I got married 27 years ago, but weddings still enchant me. Preferring to get my fix unfiltered, I skip most reality TV bridal shows, but occasionally catch Say Yes to the Dress. I lived in New York as a single girl, and the story of Kleinfeld, the store at which the television show is set, was legendary, but for different reasons than it is today. Founded in 1941, the original shop was located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. As I heard it, the building was only open to the public on weekends, when the elevator was not in service. The bride, her bridal party, her mother and sometimes grandmother would have to trudge up numerous flights of stairs in search of the perfect dress.
In 2005, Kleinfeld moved to more sumptuous quarters in Manhattan.They hired my old boss, Frank Jedda, to run their new men’s division. Many years ago, Frank and his wife, Stella, owned an elegant and expensive men’s shop called FrankStella. I began working there while studying English at Hunter College. Frank was warm, funny and generous. As a full time student who only worked Fridays and Saturdays, he knew I sometimes fell short of cash by the end of the week.“Ethbay,” (he always called us by nicknames) Frank would quietly ask, “Do you need some money for lunch?”
Stella worked with me every Saturday. She was the older sister I should have had. She was there the day I met my husband–who, I later discovered, walked into the store after seeing me through the shop’s window.
“I want to buy this tie but it has a snag in it,” he told me. Arthur left the store several hundred dollars poorer, carrying a bag of expensive shirts, ties and my phone number. As we watched him cross 56th Street and fold into the crowd, Stella said, “That’s the one you are going to marry.”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “You know I am not getting married.” She was right of course. A year and a half later, we tied the knot.
At 24, I had no idea who I was. But like any good graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, I had a vague sense of what I wanted to look like as a bride.White was good. Anything traditional or bride-like was not. I tried on silk pants with camisoles, beaded evening wear, and classic white suits. I finally decided on a tea length dress from the department store Bonwit Teller. It had a tight bodice, illusion lace sleeves, and a polka dot tiered lace skirt. A pill box hat with a bow and netted veil completed the ensemble.
New York has changed a lot since the lovely August day when Arthur and I were wed. Bonwit Teller closed in 1990. Frank and Stella split, and the store sold. Garvin’s, the Greenwich Village restaurant where we took our vows and celebrated the future, shuttered its doors. But I still have my dress. Festive and chic, it was the perfect outfit in which to start our wonderful marriage.
Beth Herman is an artist, painter and essayist based in Charlottesville. She enjoys running with her husband every morning, home renovations, and oil painting. Visit her website www.bearpainter.com to view her artwork. You can also find stories from Beth in each issue of Bella Magazine. Go pick up your copy today!