BRIDGEWATER — Julie Costa found her calling after the pandemic left her jobless, and her creativity built a new business venture that gives young girls the ability to rent special occasion dresses for a discounted price.
Over the course of a year, the special occasion dress shop had a significant spike in dress rentals and dress donations.
"In May, I opened my original shop, and it was 230 square feet, and I outgrew the space in a few months after opening. I was overwhelmed with donations and would get them every week. The landlord offered a much larger business space that will allow me to have full-time hours," Costa said.
The new space is over 800 square feet with three dressings rooms, a large outdoor display, holds over 3,000 dresses, and can accommodate several customers at one time. The previous space could only serve one customer at a time, Costa said.
"It's been a whirlwind this past year with events like weddings, proms, dances and semi-formal opening back up. I had girls from all over calling about dresses in the shop," Costa said.
"This shop is fulfilling the needs that came from COVID. We are coming out of the pandemic that left a lot of families with individual hardships. Many have limited income from losing a job. So there's a need for renting special occasion dresses instead of buying them in stores," Costa said.
The fashion industry, Costa said, is a "two seasons" ahead industry, and with supply chain problems, there's often less in the stores for special occasions wear.
"Stores are not carrying the same inventory because they've gone through hardships and their budgets are not the same, or production is delayed because they don't have the same amount of people working in them. Ninety percent of my dresses in the shop are donations, and I have the inventory. I can fit anyone from any size. I'm proud of the plus-sized selection," Costa said.
At Miss Louise Prom Closet and Special Occasions Rental, Costa takes care of the cleaning cost of the dresses and allows young women to enjoy their special day with dresses for rentals under $50. A nice touch to the business is that shoes and jewelry rentals are under $20.
"Parents come into the shop and say, 'If it weren't for this shop, I wouldn't be able to do this,' and that to me is amazing. It's an honor to help," Costa said.
A single father of two stumbled on the dress shop and told her what a difference it made, she said.
"He came over to me and said, 'I was just recently laid off, and I didn't know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to spend hundreds, but I walked out of here with two happy daughters with dresses for both for $100'," Costa said.
The father was in disbelief but also relieved of the financial burden of prom and thanked Costa for opening a place like this, she said.
Wedding dress sale Saturday
In addition to the discounted prom rental prices, Costa is offering a massive sale of brides and bridesmaid dresses. A local bridal shop closed and donated the inventory.
The sale begins Saturday, Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all gowns will be under $200 dollars with a bonus of bridesmaid dresses for $20 with leftover dresses for sale after that.
The dresses in question are brand new with the tags, and the shop will only accept cash and Venmo for the bride's dress sale.
"It's a great opportunity for people to see what else I have and a great way to buy a dress that was once $3,000 for less than $200. I want to give brides the chance to buy their dream dress that they may not have been able to afford," Costa said.
"Business has been super successful, and I never thought I'd be moving to a second location. There's nothing out there like this, and if we continue to receive donations weekly, who knows what the future holds for us when it comes to expansion," Costa said.
Enterprise staff reporter Alisha Saint-Ciel can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org You can follow her on Twitter at @alishaspeakss. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.
This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Bridgewater formal wear: Miss Louise Prom Closet rents discount gowns