Suky Rosan, a bride's ally, dies The Main Line salon owner had a keen eye for style and zodiac.

Posted: January 11, 2004

Debutantes and celebrities went to Suky Rosan to be outfitted for their weddings, and for good reason:

"I believe you make big days out of the big days," the owner of one of the Main Line's most exclusive bridal salons once said. "That's what separates us from the animals."

Ms. Rosan, 85, died Thursday at her Haverford home.

For more than 30 years, the former model and fashion commentator matched brides such as Allen Iverson's wife, Tawanna, and WCAU-TV (Channel 10) news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah with the perfect gown.

But the woman who dressed high society came from outside it. She was born Sarah Koralsky in Reading. Her father edited a prominent Jewish weekly newspaper until his early death forced her mother to work on an assembly line of Singer sewing machines in New York's garment district.

Suky Rosan opened her bridal shop a half-mile from the Merion Cricket Club at a time when she could not become a member.

She changed the pronunciation of her last name to Rose-ANN.

"You couldn't be a Rosen then on the Main Line," said her son Jay Rosan, who now helps run the store. "She was not born or raised on the Main Line, but through her style and the way she approached people, she became a Main Liner."

Ms. Rosan swore by astrology.

"What's your sign?" she would ask brides-to-be who called for appointments.

She then would pair them with a sales assistant with a compatible sign. She even hired people based on their signs. (She was a Cancer, born July 15, 1920.)

"It threw me for a loop when she asked me for my sign," said Chenault-Fattah, "because I'm into astrology, too. We formed a bond."

Two years ago, when the TV anchor was planning her wedding to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Suky Rosan's was the only place she thought to shop for a gown.

"I had always heard it was the best place to go," Chenault-Fattah said. "Most brides order their gowns six months ahead of time. I came in late, just four or five weeks before my wedding. She called up New York and got me exactly the right dress."

Chenault-Fattah walked down the aisle in a form-fitting strapless ivory silk organza gown by Vera Wang.

"She was a woman of extraordinary taste," Wang said. "All the big-time designers worked with her - Geoffrey Bean, Bill Blass. She brought fashion to Philadelphia."

Ms. Rosan was one of Wang's first customers.

Other designers whose gowns are available at the store, now in Ardmore, include Carolina Herrera and Badgley Mischka. Prices typically start about $1,800, but bargain hunters can find high-end designer gowns for as little as $500 at the annual sample sale.

Ms. Rosan's first husband was Howard "Reds" Rosan, a Temple University basketball star who went pro with the local team, the Sphas.

"She was the lady who turned into a model who married a jock," Jay Rosan said. "His name was in the paper like Allen Iverson's. He's in the basketball hall of fame. She married the dream."

She raised two sons, both now physicians, in the Philadelphia area while she worked as a model and a fashion commentator for Modern Bridals, a chain of wedding-apparel stores.

"She was a caring mother," Jay Rosan said. "She didn't have the wherewithal early in life. For my brother and I, she really wanted us to have more in life."

Ms. Rosan opened her bridal shop in Bryn Mawr in 1976, the same year her husband died. She hired seamstresses from all over the world, her son said, and made them a part of her family.

"She accepted everybody. That's the way she was," he said. "If you go to the store today, it's like you're going to the U.N."

Pattie Lamantia, her business partner of nearly a quarter-century, has helped run the store since Ms. Rosan's retirement in April.

"She didn't sell dresses to make money," said Lamantia, who managed the financial end of the business, leaving Ms. Rosan to charm clients.

"Suky didn't know what a dress cost. She was the customer person," Lamantia said. "She was a woman with a lot of class."

In 1980, Ms. Rosan married James P. Stelweck, retired president of a lamp-manufacturing company.

For that wedding, she wore a pale blue gown with crystal pleats, designed by Mary McFadden.

In addition to her husband and son Jay, Ms. Rosan is survived by another son, Stuart Rosan; a sister; and five grandchildren.

A graveside service Friday was private.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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