"Thanks!" to many of you, including Robin, Antonia, wellfedfred, Raina, & Heidi, who let us know about an article over at the Critical Shopper from the New York Times (click here to read it in its entirety):
Calling Indie Brides and D.I.Y.-ers"Hmm" is about right for me. The service & attention at the store sounds exceptional. (Although it is appointment only. Right now, they are booked solid for a few months.) However, I am less excited about only having one of each dress and not offering alterations.
By Ruth La Ferla
July 20, 2010
“TIGHTER, tighter.” Elizabeth Lippman was rasping instructions to Marcey, a sales assistant. Quick to oblige, Marcey adjusted the clamps on her gown to give it its requisite cling. “I feel like Scarlett O’Hara,” Ms. Lippman murmured. Sure, but could she breathe? “That’s irrelevant!” she said.
After all, you don’t get married every day. And Ms. Lippman was determined to make the most of her mid-September nuptials in a dress that stuck like shrink-wrap to her curves.
We were admiring her reflection in a three-way mirror downstairs at the J.Crew bridal boutique on Madison Avenue, lounging in the shop’s sanctum sanctorum, a hushed gray-on-taupe salon accented with a cinnabar-tone screen. Otherwise, it was as spare as a cave. The understatement was echoed upstairs, where herringbone floors, bouquets of pink peonies and shelves lined with distressed-leather volumes beckon to brides with an eye to tradition.
Any suggestion, though, that the shop caters expressly to debs was undercut by playfully insolent merchandising. Mannequins slouched or sat cross-legged, their turnouts much in keeping with the studiedly raffish aesthetic of Jenna Lyons, the company’s creative director and newly named president. A tulle skirt was accessorized with arresting incongruity by a cotton flak jacket; a bouffant skirt was paired with a black cashmere sweater and pearls, in “a totally cute riff,” Ms. Lippman observed, on Sharon Stone at the Oscars, famously pairing a Gap T-shirt with her Valentino skirt.
J. Crew, which has been in the bridal business online since 2004 but opened this store only in May, is courting fashion indies, brides like Ms. Lippman, who envision their weddings — the invitations, the flowers, the gowns — as pristine canvases to dress up as their own.
Take-charge moms, who tend to hijack such proceedings, would be redundant here. Instead a small squadron of advisers offers styling suggestions intended to supply character and inventiveness to gowns that are fetching in a nondescript way.
Shown by appointment, the dresses are plain by design. “Bodies,” as they are known in garment speak, vary from voluminous sailcloth gowns to silky bias-cut Jean Harlow shapes. A regal tiered column caught Ms. Lippman’s eye, never mind its $3,500 price tag.
Could she have a closer look? Well, really, there wasn’t much point. “With expensive dresses we only make one in each size,” said Noelle, Marcey’s otherwise accommodating other half. The gown was out of stock. “Once its gone, it’s gone,” she added, slightly more boastful than sorry. The shop carries a strictly limited selection of gowns in the $3,000-to-$4,000 range.
OF course, there were plenty of other “girls,” as the dresses are known. Although her wedding will take place at a seaside retreat in Montauk, N.Y., Ms. Lippman, a photographer who is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, was holding out for full-on glamour. A beach dress? “Forget it. I want a gown.”
“O.K., let’s start with Sasha,” Noelle offered soothingly, whisking into the fitting room a strapless silk taffeta ball gown tagged at a relatively modest $1,500. Though Ms. Lippman had pointedly specified that she wears a Size 4 or 6, the dress was a sample Size 8, requiring Marcey to make vigorous adjustments with a set of clamps.
“The fit is fine,” Ms. Lippman insisted, gasping, “so long as I hold my Venus-on-the-clamshell pose.” Marcey, meanwhile, drew out a succession of sashes — one with a fatigued-looking dahlia stitched to its side ($125), another encrusted with jet ($295) — to define the waistline and add some oomph.
The Goddess, the Allegra and the Tulip were brought out in quick succession, Ms. Lippman darting into the fitting room and reappearing each time in a look more subdued than the last. Assessing an A-line gown made of crinkled chiffon ($1,800), she was skeptical.
“Definitely this needs work,” she said of the dress, which indeed had the charm of a chenille bedspread. The extensive tailoring that might have lent it some allure would have set her back an extra $500, at least.
There are distinct advantages to shopping here, not least the hyper-attentive service and speedy delivery. If a dress is in inventory, it is shipped in four to seven days, we were told. Upstairs, an array of accessories and underpinnings, including Wolford tights, sequined tap pants and Miriam Haskell for J. Crew multistrand pearls, are red-carpet-worthy. And although corseting is built into many of the gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses here, the shop stocks a robust selection of Spanx.
Alterations, however, are not on the menu. “That’s not the business we’re in,” Marcey said bluntly. Hmm. ... “They expect you to make the adjustments,” Ms. Lippman mused.
In recent years J. Crew has tweaked its offerings to cater to more rarefied tastes. But it’s unlikely that any amount of clever styling will persuade some clients to pay caviar prices for a brand that is founded on khakis and tees.
The thought seemed to give Ms. Lippman pause, but she went on shopping nonetheless, her head turned by a vest made of pink Mongolian lamb ($895). Told that it was out of stock, she was relieved.
“It’s O.K. to like this,” she consoled herself. “After all, it’s not for sale.” ...
AMBIENCE Inspired by a Parisian salon, the store is a model of calm decorum, relieved here and there by playful downtown touches.
EXTRAS You don't have to be a bride to linger over the diva-esque brooches, chokers and ear drops, or the lingerie, so raffiné you might be tempted to wear it as outerwear.
SERVICE Sisterly. The styling is collaborative. As one client noted, "It lets the bride in on her own transformation."
What are your thoughts on the article's take of the Wedding Boutique on Madison Avenue? Are you excited about its arrival? Do you think you will shop there? :)