Here Come the Brides

Kleinfeld Remains Iconic in the Jewish World

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

Published October 31, 2007, issue of November 02, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

At a fashion show at Manhattan’s Kleinfeld Bridal late last month, Israeli designer Pnina Tornai showed off her 2008 collection. Inspired by Edith Piaf’s famous love song “La Vie en Rose” (“Life in Pink”), the white wares featured floral accents on Tornai’s signature corset designs. A bejeweled gown with spaghetti straps and a scalloped hem elicited applause, and a silk pantsuit adorned with ribbons and flowers left some folks oohing and aahing. The packed audience included designers, would-be brides and a smattering of seemingly unlikely attendees: Orthodox Jews. According to a Kleinfeld insider, newly engaged female members of the tribe have long been drawn to the store. But in a city where bridal shops abound, how has Kleinfeld managed to become — and, more importantly, remain — so iconic in the Jewish realm?

SOMETHING NEW: A gown from Israeli designer Pnina Tornai\'s 2008 collection presented at a recent fashion show at Kleinfeld Bridal.
SOMETHING NEW: A gown from Israeli designer Pnina Tornai\'s 2008 collection presented at a recent fashion show at Kleinfeld Bridal.

Simple, co-owner Mara Urshel said. “We are the largest store of this kind in the world. The other stores are mom-and-pop shops, but we are truly a bridal mecca.” The sheer breadth of the locale — it’s 35,000 square feet — surely leads the soon-to-wed to make pilgrimages there, but that’s not all that attracts Jews to this shop.

Urshel, who purchased Kleinfeld in 1999 with a group of investors that included Wayne Rogers (Trapper John on the TV series “MAS*H”), believes that the Jewish community has long been besotted with the store because of its Old World focus on personal attention. “There’s nothing more important than making a bride feel like a princess on her wedding day,” Urshel said.

Kleinfeld even employs a special consultant specifically for the Jewish community. The consultant, Rochel Leah Katz, helps brides choose gowns that can be altered according to their religious needs, including the addition of sleeves and the enhancement of the backs and fronts of dresses to make sure that brides are fully covered. “I work with girls who are religious and therefore need a modest dress,” Katz said. “No strapless allowed.” The majority of Katz’s clients are Orthodox Jews, but she says she has also worked with Mormons and religious Christians in search of gowns with a little more material. And, Urshel added, “Since weddings are often planned so quickly in the [Orthodox] world, our consultant is there to know what the customer needs and work with the vendors on getting everything done as rapidly as possible.”

Kleinfeld, which opened as a fur store in Brooklyn in 1941 and moved to Manhattan in 2005, features more than 1,500 styles of gowns, 28 bridal selection rooms and 17 private fitting rooms. The store is also the subject of TLC’s new reality television show “Say Yes to the Dress,” which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the fraught process of selecting a wedding dress.

“We have a wonderful relationship with the Jewish community,” said Urshel, who professed that Tornai’s designs are particularly popular with Jewish brides (although Katz cautioned that her dresses are sometimes too pricey for Orthodox families with many daughters to marry off). “We can anticipate their needs, and we can fulfill them.”

Leah Hochbaum Rosner is a freelance writer living in New York.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.