being honest as long as you’re gentle. Saying something like “It’s not my favorite, but it’s your day so I’ll wear whatever you want” is key. This gives the bride the option to choose that dress without feeling like a bitch, but also clues her in to the fact that you don’t love it. A lot of brides really care about what their friends think and want them to be comfortable in their bridesmaids dresses. Your gentle acknowledgement of that particular dress’s drawbacks may be enough to give her pause. If not, you’ll probably be wearing an ugly dress. But you knew that was a possibility when you signed up for this, didn’t you?

4. Be Clear About Limitations Up Front.

Weddings can be a big drain emotionally, physically and financially. They require lots of time, patience, energy and money. If you are short on any of those things, tell the bride as soon as possible. Can’t get any vacation time from work? Tell her that you won’t be able to make it to the bachelorette party in Vegas unless it’s on a weekend. Are you short on cash because you’re out of work? Let her know exactly how much you can afford to spend on your dress and accessories. Unable to stand in stilettos because of a foot problem? Make sure you make her aware of that before she buys your sky-high Jimmy Choos. The more information you can give the bride, the better. If you are open and honest from the beginning, there will be less hurt feelings later.

5. Have Fun!

This is the most important part! Don’t be afraid to truly let go and have a good time. Consider yourself special. You have been asked to share in a very important day in your friend’s life. She chose you for a reason. This is something to celebrate. Maybe you paid too much for your ill-fitting dress, but that’s no reason not to take advantage of the open bar! At the very least, there’s probably a cute single wedding guest to meet. More importantly, you get to watch a treasured friend enjoy her day. Surely that’s worth a few headaches along the way.

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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Bridezillas…

As mentioned previously, I have been in the wedding business for a long time. I call myself a lifer, because it seems as though I will never be let out of this tulle and grosgrain prison I have created for myself (Oh, I complain, but I still love, love, love it!). Having been around for so long, I sometimes feel as though I have seen it all. Just when I start to feel that way, something happens to illustrate just how wrong I was. Recently, I have been floored by the interactions I’ve seen between mothers and daughters. You would think that this would be a blissful, warm and fuzzy time between a mom and her little girl. You would think that, and you would be so incredibly wrong.

Weddings seem to bring out the best and worst in people. Add a mom trying to live vicariously through her daughter and it’s multiplied times a million. Even my own mother (whom I get along with swimmingly) freaked when I told her I would be having cupcakes for my wedding instead of cake. She couldn’t fathom it. It her world it is just not done. Ultimately she enjoyed my little frosted confections, and was particularly delighted that they were at least arranged in the shape of a cake. Still, it caused a little momentary tension between us. Now, take a mother and daughter who don’t normally get along. Add a wedding and you have a recipe for disaster.

I once saw a mother tell her size 4 daughter that a particular dress made her look fat. I’m sorry, but in my entire lifetime I’ve never seen a fat size 4! The deflated look on the girl’s face was enough to bring me nearly to tears. Momzilla had no such reaction. She went on and on about how she could see her daughter’s “tummy” and how she should probably retry the dress she had on earlier. Mind you, this was a dress that the bride clearly despised, and mom adored. Why? Because it reminded her of her own late-70’s era wedding gown, which the bride had already declined to wear. The bride did not for a second look fat in that dress. Mommy just wanted to replay her own wedding day. The daughter had come in planning to buy her own wedding gown. Mom then pulled the trump card: She would whip out her plastic for the dress she liked, and that dress only. If the bride wanted any other dress she was on her own.

This kind of manipulative, ruthless behavior is worthy of a daytime soap villainess, not a mother of the bride! When a girl is faced with this while planning her wedding, it makes me wonder what the poor thing faced growing up. Did mom bribe her with a car if she took up cheerleading over softball? Did she offer to pay for her prom dress if she chose Vassar over Yale? With the traps laid for this young lady and girls like her, it’s no wonder that some young women start out their betrothals as such entitled, spoiled brats. They’ve learned at the knees of the best- their own mothers. I’m not usually on the “blame the parents” bandwagon, but in a lot of cases people become what they see. Are these high maintenance moms the precise reason why we have to deal with women we’ve not-so-affectionately dubbed Bridezillas? While not an excuse, it’s at least an explanation.

Thankfully, most mothers are wonderful, helpful participants in their daughters’ weddings. They are the ones sewing up a torn bustle at the last minute or paying the band to stay for an extra hour because everyone’s having so much fun. They are the glue that keep our weddings (and our families) together. They are the norm, not the exception. They deserve praise not only for their own behavior, but for the fact that they’ve raised daughters who don’t make vendors quake when they see them coming!

I love the sweet moms, but as I said, I am a lifer. The high maintenance mommies don’t scare me away. They just make me shake my head and have a little extra wine at the end of the day!

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Send In Your Questions!

I’m going to be adding an advice component to the blog, so please send me any wedding-related questions you may have. I will do my best to answer all inquiries, and they can be about whatever you’d like. You can leave them as a comment here or email me at beheadingbridezilla@yahoo.com. Can’t wait to tackle your questions!

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