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Clients Get the Star Treatment at Modern Formals

For 60 years, the Dominello family has been outfitting clients for their special day — including none other than Robert DeNiro in the film, 'Jackknife.'

Robert DeNiro’s dinner jacket is hanging in Middletown.

In 1989, when DeNiro was filming “Jackknife” in Meriden, playing a troubled Vietnam vet trucker living with his sister, played by Kathy Baker, he needed alterations to his white suit. Sal Dominello Sr., owner of , quickly stepped on set to tailor the jacket.

His work so impressed director David Jones that sent the acting tailor home and Dominello got a speaking part. His name not only made the credits, but DeNiro returned a few months later when he was filming “Stanley and Iris,” playing an illiterate cafeteria worker who dates a widow played by Jane Fonda, in Waterbury and placed an order for clothing.

His story was even profiled in the New York Times.

The jacket sits with a plaque in the store, above which a photo with DeNiro and Sal Sr. is proudly hung.

More than 60 years ago, Dominello started Modern Formals in Meriden and retired just a couple years ago. Three months ago his son Sal Jr. says he and his brother John, who’s been in the family business for 18 years, moved the store to Middletown.

“We always wanted to come here to Middletown. When we were in Meriden, we drew much of our business from Middletown,” Sal Jr. says.

Modern Formals already works extensively with Middletown wedding venues like the , , Barns at Wesleyan Hills — and bridal shops like the Wedding Dress in Portland.

There was never any doubt in his mind that he’d enter the family business Sal Jr. says. “I always knew I would follow this path — dealing with people one on one on one of the most important days in their life.” John runs the store and two female managers, who have been with the company 10 and 12 years, head the and Wallingford shops that serve all men’s formal attire needs.

“The nice thing about us is everything is store-owned,” Sal says, “We own all our inventory 100 percent, which lets the potential bride and groom try what they want on the spot.”

Designers include Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, After Six and Oscar de la Renta. They even rent suits to clients for special occasions.

These guys really take the idea of customer service to heart. “There is nothing we wouldn’t do for our clients — we’ve even driven to the church to fix something for a bride,” Sal Jr. says.

In his 15 years in the business, Sal has seen plenty of styles come and go. “Now, we’re going back to simple, basic and classic  — a highlight color or splash of color rather than full-blown colors are popular.”

Sangria, a purplish-red, wine color, is really in now. For spring, Modern Formals is seeing a lot of clover green and burgundy and every type of pastel. Of course mens’ color trends mirror that of women’s bridal colors and, according to Martha Stewart Weddings, pale amber, pink and green tea accompany traditional white and ivory for spring 2012.

Modern Formals, 144 Washington Street, Middletown, is open weekdays 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 .m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. After-hours appointments are available.

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