Why did Kleinfeld treat me like I was buying a used car, and let me leave the store with nothing but a headache (and, frankly, a hankering for some Valium)?
Buying your wedding dress is, like, the most important decision of your life, second only to committing to your partner, and finding the right combination of hair products. Obviously.
(Cue eye roll.)
Nothing perpetuates this myth more than the TLC
fantasy reality show Say Yes To The Dress. But, from The Hills to The Housewives, we all know reality television isn’t real. Now, from personal experience, I can tell you Say Yes To The Dress isn’t either. The entire experience felt like that of highly-anticipated sex where the guy isn’t just terrible in bed, but actually finishes first.
Simply put, the show is a big fucking lie.
If you aren’t familiar with Say Yes To The Dress, allow me to run you through the premise. It’s about famed New York bridal salon, Kleinfeld. The show is equal parts dress porn and fairytale: Brides come everywhere from New Jersey to Nova Scotia, go to Kleinfeld, and find their dream wedding gown with the help of the store’s Fairy Godmother-esque staff. In the magical world of reality television, these fairy dressmothers listen to your concerns, respect your budget, and even tell your crabby mother-in-law to can it, if need be.
Getting engaged is awesome, not just because you’ve found the love of your life, but also because everyone is nice to you for no reason. From hundreds of Facebook likes to receiving money and gifts from randos (like my father’s first wife), everyone went out of their way to make me feel special. When you plan your wedding, vendors will stop at nothing to kiss your ass and take your money.
So, why did Kleinfeld treat me like I was buying a used car, and let me leave the store with nothing but a headache (and, frankly, a hankering for some Valium)?
While I wasn’t expecting to be treated like Kate Middleton, I was hoping that the experience would be enjoyable and I'd peruse a well-curated selection of gowns. Nope.
Even before my appointment began, I noticed several red flags. Like what, you ask? Oh, just an unattended coat check in the dead of winter (this is a major issue on the East Coast) and a gas station-esque bathroom. (Ew!) Despite showing up on time for my appointment, I waited 20 minutes amongst a gaggle of bridezillas, who collectively had enough estrogen to achieve a spontaneous pregnancy.
At long last, I met with my consultant Trina*, whom I kind of recognized from the show. (She’s too B-list to be a series regular.) I sat down and gave her my criteria and budget. I showed her my favorite dresses from their website. I had one request: No Pnina Tornai (Pnina Tornai is one of the brands heavily featured on the show, and is sold exclusively at Kleinfeld). So, naturally the first dress she showed me was Pnina Tornai.
Though the dress was, admittedly, pretty, it was nearly $3,000 over my budget. Trina offered a small discount if we ordered the dress in the next three weeks. I tried on the dress again.
Upon final inspection, I realized the corset bodice pushed up my breasts so much, I wondered if Kleinfeld could refer us to a defibrillator rental service, should any of our older guests have a heart attack.
Despite looking like a palace on TV, Kleinfeld isn’t large enough for the amount of customers it attracts. If you have never tried on a wedding dress, let me tell you: Those things are ridiculously big and heavy. There aren’t enough mirrors and platforms, so I had to wait in line while the clock was ticking. Would my appointment end before I got a peek at myself?
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Another problem I had with Kleinfeld is that brides can’t look at most of the dresses. The gowns are stored in a mysterious back room amongst, I assume, voodoo dolls and $800 belts. (According to my unscientific research, that’s where 75% of the store’s merchandise is located.) If your consultant won't listen to you, like Trina, there’s a 70-85% chance you will be presented with lots of dresses you won’t even want to try.
Still, like that fifth drink you shouldn't order, I went back to Kleinfeld a second time. (Just slightly better than drunk-texting an ex.) For the most part, I felt like they didn't listen to my requests . . . again. For example, I said to Trina, “no pearls on the bodice.” Trina then brought me a dress featuring pearls on the entire bodice.
I honestly wondered if the previous 10-minute conversation was all in my head.
Trina then proceeded to show me Ian Stuart number (above left), insisting I would absolutely love it. To compare, see (above right) the actual wedding dress I ended up buying. This is what I had described all along. (Again, were these conversations all in my head?)
The final straw came several weeks after my second appointment. I got sucked into a marathon viewing of Say Yes To The Dress. I noticed a bride-to-be being sold the very same Pnina Trina encouraged me to try. The woman was, minimum, one foot taller than me. Though dresses are altered to fit the bride, certain genetically-given proportions do not fly in the same design — there is a huge difference between dresses designed for a person over 6 feet, and person who barely exceeds little-people height (that would be me). I felt disrespected. After this incident (followed by a glass of wine), I spoke to a friend who recently bought a dress at Kleinfeld, but had a different criteria and body type. Guess what? Trina, who was coincidentally her consultant, showed us the same dresses. (I know, I know. You're shocked.)
I feel like reality television tricked me. Kleinfeld isn’t in the business of making women feel good — they’re in the business of selling dresses. It doesn’t matter if the dress isn't what you want — they just want you to sign a credit card receipt in under 1.5 hours. Your consultant doesn’t care how you met your fiancé, or if you’ve chosen your venue. Instead, she will prioritize her bottom line — not how your bottom looks in a mermaid-style number — like the proverbial evil stepmom, not fairy dressmother.
TLC, appealing to the lowest common denominator in us all, has convinced me of many strange things. But when it comes to a wedding dress, you shouldn’t listen to TLC, Trina, or the owners of Kleinfeld.
Listen to your instincts, not a reality show. Remember that this is your dress. You deserve to feel valued while wearing it, and shopping for it.
Time to change the channel.
*Name has been changed.