Thirty years ago this July, I walked down the aisle in my beautiful wedding gown from Kleinfeld. I was one of thousands of brides-to-be, who took the pilgrimage to their then location in Brooklyn, where the bridal mecca boasted more couture wedding dresses than any other store in the world.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Thirty years ago this July, I walked down the aisle in my beautiful wedding gown from Kleinfeld. I was one of thousands of brides-to-be, who took the pilgrimage to their then location in Brooklyn, where the bridal mecca boasted more couture wedding dresses than any other store in the world. Like most brides who step onto Kleinfeld’s pedestals to slip on gown after gown, I instinctively knew, “this is the one,” as soon as I tried it on. I also knew I was in good hands.
Brides-to-be, about 17,000 per year, are still in good hands at Kleinfeld, which moved to Manhattan, on 20th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue, in 2005, after 64 years in Bay Ridge. With two floors and 35,000 square feet of retail space, it is much more luxurious and spacious than the original.
Adding to its fairytale appeal, Kleinfeld is also home to “Say Yes To The Dress.” The reality series on the TLC channel gives viewers a glimpse of the journey taken by the bride, her family, and the store’s sales consultants to choose the dress of a lifetime.
Not only do they offer every possible amenity for the bride, but Kleinfeld for Men was launched two years ago. Future grooms can get all the help they need on the lower level in a considerably more masculine club room, complete with plasma TVs. Custom offerings include black tie attire, tuxedos, tails, dinner jackets, and the perfect suit with master tailors on the premises.
“Our menswear department will make it easy for the bride and groom to create a harmonious look for their wedding day,” said Ronald Rothstein, who co-owns the store with Mara Urshel and Wayne Rogers (yes, Trapper John in the old “MASH” TV series). That is not to say, however, that the groom will get a sneak peak at the dress before their wedding day. Both Mr. Rothstein and Ms. Urshel were there during my visit, overseeing their well-designed machine.
The shop’s grand entrance is fit for a bride, with cathedral ceilings, crystal chandeliers, Tuscan columns, a hand-carved reception desk, and, of course, bridal mannequins dressed to the nines on displays adorned with oversized, white paper rose blooms. I discarded my latté as soon as I spotted the “no food or beverage” sign, shuddering at the thought of a coffee stain on Chantilly lace. Guests are seen by appointment only, so contacting the salon a month in advance is a good idea.
Upon signing in, a knowledgeable sales consultant gets the ball rolling. Kleinfeld has 28 private dressing rooms, complete with tri-fold floor length mirrors, theatrical lighting, and those pedestals, where one can begin the selection process. The store carries over 1,500 styles and 1,000 headpieces, as well as shoes, jewelry, undergarments, and other accessories. It features over 60 designers, including Lazaro, Badgley Mischka, Reem Acra, Ian Stuart, and Jim Hjelm. This year, Isaac Mizrahi, Dennis Basso, and Mark Zunino all launched their bridal lines, exclusively for Kleinfeld.
A popular designer featured on “Say Yes to the Dress” is Pnina Tornai, whose laced up corsets give brides that hourglass figure. Her sexy low backs are very popular with today’s brides, as are high slits, illusion necklines, and sleeves. Other trends include bling by way of Swarovski crystal and rhinestone, as well as pastel colors, ice blue, mint green, and blush pinks. Of course, most brides still walk down the aisle in traditional off-white or ivory natural silk.
Although the store’s designer samples all come in size 10, petite women need not worry as fitters pin selections to give women an accurate picture when they look in the mirror. Unlike most bridal retailers, the store also carries the largest selection of plus size designer gowns, up to size 28.
Once the bride makes her selection, which can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000, with the average dress costing $4,500, the gown is ordered. As they are delivered to the store, gowns are hung in Kleinfeld’s Railex storage system, like the ones we see at the dry cleaners, only theirs span the whole width of the building from 19th to 20th Street.
At the fateful fitting, the bride-to-be tries on her actual gown for the first time. As one seasoned headpiece seamstress mentioned, “Once the mother of the bride sees her daughter with the gown, she’s in awe. It is when she puts on the veil, and then the blusher that the mother wells up with tears.”
These emotionally charged fittings take place in one of 17 separate dressing rooms downstairs, where expert fitters pin the gown and sculpt it to the bride. Most brides have about three fittings before the big day.
The gown’s next stop is the Sewing Room. “This is where all the magic happens,” said Jennette Kruszka, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for 13 years.
Indeed, 85 seamstresses, most with over 25 years experience, work meticulously on each gown, seamlessly making alterations and adding or realigning beading. After quality control, the couture pressers press each layer of the gown by hand and it’s ready for show time.
Kleinfeld is all about the details and customer service. “We stick to our roots, giving all brides personal attention,” said Ms. Kruszka. “We try to hold her hand till the day she walks down the aisle.” I well up with tears envisioning my two daughters on those Kleinfeld pedestals.
For an appointment, call 646-633-4300 or log on to www.kleinfeldbridal.com.
Gown Shopping Tips from Kleinfeld’s Mara Urshel
Research: Start looking for gowns in magazines and websites and bring the photos to your appointment, it will give your bridal consultant a general idea of the kind of dress you like: traditional, straight, empire, princess ball gown, etc.
Plan: Make sure you have enough time…it can take 6-12 months to order a designer bridal gown.
Budget: Know your budget and be honest…Many forget they have to pay for alterations, a headpiece, a veil, undergarments. There are a lot of extras and sometimes those extras can add up to more than the gown.
Who to bring: Do not bring an army of friends and relatives to your bridal gown appointment. Bring along one or two trusted
partners — your mom, a close friend.
Open Mind: Keep an open mind, listen to the consultant, and try on gowns she suggests. Gowns don’t always look as good on the hanger as they do on the body. Try on as many styles as you can.
What to wear: Wear appropriate undergarments; you will be undressing in front of a sales consultant you never met before. You may also want to wear a strapless bra or the salon may have samples for you to borrow.
Trust your instincts: You’ll know it’s “the one.” If you have to be reassured that the gown looks great on you, it’s probably not “the one”. Is this how you pictured yourself looking as a bride? Does the gown suit your personality? Are you comfortable enough in it to enjoy your wedding day?