- Kleinfeld Bridal – the famous New York City wedding dress boutique best known as the setting of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” – services more than 17,000 brides a year.
- Kleinfeld has remained an iconic mainstay of the bridal market, which has swelled into a $US72 billion industry.
- I joined my cousin on a recent trip to Kleinfeld to see what the experience is really like. This is what I learned.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
By the time I arrive at Kleinfeld Bridal for my cousin’s 9:30 a.m. appointment – admittedly several minutes late, harried, and bleary-eyed on a recent Saturday – the store is eerily quiet, bracing itself for the mob of brides-to-be in search of the perfect wedding dress.
Before going any further, I must confess that despite the Manhattan bridal salon’s status as heralded host of the beloved TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress,” I have watched a grand total of 15 combined minutes since it debuted in 2007. Yet when my cousin asked me to join her for a dress consultation a few months ago, I decided I had to see for myself what all the fuss is about.
From the sharply dressed employees rushing around in Louboutins, to the palpable excitement radiating from fawning friends and family members, I was immediately transfixed. The store itself is immaculate, awash in ornate gowns made with delicate lace, chiffon, tulle, and silk in hues of cream and ivory. Everything appears to be endlessly shimmering, thanks to the sheen emanating from the elaborate bridal jewellery displays and embroidered specialty dresses.
My “Say Yes to the Dress” ignorance aside, Kleinfeld has had enduring appeal in an uncertain bridal market. As the $US72 billion wedding industry continues to evolve and experiment with new models, Kleinfeld has found a way to stay afloat while peers like David’s Bridal have faltered. While TLC has certainly played a role in Kleinfeld’s success, so too has the store’s commitment to customer service and willingness to adapt to a modern era. In recent years, Kleinfeld has debuted private labels with buzzy designers like Christian Siriano and partnerships with e-commerce companies like Zola.
Here’s an inside look at what it’s like to shop at one of the most celebrated bridal stores in the US:
After starting as a single storefront in Brooklyn in 1941, Kleinfeld moved to Manhattan in 2005, to a sprawling new retail space with 28 dressing rooms, 17 fitting rooms, and 1,500 designer sample dresses.
The staff, which includes the seasoned styling consultants depicted on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” is 250 people strong and services 17,000 brides annually.
TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” began filming at Kleinfeld in 2006. Upon entering the store, I immediately saw this sign notifying visitors that they may be on camera.
TLC does most of its filming during quieter weekday hours, so unfortunately I will not be in the background of an upcoming episode. In order to be featured on the show, you have to formally apply on the Kleinfeld website and prepare for at least five hours of filming.
Over the years, TLC has launched a number of spinoff “Say Yes to the Dress” shows at boutiques in locations like Canada and Atlanta.
Once you arrive at Kleinfeld, you check in at the front desk before heading back into the store.
As I walked in, the store was relatively calm as employees prepared for the coming madness.
I found my cousin’s crew waiting eagerly for her to materialise from the dressing room, where she was working with a bridal consultant to select styles.
Kleinfeld starts taking appointments at 9:30 a.m., and interested brides can sign up online. According to Kleinfeld fashion director Terry Hall, who spoke with Fashionista, the average bride brings along two to four people.
Just like on the show, bridal consultants help with everything from the dress itself to bridal accessories and veils.
My cousin was paired with Brandi Hill, a bridal consultant who appears regularly on “Say Yes to the Dress.” Her dress knowledge was truly something to behold. While we were waiting, I browsed some of the sample gowns on display out on the floor.
This dress was a “lewk,” as the kids say.
Though the average US bride pays $US1,600 for a dress, the typical Kleinfeld shopper pays closer to $US4,500, according to Fashionista. However, prices vary widely to accommodate a range of budgets.
The most expensive dress ever sold at Kleinfeld was reportedly an $US80,000 Pnina Tornai gown.
Pnina Tornai’s dresses are among the most costly at the store, and her designs are exclusive to Kleinfeld. She began collaborating with Kleinfeld in 2004, becoming one of several designers who have launched special collections with the store over the years.
Source: AM New York
Among those designers is Dennis Basso, who debuted his private Kleinfeld label in 2009. Kleinfeld’s private labels regularly show at New York Bridal Fashion Week.
Kleinfeld also has an extensive jewellery collection.
They also have elaborate hair pieces for the bride going for a more ethereal look.
My cousin said “yes” to the dress! When a bride decides on a dress, the entire store erupts in cheers.
I had to use some Instagram Story censoring magic in order to share the news to my social networks.
And sadly, the champagne is only reserved for brides featured on the show.
Next up, my cousin was directed to the Kleinfeld finance department.
From inside a drab, windowless room, an employee gave my cousin information on out-of-state shipping, alterations, and other important sales information. Brides are asked to give a 60% deposit, and the standard shipping fee is around $US130.
The second floor is home to the bridesmaid shop.
Bridesmaid dresses can be customised by style and colour.
Brides can also schedule appointments with their bridal party to try on gowns in different styles and colours.
The lower level is where alteration consultation and pickup takes place.
There is also a small selection of bridal shoes.
The assortment includes luxury designers like Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, which retail for up to $US1,000.
They were having a big sale when I was there, though.
Ultimately, the only memento I got from Kleinfeld was this branded water bottle …
… and, of course, the memory of helping my cousin pick out her wedding dress. Congrats, Sarah!