BALDWINSVILLE — Many would-be brides grew up watching Cinderella’s tattered frock transform into a glittering ballgown, Sleeping Beauty twirling in a duochrome off-the-shoulder number or Giselle’s quintessential princess dress come to life as “Enchanted” shifted from animation to live action in the first act.
But other future brides — especially those who are curvy, have disabilities or don’t neatly fit into society’s gender categories — are less likely to see themselves onscreen.
Enter Stephanie Long, Heather Jensen and their crew of “fairy godmothers” at Mirror Mirror Inc., a bridal boutique in the village of Baldwinsville.
“We tell the staff that it’s not their job to sell. It’s their job to make the bride feel better than when she came in,” said Jensen, the store manager.
Long, who has a background in fashion design, opened Mirror Mirror Inc. in January 2013. Jensen went to school for graphic design and marketing and found her way to the wedding industry through event planning. The two met while doing local theater. They are both Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Award winners — both have won for costuming and Jensen won best supporting actress in a play in 2018. Their passion for fashion and local theater are not the only things Jensen and Long have in common: both women hail from Baldwinsville.
“I love having a store in my hometown. I love bringing people to Baldwinsville,” Long said.
While many brides travel from Rochester, Buffalo, Pennsylvania and even Canada to shop at Mirror Mirror Inc., the boutique’s reach has expanded to all corners of the world.
“It’s amazing how many places on the map we’ve touched. … We’ve shipped dresses to Australia, China, Germany,” said Long, adding that brides from 43 states have bought dresses at her shop.
After spending the first seven years squeezed into the front room of the store, the Mirror Mirror Inc. team took the pandemic as an opportunity to reassess their space and layout needs. They expanded the showroom and dressing rooms in October 2020. Now the boutique can comfortably accommodate five brides at a time for fitting appointments. On a busy Saturday, Long and her fairy godmothers might see 15 to 18 brides.
The consultants’ job is to help brides find the gown — or pantsuit, which is an increasingly popular choice — that makes them feel beautiful and confident.
“It’s difficult to stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and feel confident,” Long said.
Mirror Mirror Inc.’s fairy godmothers are trained not to persuade a bride to choose a particular style, but to listen to their concerns and study their body language to see how they feel about the dress. If a bride does not feel confident or beautiful in the dress, she stands stock-still and stiff.
“You can tell if someone is comfortable in a dress — they’re swishing,” Long said.
Jensen recalled one customer who emailed the boutique ahead of her appointment to let them know she was recovering from an eating disorder.
“She emailed us letting us know what her triggers were and certain words not to use. She was so honest and brave,” Long said. “We changed our vocabulary.”
Over the decade they’ve been in business, the Mirror Mirror Inc. team has learned how to dress — and interact with — brides who have had mastectomies, brides who use wheelchairs, plus-size brides, and transgender or nonbinary clients.
“It was like watching a butterfly coming out of a cocoon,” Jensen said of one gender nonconforming customer. “They were no different than any other bride, regardless of gender. I feel like we made them feel comfortable and possible.”
“Size inclusivity is really important to us,” Long said. “We want to have not only dresses for everybody to try on, we want to have great and interesting and unique dresses for everybody to try on.”
That can be a challenge when many sample dresses run between bridal sizes 8 to 12 (bridal sizes are smaller than standard clothing sizes). Both plus-size and petite brides may struggle with fit issues while trying on dresses. That is why Mirror Mirror Inc. carries dresses from size 4 to 30.
“We try and have a dress for every size and every style,” Jensen said.
Part of Long and Jensen’s training process is having fledgling fairy godmothers try on a variety of dresses themselves. It’s like a retelling of Goldilocks, but instead of porridge and chairs, consultants are trying on dresses that are too small, too big, too heavy, too itchy so they know what it’s like for brides to try on wedding gowns.
That personal connection is the most magical part of Mirror Mirror Inc.’s fairy tale.
“We call ourselves fairy godmothers. We’re more than that,” Jensen said. “We’re counselors, we’re sisters, we’re mothers, we’re therapists, we’re mediators.”
Mirror Mirror Inc. is located at 27 Oswego St. in the village of Baldwinsville. Visit mirrormirrorincbridal.com to schedule an appointment, or follow the boutique on Facebook and Instagram @mirrormirrorincbridal or on TikTok @mirrormirrorinc.
This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Syracuse Woman Magazine.