Here’s something you don’t usually see on Say Yes to the Dress: Kleinfeld, the enormous bridal salon that serves as New York’s other ground zero, has a consultant on staff who’s dedicated to working with brides whose religions require some covering up.
Racked talks to Rochel Leah Katz, the “modest bridal consultant” who has been working with Kleinfeld’s more religious brides for the past 16 years. Katz, herself an Orthodox Jew, is well-versed in the rules of modesty and works with brides to find dresses that either adhere to or can be drastically altered to fall in line with religious dress codes.
Usually designers mass produce their dresses, ship them off, and leave it to the bride and her seamstress to make minor design tweaks during the fitting process. But what Kleinfeld’s religious brides are looking for aren’t the sort of customizations that can done be done during your fittings. Adding sleeves or a high neckline to a dress isn’t a small adjustment; it’s a significant change to a dress’s design, the kind that is best made at the outset of the dress’s production. So modest brides require designers who are willing to customize their designs and produce these altered gowns based on individual orders. Moreover, some Jewish engagements are shorter than the usual, meaning that a designer has to be willing to ship off a dress on less than a million months’ notice. These requirements narrow down the field considerably, but Kleinfeld designers like Rivini and Judd Waddell are willing to make extensive alterations to their design. For a price, of course—the modified gowns range from $4,000-$7,000.
How this works: When a Modest Bride™ shows up for her Kleinfeld consultation (likely scheduled months in advance), Katz pulls dresses from designers who are willing to do major customizations. When a bride decides that she’s fallen for a gown that can be modified, Katz and her team do a fitting with muslin to figure out the necessary modifications, then send this makeshift pattern off to the designer for a custom production.
For all the stress a typical bride may feel about buying a pricey dress based on an ill-fitting sample, it’s far more intense for the religious brides who are ordering these custom gowns. It’s one thing to not know how a gown is going to look when it’s actually in your size; it’s quite another to not know how a gown is will turn out when it’s seriously altered with a high neckline and sleeves.
Katz works “extensively” with Hasids in New York and Mormon brides, who come to the tulle temple all the way from Salt Lake City. According to Katz, altering dresses to the Mormon modesty code is an entirely different ball game:
“Mormons have a special undergarment that they wear from the time they’re engaged,” she says. “It’s like a T-shirt or undershirt and can cover the body, depending on the level of the bride’s religion. Sometimes it’s a boatneck full shirt, sometimes it’s a cap-sleeve, and sometimes it’s quarter-sleeve. That garment must always be covered, so brides come here because they need a dress that will allow modifications to cover that garment.”
She adds that Mormon congregations can also be strict about color. “Some temples insist on white,” she continues. “Some don’t allow any silver, so that means no ivory and no beading.
Honestly, it’s great that such a reputable salon is willing to work with brides who have complicated requirements. But...no beading? No corsets, I assume? Oof. What sort of humorless god expects you to fly across the country for the Kleinfeld experience without trying on at least one absurd Pnina Tornai dress?
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