If you've ever watched TLC's "Say Yes To The Dress," you know that Randy Fenoli, the lithe, ever-charming fashion director of Manhattan's Kleinfeld Bridal salon and the show's unofficial star, is many things to many brides, from fashion expert to therapist to family mediator. But just don't call him a dress salesman.
"I don't sell dresses. I dress brides," he told Huffington Post Weddings during a recent stop at the Brides magazine White Hot Hope Pop Up Style Shop in New York's SoHo neighborhood.
Fenoli was at the airy loft space -- a temporary showcase for local wedding vendors of all stripes (florists! dress designers! registries!) curated by the editors of "Brides" magazine with proceeds going to the charities Operation Smile and Dress for Success -- to sign copies of his new book, "It's All About the Dress: Savvy Secrets, Priceless Advice, and Inspiring Stories to Help you Find 'The One.'" We sat down with Fenoli to get his insights on everything from how shopping for a wedding dress is like visiting a foreign country, whether there are any rules for the color of your dress on your second (or third, or fourth) wedding, and yes, why "selling dresses" isn't in his job description.
HuffPost Weddings: At Huffington Post Weddings, we see a lot of brides and grooms expressing themselves--their personalities, tastes, beliefs--through their nuptials these days. Do you see this trend manifesting in wedding dresses?
Randy Fenoli: "Absolutely. In the beginning, there was a definite style that was 'Bridal.' It was the traditional bridal gown. But I really think that the trend today is the bride and groom being unique. I think two things have happened: a relaxation in the religious aspects of the ceremony and a movement toward girls getting information--especially fashion information--a lot more quickly in the technology age we're in. I think the white and the veil is the connecting factor, but I think that the dress really needs to speak to who they are. I see brides coming in and saying 'I don't wanna look like everyone else.' That's what everyone says. So I do see that as a trend and I think it's only gonna get stronger."
HPW: What's the final word on wearing white if it's not your first wedding?
RF: "White used to be a symbol for purity. But I think we can all get with reality today and realize that it's not anymore. Let's be real! Maybe you've been married before. Maybe this is your third or fourth wedding. It should be no less important than your first wedding. I'm a traditionalist, so I love a woman to wear white on her wedding day. In my book I say there's no rule that a woman cannot wear white on her wedding day no matter how many times she has been married before.
HPW: Shopping for a bridal gown can be daunting. Any advice for getting through the appointment?
RF: "Purchasing a wedding dress is a little like visiting a foreign country for two weeks--you don't have to learn the whole language. You just have to learn enough words to get by! So you need to know just enough language about bridal gowns to get through the appointment. I've seen books where there's, like, 3 dozen types of bodices. How many bodices do you really need? That's not gonna get you any closer to finding the perfect dress. In my book, I've really paired it down for brides--I've given them just the right amount of information they need to get through the bridal appointment to find "The One."
HPW: Shopping for a dress can be a challenge if you're not a size 6 or 8; any advice for fuller-figured women?
RF: "In my book I have real brides in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s from size 2 to size 24--because I think all women are beautiful, especially on their wedding day, and I wanted to put a book together that did not showcase models. In most bridal salons, women with fuller figures really are not treated equally with girls who are sample size."
HPW: So why put these women in a separate show alltogether--TLC's spinoff show "Say Yes to The Dress: Big Bliss"?
RF: "Before the show aired, there was this big controversy of 'Why are you separating the plus-sized girls? Why are you promoting obesity?' Well the fact is that these are real women who are this size. Their size has a lot to do with genes. I know because I can't gain a pound and I eat probably more than they do. So I think it's not fair to think that someone who is fuller-figured doesn't want to look just as beautiful as someone who is a sample size. So the fact that bridal salons carry dresses in a sample size 10, which is a 6 or 8, and that a woman who is purchasing the most important dress of her life, and is not even able to try it on is a travesty. So we wanted to highlight that, and the way they are treated in some other salons--where they don't even have anything to try on--I think that's a shame. I'm proud of that show."
HPW: What do you think of the 'trash the dress' trend. Does it break your heart?
RF: "I love wedding dresses and think they're works of art, but I think they're also clothing, and meant to be worn. I viewed a wedding in the Cayman Islands on the beach in an Oscar de la Renta gown. It came time in the ceremony for her to kneel, and she knelt right down in the sand. And I applauded her--like, 'yes! You go girl!'
HPW: Are there some types of brides who are more challenging to work with than others?
RF: Some brides aren't visual. Especially attorneys. People in the medical field. People in accounting and teachers, I find. I can usually look at a girl and talk to her for a moment and say, 'Lemme ask, are you an attorney?' And she turns to me and says, 'How did you know?" And I'm like, 'this is what I do!'
HPW: How do you sell a dress you personally think is ugly?
RF: "I don't sell dresses. I dress brides. What I mean is that you should never have to sell a dress. A bride is walking into your salon to purchase a dress. You have to find the dress that is right with her story, is perfect for her body, that she falls in love with, that she glows in, that really speaks to her. There have been gowns that have come into the salon and I have said 'oh, my gosh, what is this?" And then a girl walks in, and I'm like, "Oh my! That is her dress." She puts it on and it's a perfect match. It completely makes sense for who she is."
The Brides magazine White Hot Hope Pop-Up Style Shop is open until 6 p.m. Sunday Oct. 16.
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