‘Yes’ to the dress: Wedding gown shoppers flock to NYC

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The saleswoman at Kleinfeld, New York’s bridal gown emporium, offers sage advice.

“A dress is not like a man,” Renee Pinto cautions. “A man, well, you can get used to him. He grows on you. But a wedding dress– you have to love it right away.”

Such instant matches prove hard to find. That’s why a growing trend in going-down-the-aisle fashion is to travel with your posse to purchase your gown. And the prime destination for those packing glittery, ever-after hopes and Manolo heels is Manhattan.

Why? “New York is the fashion capital of the world,” notes Ronnie Rothstein, co-owner of Kleinfeld, among the world’s largest bridal stores. At any one time, its 35,000-square-feet showcase 1,950 different styles from 50-60 designers. Rows upon rows of poufy princess fantasies, A-line lace flowered dresses with billowing trains, tight satin trumpet gowns and sleek Gatsby-era, beaded samples bloom in Kleinfeld’s stockroom.

“In the last four to five years, we’ve seen more and more friends and family from out-of-town travel with the bride to help her buy her dress,” says Rothstein. “We have people who drive from Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Maine, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Every day we have people from Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy. Our three biggest international markets are Canada, Mexico City and Brazil. They make a weekend out of it, booking two to three appointments. “

In between, the betrothed and their best girlfriends and close family take in the Big Apple.

“The brides see this as an excuse to have fun,” says Lindsay Mann, spokesperson, for Mark Ingram Atelier, a Manhattan salon featuring 15 designers in about 3,000-square-feet. “We have a very large international clientele from the Middle East, Australia, South America and South Africa, and clients from Chicago, L.A., Dallas, Atlanta and San Francisco. There are so many great bridal stores in New York, so many different experiences,” says Mann.

Since Gabriella New York Bridal Salon debuted in 2008, the 3,000-square-foot boutique has experienced a 15%-20% increase in international clientele, according to spokesperson Michael Dougherty. Along with New York and U.S. clients, brides come to Gabriella from Europe, Asia and many from Brazil. “They want the New York experience of high-end service and designer gowns,” says Dougherty, who describes Gabriella Salon as having “more of a downtown chic, hip girl’s vibe.”

Part of New York’s cachet, no doubt, comes from Say Yes to the Dress, the number one rated bridal show in the world, broadcast in 60 countries, and filmed at Kleinfeld. Launched Oct. 2007 and entering its 11th season this fall, the series reveals the mini-dramas and many dresses a bride goes through before finding peace with her entourage in the form of a dream dress.

Sample sale and shops

On Oct. 8, from 3-7 p.m., Kleinfeld offers one of its four yearly sample sales. Gowns are marked down as much as 70%, with prices starting at $699. Forget about wearing running shows to grab armfuls of dresses. Line-up before 10 a.m. when Kleinfeld hands out numbers, then return by 2:30 p.m. Kleinfeld allows 40 brides on the floor at once, each choosing three gowns at first. It’s likely you will share a dressing room with another bride, so wear proper underwear.

Kleinfeld’s non-sale dresses, $1,500 – $10,000+, with most in the $2,500-$4,500 range.

Gabriella New York Bridal Salon, dresses from $2,500-$12,000, most in the $3,500-$6,500 range.

Mark Ingram Atelier, dresses $5,000-$20,000, most in the $5,000-$9,000 range.