My name is Jessica Silvester, and I’m an assistant editor at O, The Oprah Magazine. When I first set out to find my wedding dress, I thought it would be relatively easy. My overall wedding outlook was laid-back and non-bridezilla-like. I love clothes. I love white dresses of every kind —short, long, beachy, fancy, cotton, lace—there’s something so inherently fresh and easy about them. And I’ve never been an indecisive shopper; I can tell the minute I slip something on (often before even looking in a mirror) whether a clothing item has the look and feel I’m going for in that particular moment. If it’s a little off, I move on, and usually succeed at the second or third store.
But I went to about 10 bridal shops in New York—trying on a handful of gowns each time—and the chemistry wasn’t there. I knew I wanted a silhouette that was fluid and ethereal, but also body-conscious; I didn’t want fussy ornamentation (beading, bows), but enough embellishment to offer a subtle glow, and those touches that make a dress even more special upon closer inspection. The gowns by British designer Jenny Packham almost matched my vision, but I also have a big bust, and I ran into trouble with the plunging necklines and low-backs of her designs; I needed something more supportive. As my criteria seemed increasingly unrealistic as a whole, I was ready to surrender some of them.
But the Amsale staff made me feel like it was possible for one wedding gown to incorporate all my dream-details. From the moment I met Emily, it was clear that she was sharp and intuitive, and a great listener. I let out a stream of consciousness as she walked me to various showroom samples, and she picked up on likes and dislikes I didn’t even realize I had. I already felt well taken of when Emily turned me over to Amsale, to work with her personally. It was surreal. I was simultaneously star-struck and reassured that my dress quest would have a happy ending.
Throughout the custom-design process, I gained a first-hand appreciation of Amsale’s expert eye. She translated some of my gown ideas exactly; others (perhaps when I was getting a bit too fixated on trends and “edginess”), she guided me in a slightly different direction, towards a finished product I would still love decades down the road. In the end, I felt so alive in her creation, like the best of myself—and I guess that’s all I ever really wanted.
Goldilocks and the 3 Brands
There are so many ways in which to look like a bride, it’s no wonder the modern bride is bewildered by the world of choices before her. But how to feel like a bride is such a strange and personal thing. For some, the quintessential bridal moment comes when the veil is added to the picture. Even if it already feels like the dress, the addition of the veil places the bride in the moment of getting married– in that moment where she stands before her witnesses to recite her vows. Powerful stuff. But what if, no matter what you tried on, you could not conjure up that picture? What if no dress was able to bring out the “you” that you wanted to be on your wedding day? Whether it’s a question of physical discomfort in a gown, a “costumey” feel that many dresses might give off, or a deeper seated issue relating to the engagement itself, the fear is a real one. Most of the time it just takes a little soul searching and the right gown designer–someone who gets your style or reflects your sensibilities. Sometimes it might take a little more…
Jessica was one of those brides. Anywhere she went, she could essentially eliminate 95% of the collection with her fabric preference alone, never mind the style. What she truly wanted was a floaty, ethereal chiffon sheath with a bit of Grecian flair. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet such a look can be difficult to achieve without losing its bridal feeling. The gown she was seeking was somewhere between the most gossamer of Christos looks and the purer executions of the Amsale aesthetic.
Jessica is a fashion editor at O Magazine. This fact did not make her need an over-the-top wedding look. If anything, Jessica had a motivation for her look that came from somewhere else entirely–her mother. And lest you get the wrong idea, not an overbearing mother, but a mother who had passed away some 5 years before. Jessica was very stuck on having a gown of perfect softness because such were the visions she and her mother shared when they talked about what her wedding someday would be like. Without her mother to sift through the different gown possibilities with her, it became even more important for her to stick close to what they had talked about all those years before. Keeping these memories alive as she planned the wedding that her mother didn’t live to see was the driving force of Jessica’s vision for a gown.
Luckily, she was not all alone in this quest. Jessica’s boss, Gayle King, knew of Jessica’s story, and made it a point to be present for the important parts of her bridal journey. A little bit mother, friend, and adviser wrapped into one, Gayle championed Jessica’s cause and helped her over the rough patches. It makes all the difference in the world to have someone on your side.
You’ve Got to be Kidding Me
Once Emily took control of the appointment, she expertly recognized, with a minimum amount of time spent in the wrong looks, what was needed to create the right look. Unfortunately, the pattern for that dress did not exist. Enter Amsale’s full custom program. For the bride who is not overly concerned with budget but supremely concerned with style, the custom program allows you to fully discuss your vision which is then translated by the design team into sketches and ultimately, into your dream dress. It’s a wonderful opportunity to turn the design of your bespoke bridal gown into a collaborative one, replete with the luxury of a full couture experience. Of course it probably doesn’t take a bridal world insider to guess that 6 weeks is a very short time frame to get such a gown. You may, however, have noticed that Emily Leu has a special working relationship with Amsale and if anyone can get this dress made, my money would be on her. Still, Jessica is so specific in her vision, I hope she can get with the (custom) program! [Did you do anything to “customize” your wedding gown? Was it difficult to figure out your bridal look? Was there a bridal “vision” that you had been carrying around with you?]
[picture of Gayle and Jessica?]
With a resounding Ewww! Lauren has expressed the degree to which she wants no part of the Sample Sale. Thank goodness cooler heads prevail. Otherwise nothing would get done. Sample Sale is happening, whether the consultants like it or not. This year Samantha has decided to make it her baby, so we are all awaiting her instruction. Some of her great ideas: having the sale off site somewhere in the garment district rather than having it at the flagship salon, organizing the gowns a lot better than the usual sample sale to make shopping easier for brides thereby (hopefully) unloading more merchandise, as well as encouraging price negotiations. One not so hot idea: Having Lauren help select dresses to go to sample sale. (quote–why don’t we just throw these away?) Luckily, event planning is Sam’s forte. She knows how to call in a favor and assemble a good team. She already has a clear vision for how she wants the event to play out, and knows how to execute it. She also knows that having the right kind of advertisement for the event is critical too. We don’t exactly need a mob scene, but wouldn’t mind a little healthy competition between brides over our dresses. Now we just need to make sure the right dresses are there…
Lauren is not afraid of physical labor, but the task at hand has to make sense to her. Sifting through old ballgowns in a musty warehouse does not make sense to her. Still, by sorting through the gowns now, a lot of energy will be saved later–especially the night before the sale when we have to merchandise the space and optimize our outside help so that the following day goes smoothly. Prepping for a sample sale is old hat to Emily, and so it fell to her to train Lauren, the newbie. In the end, Emily’s “this is how you prepare for a sample sale” training fell on deaf ears, but the “I’m so glad I don’t have to work sample sale” results were heard loud and clear from Lauren for the rest of the week.
I kind of like sample sale myself. It’s fun to see our discontinued gowns make their last hurrah, remembering what I liked about them (and what I didn’t). My favorite part is working with runway exclusives. These are dresses that were cut from the collection after their original runway showing for one reason or another–and because they were never produced, they are true one-of-a-kinds. I love finding the brides who not only pull these looks off, but fit the tiny runway sample sizes. But, since we are not having it at the flagship salon, our contribution to Sample Sale will be preparation the night before and we will just have to trust that Sam’s good planning will pay off.
Dear Renee or Brits and the Art of Deflection
Every bride is a bit nervous about the delivery of her gown.
We have never NOT delivered a gown, but sometimes there is a harried, frenzied, slew of activity behind the scenes to get the gown ready on time. Sometimes delays occur because it is flooding in India where some of the beading is done. Other bizarre reasons that this can happen are incorrectly ordered colors or sizes, fabric shortages, mismatched dye lots, etc. That such delays inevitably happen to the bride who has been nervously calling and e-mailing to follow up on her gown from the moment she’s ordered it is a maddening fact of life for us at the salon.
Customer service requires a unique skill set. The Amsale girls all have these skills in spades…Exactly what you’d expect in a business where the client base is comprised of brides-to-be and their mothers! One particularly useful talent for which Debbye Walker, our fearless manager, might take the prize is what I like to call the art of deflection.
Renee is a bride who purchased at the very end of October. It was a bit of a rush order to begin with, and because Renee lives overseas, she was extra vigilant about tracking the progress of her gown. All was well until we were informed that the factory which supplied the fabric for Renee’s gown was behind in production and could not deliver what we needed in the time frame we had promised. Of course, we needed to shield the bride from this potential stress while we worked to correct the situation, and as Debbye’s bride, it was up to Debbye….
How are you? Hope you are still glowing as you were when you left the salon.
I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was for me to help you find your dress.
It was as fun and as great an experience for me as it was for you.
Best Wishes and see you in January!
Phone conversation 12/09/10
Renee: Hi Debbye, I just wanted to check on the status of my dress. After the new year I wanted to book a flight to come to NY for my first fitting.
Debbye: Renee! How are you? I was thinking about you the other day. I saw a gorgeous pair of shoes at Barney’s that would be perfect for your dress!
Renee: That’s so sweet! I’m still not sure what I want in the way of shoes. But I can’t wait to try my dress on!
When do you think it will be in? Shall I come in January?
Debbye: Speaking of January, do you have any special plans for New Year’s? I was thinking about going to Vegas or somewhere I’ve never been. I may just stay in the city though. I’m sure your gown will be perfect when it comes in! Don’t forget to look for shoes! Talk to you soon, Renee!
I just wanted to check in on the status of my dress. I’m very much looking forward to the first fitting.
I’m still searching for shoes, and I would like to see some veils when I come in for my first fitting, unless you think that’s too late to get a veil. When do you expect the gown to come in?
I called production and they say your gown is still on schedule. You might want to do some veil research ahead of time, so that we can be sure to be able to get it delivered in time…By the way, what color did you decide for your bridesmaids gowns?
I hope this email finds you well! Just checking in with you. As January is coming to a close, I wondered if you had any news, and if it would be possible to send a small swatch of the fabric to my address? I am going out of town next weekend, but I am hoping to hear some news soon!
So happy to hear from you. I will pick up a swatch of the fabric tomorrow from production and send it to you. I absolutely love the color of the fabric! So perfect on you! Where are you going next weekend? Hope it proves to be a lovely holiday for you! Samantha will contact you in the near future to schedule your fittings.
Flying out on the 21st of March. No status on the dress? It has not arrived yet I guess…I was wondering of it has been completed?
I am going away for the weekend this Friday…which leads us into Feb.
I want to have time to schedule all necessary fittings, and I think we will be fine—I just hadn’t heard word yet.
Aside from this—will wait for the swatch. I am finalizing shoes to bring to my fit. Thanks, Debbye.
I’ve just spoken to production again. Your dress is completed, but is in Quality Control. No worries – you will have plenty of time for your fittings! Samantha will arrange them with you when you return from weekend’s holiday.
Phone Conversation 2/5/11
Debbye: Hi Renee, I have some wonderful news! Your gown has passed quality control and is ready to fit!
Renee: That’s wonderful news! I had a flight booked for next weekend to do all of my fittings. Will that be enough time?
Footnote: This is my cheeky rendering of the events that occurred. For almost 3 weeks in January, Debbye followed up every day with Production to track the status of this gown. That she was able to do it with charm and minimal stress to the bride seems miraculous to us. Renee’s fittings were executed perfectly and she was very happy to take the gown with her at last. The lasting legacy of this episode is that a creative deflection is now known as a Dear Renee.
Everyone’s got a backstory, but some brides have stories that are really moving and make us just a bit more grateful for what we have. Amy and her fiance found themselves unexpectedly pregnant, which made them decide to delay their wedding plans. Life throws a curve ball sometimes, but that wasn’t even the curve ball part. The pregnancy turned out to be twins who were born 4 months premature.
Amy and her fiancé went from planning their dream wedding to living at the Intensive Care Unit in the blink of an eye, and it wasn’t until now, with the twins just about a year old (minus that extra 4 months) that Amy finally got to take a deep breath and relax enough to let herself think about being a bride. I think Amy received a gift of rare perspective…I doubt she will get flustered by the minutiae of the wedding as she looks forward to marrying the father of her children and joining together her miraculous little family.
Seeing Amy pampered and feeling beautiful in her fitting, made possible through Roula’s expert attention and Debbye’s babysitting, was a joy to behold. Having rambunctious babies take over a bridal fitting is not the kind of thing that happens every day at the Amsale salon, but it was kinda fun, especially since we didn’t have to babysit! Debbye valiantly took over childcare while Roula attended to the more delicate aspects of Amy’s gown fitting. And yes, she even had to clean up some baby spit-up! Made me wonder what Debbye was like as a young mother… Now that me, Emily, and Kori are somewhat newly wedded– a little over 2 years for me, one and a half for Kori, and 6 months for Emmy-Leu, the next question on everyone’s mind is when we’re all going to have babies…Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted. In some weird way it might be fun if we were all expecting at the same time, but most likely a nightmare for Debbye trying to run a bridal salon!
It’s been a long hard road for Amy, but we’re very excited about her big day!
Here’s a random factoid: Amsale is very big in Korea. Maybe not as big as David Hasselhoff in Germany, but for reasons not entirely clear to us, she’s a rock star in the Korean bridal world. Amsale has been touted the epitome of chic and regularly gets mentioned in the Korean press, having outfitted celebrity after celebrity for their weddings.
So there’s already a lot going on this week at the salon, but topping it off is the arrival of a Korean film crew that needs to be accommodated. The crew is here specifically to cover Amsale and her flagship salon, so it needs to be immaculate and we need to be on our best behavior. Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start– beginning with Amsale’s arrival at the salon. It was a Tuesday, and that means van day–the day when dresses pinned during fittings go back to the design studio to be worked on, dresses that have been requested for bridal appointments, new samples, and dresses that are newly ready for fittings come back from the design studio.
A necessary, but unglamorous aspect of the job, dresses that are bagged up in plastic and hanging on industrial racks await transport in the gallery of the salon… in other words, a perfect time for Amsale to stop by. (Yikes!)
We try not to let brides see the metaphorical “seams” of our operation, as we want to keep things posh and dreamy for our brides, but no one demands that we keep the dream alive more than Amsale. It’s what she’s worked to create and it’s how she lives. There is a mandate for pristine beauty in all of her surroundings, and getting caught with “our pants down” can be… traumatic. Even though Amsale understands what needs to happen to keep her company and her salon functioning, she doesn’t really want to see the “seams” either. She was decidedly not amused by the rack of plastic bagged dresses staring back at her when she entered the salon. We had about 20 seconds to make everything right but failing to impress Amsale left a dark cloud over the morning… But, the show must go on, and so it did. The Korean crew got the footage they wanted, and we managed to get the dreaded plastic garment bags off the floor….
Meanwhile, the marathon is getting ever closer. Emily is training with great focus, and enjoying the side effects of a leaner figure, but not so much the bum knee. Like a special delivery from a higher power, Emily’s next bride is a seasoned marathoner with a lot of pointers and inspiration.
Gianine began running as a way to deal with the passing of her father. Although Emily is not running for the same type of cathartic reasons, she is trying to prove some things to herself, and is seeking out some interesting challenges. Never complacent, and never showy, Emily keeps up a strong, energetic front at work in spite of the rigorous training schedule. It’s almost inspiring enough to make me and Lauren want to do it too…. Almost.
But seriously–it was a good thing that marathon bride happened to be working with Emily because although we Amsale girls can offer advice on just about anything, marathoners we ain’t. All we can do is gawk from the sidelines and cheer her on. And even without a community of runners to give her support, Emily keeps up the faith. In most things, her steadfast, well-mannered Midwest upbringing doesn’t allow her fears or concerns to bubble up to the surface too much, and with this challenge it is no different. Still, my guess is that encountering a marathon veteran who was enthusiastic about sharing her experiences with a novice was a nice power boost.
Yes, Emily finished the marathon. Did anyone doubt she would? But the emotional road to the finish line wasn’t easy.
Can I Back it up in THIS?
Kiesha Jackson may have been the Tasmanian Devil of brides. Lovable, but a tsunami of emotion, diva posturing, real sweetness and flat out craziness. Her story itself is moving–a military girl with a twenty-year career in the armed forces who was left a single mother after her husband died. Her son now grown, serendipitous forces brought her back together with someone she dated 23 years ago! With that kind of history, it wasn’t long before things were rekindled and a proposal was not far behind. Keisha, now engaged to her childhood sweetheart is giddy with this second chance for love, and is pulling out all the stops for wedding number 2. In the show I mentioned that brides sometimes show up in professional makeup and hair for an appointment, What I didn’t mention is that 95% of the time, this is for their first fitting, when they are 2 months away from their wedding and are testing out some looks for the big day. What we really don’t see is a diva walk in with her stylist Bingo in tow, to spend the first half of her appointment getting her hair and makeup done before a single dress is even tried on! Have I mentioned that appointments are an hour long? Not sure if things like that happen at other salons, but it was a first for me. [Did you do anything special to prepare for your bridal shopping appointment? Anything diva-like?]
After Kiesha’s beautification by Bingo, the entourage was eager to get the show on the road, and I was eager to see if our gowns would be enough for what she had in mind. Kiesha was an occasionally self-conscious diva, worrying about various parts of her figure as we picked out dresses. I had some ideas of my own about what would work for her, and I was hoping she would be open-minded enough to let me try them on her. In my opinion Kiesha actually pulled off some of the more fitted looks, but I could tell from her reactions that what she truly wanted was a dress that made her feel like a queen. When I cinched her into Caterina, Kiesha felt like she had the perfect shape, and the full skirt gave her the grandeur that she had been craving.
Breathless with excitement, the bride turned this way and that in the mirror, as her stylist, her family and her consultant (that’s me), admired what we were seeing. It was a perfect fusion of gown and personality. Some moments later, a very serious Kiesha turns to me:
Kiesha: “Linda, can I ask you a question?”
Me: “Of course”
Kiesha: “Can I back it up in this?” With bawdy, booty bumping motion and thunderous laughter from the entourage.
I really can’t wait to see how this wedding turns out, because this appointment was a par-tay!
The Most Fun Job in the World
Some people ask–the same people that think our job must be the most fun in the entire world–whether all we do is try dresses on in our spare time. What do YOU think? Of course we try dresses on! Not that often though. Like, not every day. Kori is the newest to the world of bridal and therefore still the most excited about trying things on. Oh, and she generally fits the sample sizes really well. Kind of hate her for that. But it’s funny how each one of us will gravitate towards a specific dress, and rush to try it on when it finally comes in.
Emily and I have a tradition of doing the “Robot” when we get into dresses. Trying to make it a trend among the newer girls, but Lauren’s not quite game. Shock!
The new Kenneth Pool collection is pretty damn gorgeous! Anastasia had been declared Lauren’s dream dress when we first saw the runway show, and being the over- the- top sparkle fest/flower explosion that it was…it was perfect on her. Emily rocked the sexy Rochelle while Samantha looked regal in Naya. The highly anticipated Estelle did not disappoint…even I tried it on and had a tearless, silent cry.
My name is Eboni Marshall Turman, Phd. I am 30 years old and I currently serve as the Assistant Minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
The search for the perfect dress began the moment I said, “I do.” I knew that the time between my then-fiance’s proposal and our wedding day would be one of the most special times in my life. I had to find the perfect dress…but I had no idea where to start, especially given the breadth of bridal salons in New York City that are advertised ad nauseum in just about every bridal magazine you can find. After griping about the huge task set before me to my then husband-to-be, he simply said, “Why don’t you go to Amsale? You know she’s the best!” After consulting with some friends and friends-of-friends (just to make sure that my husband-to-be was right and actually did know what he was talking about), I knew that my search would have to begin at Amsale. My husband’s assistant actually scheduled my first appointment with Amsale while I rounded up my mother and my closest friends (the dress entourage!) to come with me for this soooo-important occasion.
I have to admit that when I walked into Amsale I was overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of the dresses that lined the walls of the boutique. The diverse staff was extremely warm and friendly. The boutique itself was was quiet, remarkably clean, and of a mangeable size. Linda smiled warmly at me, made a quick, yet precise mental note, and then encouraged me to feel free to try on whatever I liked and so I quickly began to pull dresses one after the other and take them into the fitting room. As I prepared to start trying everything on, Linda walked in and simply said, “Here, try this one first.” It was a dress that I hadnt seen hanging up and probably would have never pulled for myself. But I decided to give it a shot. I put the dress on and walked out into the sitting area where my “dress entourage” was waiting for me. When they saw me, they were all speechless…until finally my maid of honor, Joyce, said, “That’s the one!”
I must admit that I knew it was “the one” instantly too! It had me written all over it: “The Fashionista.” A strapless, mermaid cut gown…white tulle, elegant fit. It was perfect! But I could not understand how Linda could find “the perfect dress” for me with just one glance. I have heard nightmare stories about brides trying on hundreds of dresses to find “the one” and the first dress I tried on at Amsale (that I did not even pick out, but that was picked for me by Linda) was the one! Unbelievable!!! I was in total disbelief and thought that there is no way that I could be this lucky (or maybe that the ladies at Amsale are just that good?)!!!
I must admit that I felt like I had to try on more dresses, just because that’s what a bride is supposed to do, right? But after trying on a few more Amsale gowns and making my way to another bridal salon (that I should never have wasted my time with), I knew that no matter how many more gowns I tried on and no matter how many more bridal salons I visited, my perfect dress, the wedding gown I had always dreamed of, was the very first dress that I tried on at Amsale. Thanks Linda, you are a gem!
I’m Lorraine Cerami, I am 29 years old and I’ll be getting married next October to Mr. Derek Wile, otherwise known as the greatest guy ever. Our ceremony and reception will take place at the beautiful Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park New Jersey. My mixed feelings about the state aside, the area is spectacular and the 1920s vibe is my inspiration for the entire event.
Shopping for my dress was the very first wedding related task I tackled. Hello? It’s the most important retail experience of a girl’s life. A normally highly skilled online shopper, I struck out at Vera. While flipping through my vast new collection of bridal mags, each time I came across an awesome dress it was an Amsale. So I made an appointment. Keep in mind I had not even set my date at this point.
I came to my appointment with a list of demands. No mermaids, no trumpets, no lace, etc. etc. Emily was so sweet and seemed to appreciate my strong opinions and style sense. My budget in place at around $5k narrowed the field as well, and we pulled 6 or so dresses to try on. I know every bride says she put on “the One,” cue tears, etc. This was not the case for me…I died for three of them. THREE! All very different, but all totally gorge. My mom and sisters couldn’t decide either, so we left empty handed.
I had several dreams about the “Callista.” Then I found myself stalking the dress on the Amsale site. STALK-ING. To the point where it was the background image on my iPhone. So, I booked my follow-up appointment to visit her. Mom, sister, and sister-in-laws in tow I entertained the new spring line and threw on a few. Eh. And then I slipped myself into my lil’ lady. (Or more like shoved, sample sizes are a stretch for anyone who eats an occasional sandwich.) She was glorious! The former ballerina in me was in love. Emily helped me add a little extra dazzle with a crystal belt and that was that. Wrap it up! Champers all around!
I’m no wallflower, so filming for this series was a delight. My fiancé’s (questionable) obsession with WE was my only hindrance, as I was concerned he would catch a glimpse of me in my dress pre-big day. We’ll have to keep him on a strict ESPN diet when my episode airs. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it, and it’s more than likely that I host a viewing party. I’ll certainly appreciate that a very important part of my wedding process will be captured forever on film. That is, if I don’t look like a total weirdo.
Amsale took over the Christos collection with the blessing of the man who shares it’s name, Christos Yiannakou.
Brides who come to the salon to shop for their gowns seldom understand the connection between Amsale and Christos. As her mentor, Christos, who enjoyed a long and fruitful career, had to essentially trust Amsale with his name. And Amsale, ever the perfectionist, does not take this bequest lightly. Of course she is honored that she has his blessing to attach her name to Christos, but there is a lot about the relationship between the brands that makes her nervous, too. For instance, like any collection, it has to evolve. Fashion is never at a standstill, and never less so in these fast moving times of ours. How to keep the collection moving forward while keeping the original spirit alive? The Amsale collection is a bit more effortless for Amsale (maybe yes, maybe no–it is her namesake collection, after all!) but the pressure for her to produce the Christos line must be immense. Still, Christos himself is always invited to the show, so at some point Amsale must trust that she will make good in the eyes of her former mentor.
Christos was not disappointed. Initially silent (moved, perhaps?) Christos came to Amsale backstage and raved about her use of fabrics, texture, and dimensions of the gowns. Not overly gushy, but I suspect it was quite the accolade for Amsale.
I remember the first time I worked as a dresser for an Amsale show–It was so exciting! At first I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t relax and watch from the seats, but it ended up being much more fulfilling to be part of the backstage flurry. The first time you’re enlisted to help with the show, it’s adrenaline city, down to your impossibly fumbly fingertips, as you wonder whether you will be able to undress and redress the model in time for her run of show. And of course, Like Kori, you get the “complicated” dresses with fancy snaps, bows, and ties. Or your model’s change of shoes disappears. It’s high drama, baby, but the results are totally worth it!
Out of the Shadow
Kori had a challenging few weeks taking in as much as possible while shadowing us in appointments and getting to know 39th Street and what goes into producing the new line. Now she finally has the chance to relax a bit and work with someone she knows well—Melissa, the cousin of Kori’s husband is at the salon to shop for a bridal gown. Lauren takes the appointment and an out-of-uniform Kori joins them. Little by little, as they get closer to the look Melissa wants, Kori starts offering up more and more information about the dresses. Melissa really didn’t know what she wanted going in, but between Lauren ‘s expertise and Kori’s prompting, we’re approaching our final destination. Finally, Kori pulls a gown off the rack and asks Melissa to humor her and try it on. Perhaps you can guess what happens next? It turns out to be “the dress!” The “Cagney”, with it’s beautiful metallic jacquard fabric and classic cut was perfect, and never would have been tried on were it not for Kori! It seems that all that shadowing of appointments was not in vain! It feels like Kori’s really learning the ropes!
Sam’s job at Amsale is manyfold. She is officially the Operations Manager, but that title encompasses many things which are not traditionally a part of operations. She is a pinch hitter for bridal appointments on busy days or when there are unexpected walk-ins, and is fitting manager and merchandise manager as well. I have a particular appreciation for her other role–as drinks coordinator for the Amsale Girls, as her taste in the finer things is unparalleled. She always seems to know where the best happy hour is to be had, and who has the best wine selection. With an uncanny knack for finding deals and always having a coupon on hand to take advantage of those deals, Sam is a mixed bag of extravagance and practicality. She is often the voice of reason when things get stirred up at the salon, and is the steadfast Sancho Panza to Debbye’s whimsical Don Quixote. When Debbye volunteers Kori to work at 39th Street for market on an especially busy weekend at the salon, guess who is the one that picks up the slack? Debbye herself gets to leave the salon that weekend and watch the shows as a “buyer” of the new collection. Sam will have to be the concierge that weekend and deal with whatever else comes up. There is no other backup.
Luckily there’s a lot of love between them, and Debbye will always be forgiven for putting more on Sam’s capable shoulders. Hopefully Debbye knows what she has in Sam, and while she is off getting the glory, she is thanking Sam for taking care of the guts of the business. A “thank you” is always appreciated…
As the concierge of a high end salon in NY, Kori gets many requests/demands for water. We want nothing more than to give stellar service, but as we all know, there are times when the way it’s asked for makes us cringe. Kori took a step down from where she was sitting pretty in her previous career so that she could get her foot in the door to her new career in bridal. Nowhere is this point driven home more than when she is made to “fetch” water for clients. Not as bad as being an intern, but–you get the point. She really is more than a receptionist…. She’s about to make a much bigger mark on the company this week, though. Thanks to Debbye, Kori’s services have been volunteered to Amsale and the design team to help them get the new collection ready for Bridal Market. This opportunity would definitely fall into the double-edged sword category. It offers Kori the chance to get face time with Amsale and make a name for herself within the company, but the close proximity also makes it easier for the powers-that-be to notice when you screw-up…
It’s a way to move up, but it’s a trial by fire.
As she embarked upon her worthy campaign, Kori was given some advice: Don’t offer too much commentary.
Panties, She Said
Among the first things that Kori gets to witness are the model castings for the runway show. It’s very important to Amsale and most other designers that the model exude the right spirit for the garment she is wearing, and that she show it off to optimal effect. It’s an interesting lesson watching the castings because it’s so much more than just making sure a dress fits and that the model be able to walk in it. Some dresses simply work better with certain faces than others, and some models know how to “sell it” more than others.
Kori was in awe when she got the equivalent of a backstage pass to the show. She could barely contain herself with her softly uttered oohs and ahs. All was well as Amsale and Debi Jones, her right hand designer, concentrated on finding the models that would breathe life into their inspirations… until the P-word came up.
At some point, one of the models was walking in a gown that was inadvertently much too sheer…Sheer enough to completely see the model’s underwear. Once Kori got on that track she kept whispering about it to the design intern until she realized that Amsale overheard her. And then the room became eerily silent. Kori immediately went into turtle mode, shrinking inward and clamping her mouth shut as if to stop the word panties from leaking out again. More silence. Relief finally came when Amsale looked closely at the model and noticed the same thing. Once Amsale herself said it, everyone relaxed and talked about how they noticed it as well. It’s good to be queen, I guess. And methinks Kori learned how to rein in the comments.
Hi, my name is Tiffany Hoffman and I’m 33 from Seattle, WA. I knew right from the beginning of my engagement that finding my dress would be the hardest part of planning my wedding. I got engaged in August and my fiancé planned a surprise engagement that involved my entire office. That same weekend my mom and Grandma came to visit and we went dress shopping. I knew that I wanted something that felt a little boho, a little vintage, and would work on the beach. I had tried on a Jim Hjelm that I liked but couldn’t commit to so I continued to look. A month later I went shopping again and after 4 stores and about 30 dresses I came out empty handed again. I had a vision and I knew I would find it somewhere. I started pouring through blogs and websites and stumbled upon Christos. Went I went to the website I saw that it was a line carried by Amsale. The dress I was dying over was only carried in the NY boutique so I made an appt for my next trip to NY. A few days before I was leaving for NY, I got a call about “Amsale Girls” being filmed during my appointment and I started screaming as soon as I hung up! I was so excited! As soon as I walked in to Amsale I knew that I was going to find my dress. My best friend and bridesmaid Raelinn was with me and when I found out that Amsale herself was there I was overwhelmed with excitement! I tried on the dress that I was dying over and it didn’t end up being the right compliment to my figure but there was a ball gown version that my sales person Lauren brought to me and I loved it… but she threw me for a loop with another gorgeous dress. I was down to two dresses and needed to make a decision. I went into the dressing room, looked at myself in the mirror and said outloud “this is your wedding dress”. And that was it!
My dress has set the tone for my beach wedding in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is done in a polka dot tulle which I incorporated into my programs, cake, and invitations. My fiancé Joe and I are getting married June 24th in an Oceanside ceremony followed by a backyard poolside reception. We are so excited to have all of our friends and family there to celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives. I am equally excited that I will feel so special in my gown as we begin that journey.
I moved to NY when I landed a dream job at Vera Wang. It was a fantastic learning experience but fast forward 3 years, and it felt like I was spinning my wheels. An evil manager was making life miserable, a relationship was ending, I felt stuck between bridal and ready to wear, and had become frustrated with life in NY. I felt like I had proven to myself that I could make it in NY –I had been there 3 years– but didn’t know what should happen next… move overseas, maybe? But then I met someone new–at a pub Trivia night at the Matchless Bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Kyle and I geeked it up together, first as friends then gradually progressing to more. We sweetly refer to ourselves as a “bar success story” since statistically speaking, our relationship shouldn’t have worked out. Soon after, I did a little soul-searching in Japan and returned to begin a new job at Amsale. It turned out to be a major turning point in my life. Kyle and I got married in September of 2008. I dare you to guess what my wedding gown looked like… (Hint–it was a Kenneth Pool, but an atypical one.) Things were humming along with life’s usual ups and downs but to our newly-wedded selves, these were the salad days. I couldn’t believe that marriage was so fun. Was I surprised? Definitely! Guess I wasn’t meant to be a career bachelorette after all. And although I didn’t know what the future looked like, at least I knew who I would be spending it with. And the best part? Now that we’d joined forces, all of the dreams that we had abandoned or neglected began to feel possible. We brainstormed weekly, thinking about where we should open up a coffee shop/art gallery, take tango lessons, open a bar, write a novel… until everything we were working towards came to a screeching halt when my husband Kyle lost his job. I have to confess, it’s much easier to write about my co-workers than about myself. I could probably write a long-winded novel about my life, but it probably won’t make it into your book club any time soon, and it certainly wouldn’t tell you anything about how to pick the perfect wedding gown. Thank you, Emily Leu, for swooping in and giving your two cents about what I’m like at work. I’m probably not that cool, but Emily’s known me for a while now so here it is…
Meet Linda — the Emily Version
Linda notices everything but says nothing. She can size you up in a matter of minutes and is usually spot on in her assessment of people but accepts everyone with a complete lack of judgment. She knows that good or bad, everyone has their moments and she is truly fascinated by what makes people tick.
In the salon, Linda is our calm, grounding voice of reason. She has become a sounding board for us girls and whenever anyone has a problem she usually finds herself the chosen shoulder to lean on. Partially because she has a knack for offering up a morsel of wisdom in just a few words that changes your perspective and literally makes any situation seem clear. Mostly, however, it’s because Linda will always be on your side, no matter what. Talking to her makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad.
Similarly, Linda exudes the same quiet strength in the workplace. She is the most diligent worker in the salon. Never one to let her reports or paperwork slip, always the first to tackle a project or initiative. Linda does her absolute best and gives 200% and holds out hope that one day she will be recognized for it. If not, she doesn’t sweat it. She wants to do the best job she can for the good of the salon, not for the praise. This is in stark contrast to both Lauren and myself. Both of us have a tendency to do one thing right and run down the hall screaming “Look what I did!!!”
Linda does have her fun stirring the pot though. Intentionally protective of herself and her emotions, she lets information out in a slow leak once you really get to know her. For example, when we first started working together, I asked Linda how old she was. I was really (I mean REALLY) more curious than anything. Mostly because Linda has the demeanor of someone who has been seasoned by years of experience but looks like a hot Asian trophy wife. She intentionally kept this from me ONLY because she knew I wanted to know. It was literally years before she would tell me how old she was. She really gets her jollies off of keeping people on their toes. Its part of what makes her so interesting – you’ll never get bored being friends with Linda because she’ll figure out exactly what you want and then skirt around it forever. Just kidding. Sort of. Linda will take it from here…
The Mall to Madison Avenue
Now where were we? Right. Unemployment. Losing a job is hard no matter where you are, but in NY, the fall can come much harder and faster.
That 6 month safety net that you’re supposed to have gets spent much faster in a place like NY where the rents are easily over two thousand dollars. With very little preparation, we found ourselves a single income home. I knew that I had to step it up, and at no other time was I more grateful to have the job that I had, and more frightened by it. I was a luxury salesperson working on commission in post recession NYC.
I never considered myself a salesperson until maybe 2 years ago, when I finally embraced what I did for a living. Never mind that I’ve been doing it for 14 years. I grew up with the same suspicion about people who try to “help” when you’re shopping, as no doubt many customers regarded me all those years throughout my meandering retail career. But 2 things really changed the way I felt. One–and it’s a big one–was getting married myself and going through the process of hunting down a gown.
By the end of it all, it quietly dawned on me what the true significance of the gown is and should be… Sure it varies from bride to bride, but at the end of the day it should be something that you feel psychologically comfortable and beautiful in– something in which you feel ravishing but that doesn’t feel like a costume. It should feel like mutual recognition when you find that dress (you know, if dresses had feelings). It’s that dress by which your beloved recognizes the woman walking towards him down the aisle. The one that makes mom and dad misty eyed because their little girl is leaving them. Or,,, it’s the gown that you just inexplicably love. You, and no one else, has to live with the dress decision, so make it count!
When the millions of photos from your wedding come back to you (yes, millions!) if you loved your gown, you will like what you see. If you didn’t love your wedding gown or were uncomfortable in it, your pictures will be a painful or annoying reminder of this for months, even years to come. Who needs that?
When I thought about what I sell and how I sell it, I realized that I felt really good about it. I wasn’t just selling an article of clothing, but a powerful symbol of matrimony and dream fulfillment. Not too shabby.
I presume a lot when I get to know a bride, but I make the most of every interaction. I try to listen, with all the attention of a rapt lover, to everything the bride is saying and to what she’s not saying. I listen for secret wishes, contradictions, frustrations, insecurities–whatever the bride gives me. I then try to find that dress that feels just right. And if we don’t have that dress here, I will point you in the right direction. Thinking back on it, I kind of wish there had been a me to sell me a wedding gown when I was searching… (Ha!) Sounds strange, perhaps, but since I didn’t have my mom and sisters with me, a clone sounds oddly comforting. I’m sure I would have been gentle…
The second thing that made me embrace selling was watching people who were proud of their work as salespeople. I feel like there’s too little regard for good salesmanship in this world…which is a shame, because when you meet a good one, someone who actually enjoys what they’re doing and does it well, you really get it. And in bridal, salesmanship is also service at its finest. We don’t leave a bride to sift through and figure things out on her own, only reappearing when it’s time to cash out. We literally hold her hand, help her balance, zip her into the dress like a Lady-in-waiting, and give her comprehensive styling tips while fielding questions from MOB’s (Mother of the Bride), MOG’s (Mother of the Groom, natch) and self-appointed bridal coordinators (you know the one–the bridesmaid that wasn’t designated Maid of Honor, but is determined to earn distinction through her extensive knowledge of weddings wrought from the innumerable times she’s been a bridesmaid?). We are temporarily part of the wedding party, and completely vested in the cause of finding you the gown. Emily is one of those salespeople who make all of this look easy. With the confidence of an uber-competent wedding planner, she touches on far-reaching aspects of the wedding while unearthing the look of your wedding dreams. Emily is matter-of-fact in what she puts out there to the bride, but the bride quickly realizes how right she is about everything, and wants to comply. If Emily says it’s a good look, it must be.
I’ve been working with Emily a long time, and perhaps by osmosis or that powerful tide that aligns our periods, (sorry, guys) we are eerily similar in the way we deal with some of the more challenging situations. And though our postmodern approach to selling bridal gowns while thwarting drama give a nice sense of consistency to the salon, we now know that our swanky Yankee establishment needed to get shaken up by a staight talkin’ Southern belle. And shake things up, she did….
Lauren isn’t sure of the precise moment she was crowned a Princess. Was it all those years ago, when, for her 16th birthday she insisted on getting her new car (a Mustang!) a day early, thus ruining the surprise that her parent’s had planned? (Surprise! You’re getting your car a day early, even though it’s Daddy’s birthday!)
Or was it not until she moved up North and had to deal with nervy New Yorkers and turbo-charge her moxie? Never mind the wardrobe tantrums during the filming of Amsale Girls… Either way, the crown fits! But lest you think that being a princess is all fluff, let me tell you why Lauren deserves the title. Because she’s not afraid to ask for what she deserves, and she’s not afraid to strive for what she wants. She is refreshingly honest, and doesn’t hide behind niceties, just to keep some small talk going. Yes she’s young and sweet, but she cannot be pushed around. When you ask Lauren a question, you will always get an honest answer. So don’t ask–does this make me look fat? Unless you want the truth!
Lauren loves beauty, luxury and decor. She has the vim and vigor you’d expect from a young, gorgeous Texan, but the music and style sensibilities of an old soul. She is so very specific in what she likes and will chase down the perfect _______ no matter what it takes. Her Christmas list will include color, make, and model of the item of choice and she really doesn’t have time for substitutes.
Lauren was spotted by Amsale reps when she was working at Mia Couture in TX. When she decided to make the move to NY, Lauren was quick to let Amsale & company know how eager she was to work at the Flagship salon. Lauren landed the job with her classic Lauren persistence and was up and running in no time. But crackerjack bridal consultant that she is, Lauren still experienced a rude awakening when she began dealing with the New York bride.
In NYC, a bride is aware of all of her choices and isn’t satisfied until she has sifted through most of them. Naturally, her bridal gown shopping becomes a much more drawn out affair. In the South, most brides embark upon their gown shopping day with a clear objective: to find a dress that day. With their mothers and key players in tow, by end of day the gown is decided upon, and wedding planning then moves to other areas that need attention, such as bridesmaids or invitations. Not so the New York bride. There’s a preliminary viewing to “see what’s out there”, a secondary viewing to compare it to other dresses that have been tried since then, and if you’re lucky, a 3rd appointment where Mom is finally brought in, and the gown is displayed for her approval and a decision is (hopefully) made. If you’re unlucky, or depending on the circumstance, there might be one or 2 more appointments to show the dress to other friends/relatives or to see a dress that wasn’t there at the first appointment. And since I’m just speaking for our salon… who knows how often the cycle gets repeated elsewhere? In other words–it’s not a shopping day, it’s a process. Interesting factoid with no scientific basis for you: Over 50% of the time, the first dress a bride tries on ends up being her favorite.
[How many places should a bride look? Do you think you were a good decision maker? Did you buy the first gown you tried?]
The honeymoon period for Lauren at Amsale came to a crashing end after a good run. Debbye knows that Lauren is not used to the way things are done at Amsale, and was able to overlook things in the first few months because of good sales and general charm. She also understood that Lauren was still getting used to NY and her new work environment. But… now she’s got her eye on her, and it’s not looking so good. Beyond selling gowns and maintaining correspondence with brides, there are many other things that need to get done at the salon. While it’s usually me that merchandises the store–partially because I love doing it, and partially because no one else wants to do it– it needs to be maintained by all of us. Veils, sashes, jewelry and all other accessories must get put back in the accessories closet or everyone will be hunting for them during their next appointment. I want to say that nothing drives me crazier than being in the throes of a good appointment, and not being able to locate that piece de resistance–the perfect veil. The back room is usually a bit of a disaster, but in some ways it can’t be helped. But Lauren isn’t going to touch that back room any time soon. Nor will she take it upon herself to maintain the salon in her downtime, though she can sometimes be cajoled into it. What comes naturally to Emily and I because the salon is our second home, are not things that Lauren generally thinks about. And unfortunately, it’s stuff like this that can hurt an otherwise decent review…
Still, at the end of the day, we are salespeople. What defines us is our ability to sell. The ability to sell the gown and the dream. Amsale knows that Lauren is an amazing salesperson, and isn’t worried about the other stuff. Wise in her ways, she knows that the other aspects of the job can be taught, but that salesmanship is something of a natural gift. It’s always nice when Amsale stops by, but especially nice for Lauren who was feeling a bit unappreciated…