Say Yes to the Sample Dress?

Welcome to the third installment of the adventures of Miss Haute Cocoa (Hot Cocoa's label-loving, bargain-hunting alter ego).  If you've followed our penny-pinching protagonist's adventures thus far, you know that she's looked into direct-from-manufacturer gowns and designer sample sales.  Next, follow our intrepid shopper as she goes into the dark vortex of the wedding industrial complex: Kleinfeld Bridal.

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I know what you're thinking: Miss Haute Cocoa is not the Kleinfeld type.  She could care less about the "Kleinfeld experience" -- the pink silk kimono; the botoxed, black-clad consultants; the fancy mirrors and rococo furnishings.  All she wants is an affordable, well-made gown.  Of course you're right.  That's why she showed up on no ordinary day, but rather for Kleinfeld's monthly sample sale, which her friend had heard about via the Knot.

(Oh dear, writing in third (fourth?) person is giving me a personality disorder.)  Unlike the annual blowout sale that was featured on the TLC show, the monthly sale requires an appointment.  Remember that they will charge you $50 if you fail to show up, so set your alarm clock.  My friend and I had the earliest appointment that day (10 o'clock), and it looked as though 10-15 other brides were there at the same time. Of course, we spent some time in the lobby planning our "Running of the Brides" type strategy: "You kick the redhead in the shin, and I'll take out the blonde."

Ha ha ha.  Snort snort.  No worries -- no brides were harmed in the making of this blog post. But there was definitely some scoping out of the other brides, trying to anticipate their style, and guessing whether I'd have to go all Shaolin master over a discounted Amsale. It turned out that all that strategizing was for naught, since there wasn't anything on the racks I loved. But I am glad we went, since our consultant let me try on some full-priced gowns (even though we technically were restricted to gowns on the sample racks and from the Lazaro trunk show that was going on at the time), and I was able to at least get a sense of what the "Kleinfeld experience" was like in person.

Here's what I learned. First of all, Kleinfeld has a sample sale at the end of almost every month. You can get on their mailing list either by contacting them directly or by subscribing to the NY/NJ/CT version of the Knot.  The stock varies month-to-month -- they basically go through the gowns at the end of each month to see which ones are a bit worse for wear, not selling well, or are being retired by the designer. When we went, there were about four racks of discounted gowns, by a variety of designers, including Amsale, Badgely Mischka, and Romona Keveza.  The gowns were sorted by price and ranged from under $500 to over $3000.  And while Kleinfeld is usually a closed-rack boutique (I made that term up, but you know what I mean), you are welcome to browse through the sample sale racks and pull as many dresses as you'd like to try on.

I also learned that the Kleinfeld consultants take themselves super seriously. They were no joke, and I loved it. I was all set to try on dresses in my strapless bra, when my consultant gave me the "bitch, please" look and pulled the regulation Kleinfeld corset out of her drawer and stuck me in it. (Yes, hundreds of other brides have already put their bare hoohaas in that thing, but it's best not to overthink it.) This is what the corset sort of looked like:
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The consultant then did what I now call the "Kleinfeld maneuver" -- she molded the dress to the corset, such that even someone as mammarily challenged as myself looked awesomely well endowed and fitted in an oversized sample gown. Sexy.

A negative: As they openly flaunt on their show, Kleinfeld is all about the hard sell. My friend found a dress that she sort of liked, and consultant came back minutes later to tell us that another bride had "just called" and was coming in to buy that exact dress at 11 am, so she'd better decide whether she wants it now. Oh, the manufactured pressure! I mean, seriously?! No bride showed up at 11. Or 12 for that matter. My dog lies better than that.

See?  She really does.  Imaginary bridal nemeses aside, as with all sample sales, you do have to go ready to buy.  The gown won't be there the next day.  So if you (like me) are the kind to agonize over the simplest decisions, this is probably not the best venue for you.  Also, all the dresses we saw were standard sample sizes (8 and 10).  It's possible they might have had some cancellations that are in smaller or larger sizes, but we didn't see them.  So if you aren't sample sized, you might find the selection quite limited.  Bottom line: We didn't have any luck that day, but it's worth checking it out if you are in the area and can get an appointment.

In my next post, I review the Bridal Garden, "New York's only non-profit bridal boutique."  In the meantime, tell us about your experience at Kleinfeld or at a similar bridal emporium.  Did you purchase your dress at one of Kleinfeld's sample sales?  Are you a secret fan of "Say Yes to the Dress"?  Do you tremble at the thought of running into Elise, the militant manager, roll your eyes at Claudia, the drama queen, or puzzle over the introduction of Randy, the poor-man's Tim Gunn?

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