Say Yes to the Dress: My Kleinfeld Experience

If you’re a woman with a love of fashion and a lackluster social life, you’ve probably sat at home alone on a Friday or Saturday night watching Say Yes to the Dress. For those too cool to watch, the show follows brides as they shop for their dream wedding gowns at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City.

I started watching the show back when it started in 2007, when I had no boyfriend, no hint of marriage anywhere in sight. I’ve gotten to know the designers, the consultants—I even saw a high school classmate of mine appear on the show. Say Yes to the Dress was always a bit of frivolous fantasy during an otherwise blah evening.

I want a dress that is pirate-y Image courtesy of TLC

Through most of the time I have been watching Say Yes to the Dress, I never thought I would visit Kleinfeld: it was too expensive, too far away, and, most importantly, I was not planning a wedding! When I finally did get engaged last June, my fiancé even asked me why I didn’t just go to that store since I always watch the show. I told him there was no point: there are plenty of shops in Connecticut, and it would be a hassle to get everyone to go to New York, anyway.

As time passed, I thought more about the logistics of buying a wedding dress, and my fiancé spent more time in New York for work. Heading to Kleinfeld seemed more reasonable, and with my family on board I decided to book an appointment during a Lazaro (one of my favorite bridal designers) trunk show.

I had made my appointment a couple months in advance (weekend appointments book quickly), so I had plenty of time to think of everything that could go wrong. Most notably I envisioned walking into the store only to be told, “You’re obviously in the wrong place: please leave,” much like Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman. I busied myself with wedding dress photos to squash down the anxiety.

Finally, the day of my appointment arrived. After a delicious brunch and unsuccessful appointment at another store, we took an Uber to Kleinfeld. My anxiety had led me to read everything I could to prepare myself for the experience, but I was still surprised by the madhouse I’d entered. The spacious Kleinfeld waiting area was full of all types of women and their families anxiously perched on every available surface. The introvert in me wanted to curl up on the floor and take deep breaths.

The sparkle of Kleinfeld

Instead, I confidently (well, as confidently as I do anything) walked up to the front desk. Upon checking in, I realized that the outward chaos covered up an efficient and professional environment. All of my information was in the system already and just needed confirming. I checked in so quickly that when I came back my future mother in law thought I was still waiting to do so!

My “entourage” (the future mother-in-law, my mother, and my big sister) and I found seats roughly together and waited. I had arrived a few minutes early for my 3:00 p.m. appointment, and my consultant, Rachel, appeared shortly after 3:00.

I knew Rachel was a kindred spirit when I saw she’d accessorized her all-black outfit with a totally blinged-out necklace—almost more like a collar. She led us out to the main room full of couches, pedestals, mirrors, and gown-lined walls. It felt like visiting Disney World’s newest park, Wedding Gown Kingdom. Once Rachel got us situated on our couch, she asked if I’d like to take anyone into the dressing room with me. Of course, I chose my sister, Janet, because I was still a little nervous about this epic shopping experience.

The dressing room was clean, well-lit, and well-appointed with three chairs, some mints, and Kleinfeld water bottles. There was also a pedestal and large mirror, so we reasonably could have done the whole appointment in there, but I didn’t want everyone to see my fanny. It was bad enough that the hot new male consultant poked his head in (while I was clothed!) to ask about a Hayley Paige gown.

Kleinfeld Water

I showed Rachel pictures of some gowns that I liked. She seemed excited to pull the gowns I was looking for as well as suggest a few similar styles. The other gowns she pulled were ones that I’d already seen online and liked, so we were definitely on the same page.
Trying on the dresses was, as usual, a lot of fun, even though I had to struggle to get some of them over my backside. Rachel did a great job of clipping to dresses so I could see how they’d fit once they were in my size and altered properly.

All of the gowns I tried on were really stunning (I have pretty good taste for a blind lady), and the samples were in good condition. Ultimately, I fell in love with the second dress I tried on there. It was the first dress I tried on that I immediately said I loved, and it just felt so much like “me”. Still, I tried on a few more because, well, I just had to.

Towards the end of my appointment, Rachel squeezed me into the tiny runway sample of the gown I loved because it came in the color I wanted to see. I answered the famous question (“Are you saying yes to the dress?”), and then I got to meet the designer, Lazaro Perez! He was just the same as the times I’d seen him on TV. He very cordially and professionally dealt with my awkwardness. If he minded resting his hand on my sweaty back for a photo, he didn’t let on.

Lazaro and Me (Excuse my hair. I was looking quite like Dev Patel toward the end of Lion by that point.)

I waited for Dorothy, the sales manager, to come take my measurements. Rachel said we might recognize Dorothy from the show, but couldn’t picture her. However, when she came in I immediately knew who she was and my sister and I screamed. Poor Dorothy jokingly asked, “What did I do?” I wiggled out of the sample gown, which, to my delight, Dorothy declared was “not a real size*.” Dorothy very quickly took my measurements so I didn’t have to stand in my underwear longer than necessary. Wow, bless that woman!

Dorothy It's Dorothy! Image courtesy of TLC

I was then whisked off to one of the finance rooms where I paid my deposit and signed many forms promising Kleinfeld my undying devotion and first-born child.

While I was doing that, my sister had her Say Yes to the Dress fan-girl moment. Her favorite consultant, Camille, was out in the front, and Janet was able to chat with her! I was disappointed that I didn’t witness the moment, but happy for my sis. She could have at least gotten a selfie, though!

Mom and Janet My beautiful mother and sister in front of Kleinfeld

Ultimately, I left the store elated with my purchase. However, I did have some “disappointments”.

  • Randy was not there that day. Oh, well. Dude has to have a day off sometime, right?
  • I had already known this from reading a few articles, but you don't get a dedicated pedestal to stand on like it appears on the TV show. At times another bride was using the pedestal in front of the couch where my mom and mother-in-law were sitting, so I had to use another. Rachel was great at steering me to a different spot, though.
  • One of the times when I was steered to another pedestal, there was a random lady sitting there eating a lettuce-and-mayo-heavy sandwich. If she was with there with her family, we had no idea where they were. She sat there chewing and appraising me in a way that was at once hilarious and disconcerting. It makes me wonder if, when I'm older, I can just wander into Kleinfeld, sit down, and enjoy a snack.
  • I never got to put on the robe that was hanging on the door, sit down on one of the dressing room chairs and break down crying like on the show. I was just too quick to try on dresses, and my family wasn't abusive enough. Ah, maybe I'll schedule another appointment and make it happen!

Despite any lettuce-y incidents, I would definitely recommend Kleinfeld for the bride who knows what she wants. I felt that at a couple of the other stores I visited the consultants wanted to put me into their vision of what they thought I should want rather than listen to specifically what I was looking for in a dress. I appreciated Rachel for acting excited about what I wanted to try on rather than trying to impress me by showing she could pull the perfect dress out of nowhere.

The ladies and I had a great time shopping, and it was so special to find the dress of my dreams with them. I can't wait to get my greedy hands on it, walk down the aisle to my other half in it, and dance nonstop in it!

*Hey, I get that women come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes the more zaftig of us appreciate when someone, especially someone in a fancy store, acknowledges that tall, thin runway models are not the norm.