Dress the Part
Q&A with Randy Fenoli
You’ve seen him giving fashion guidance to brides on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. Now Randy Fenoli, fashion director at Kleinfeld in New York, is on a mission to help brides—and bridal salons—across the country. At an appearance last fall at Bridal and Formal, where he lent his expertise to some lucky local brides, we talked with him about his new book, body-image issues, and his ultimate goal—making every bride feel beautiful.
Your book, It’s All About the Dress, released Nov. 1. Why should brides pick it up?
This is not your mother’s wedding book. I take the modern bride through the process, because it’s a process to find the perfect dress. I say that finding a wedding dress is like taking a trip to a foreign country. You don’t know the language. I give brides the key words they need for a bridal appointment: what to ask, what are the fabrics. I use no models, only real women, brides of all ages from size 2 to 24, because I believe that every woman can look beautiful, and should have that privilege.
Finding a gown can be an overwhelming experience. How does a bride stay focused?
It’s all about preparing for the appointment, learning the language and knowing what you’re there for. Speak to the people who are coming with you, to let them know how much you want to spend and the styles you love. You need to have the knowledge before you even enter the salon.
How do brides with body issues find a gown that will flatter them?
You can wear almost anything if the proportion is right. If you want something beaded and you’re petite, you don’t want the beading to be too big or if you’re going for lace, you don’t want the pattern to be too large. If you have broad shoulders, go for a fuller skirt that balances those shoulders. Ruching on the diagonal is always good to camouflage any tummy issues.
How many dresses should a bride try on?
As many as she needs to find the one that makes her feel beautiful. However, it does come to a point where you’ve tried on too many dresses and they all become a blur. Ten dresses is about average and a lot of times, it’s one of the first three dresses you try on. I compare the process to finding your fiancé. You know to stop looking at other guys when you’ve found the one.
What advice do you have for brides on a tight budget?
A bride can look beautiful at any price point. A simpler dress in a better fabric is more beautiful than a dress covered in inexpensive embroidery. Less is more. The dress also has to fit like a glove. If the dress does not fit properly, it will look cheap.
How has the wedding gown evolved over the years you’ve been in the industry?
Bridal gowns in the past have been very traditional. Now they’re much more fashion-forward and trendy, which is exciting. You can wear just about anything. You can never go wrong choosing a classic dress, which will stand the test of time. The dress needs to say who you are and with so many options today, you can find one that says “this is who I am.”
What inspires you to do the work you do?
A bridal gown is the most important dress a girl will ever wear. It is her Academy Award moment. If I can help a woman select a dress that will make her realize her beauty and give her the utmost confidence, that is the greatest gift.
Why do you love fashion?
Oprah Winfrey did a show where she brought Christmas to Africa. She did research and determined that every boy would want a soccer ball and every girl would want a baby doll. Then she gave every child a uniform. The gift that they loved the most was the uniform. They said that, when they put it on, they no longer felt poor. That speaks to me about the power of clothing, that it’s not just a piece of fabric. It makes you feel, emotionally.
Tell us about a bride who has inspired you.
I worked with a girl recently who’d been through an ordeal. She had been coming back from her graduation. It was her Mom, Dad, and her in the car. She had just gotten a card from them that said something like “Now that we’ve seen you graduate, we will be happy for the rest of our lives.” A drunk driver crashed into them, killing both of her parents. She only had a 10-percent chance of surviving. She has made it, she is walking, and she is getting married.
What is your goal in making local appearances at bridal salons across the country?
I am here to support the smaller bridal salons that have been around for decades and are struggling in this economy. I want to support the real designers, the ones that actually sketch and drape and create dresses, rather than just mass-produce gowns. I’m also here to support the bride and to make her feel beautiful on her wedding day. I don’t care if she is spending $100 or $100,000. She will get the same experience from me.
Any future aspirations?
I want to be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
Photograph courtesy of Randy Fenoli • Originally published in the Winter 2012 issue.