Chances are, if you’re reading this, you didn’t give a second thought to buying a prom dress. You probably went to a mall or a boutique shop and browsed the racks at will, trying on as many beautiful frocks as you wished until you found the one that made you feel the best. Without hesitation, you shopped and were doted on by staff to piece together a glamorous look for your big night. Then you or someone else paid for the dress and you moved on.
For families experiencing hardship, finding the funds to purchase a $200 or $300 dollar formal gown--and then shoes, a purse, jewelry and hair services--can be extremely stressful or even impossible. Families save for months, sacrificing to set aside money to make this happen for their child. For children in foster care or homeless or emancipated teens, prom may be completely out of grasp. The carefree experience you had shopping for your dress is but a dream for many children and families.
Bella Boutique exists to help children access formalwear that might be financially out of their reach, and to do so in a beautifully appointed retail space designed to replicate the same experience you had at a department store. It is incredibly important to us to provide an equitable experience for our students and families. The boutique experience is part of our mission.
From the moment students walk in for their appointment, they are greeted by a personal shopper who gets to know them and their style, and helps navigate our racks. Our personal shoppers may pick items our teen guests would never select for themselves, to encourage
the students to think outside the box and have fun with the experience.
Bella Boutique has more than 3,000 dresses to choose from. Short, long, conservative, wild, sparkly, fluffy, princess, pants, jumpers, and everything in between. We want our shoppers to be able to experiment as they wish until they find a look that they can wear with confidence and pride. We play music, we dance, we cheer each other on; the boutique is a joyful, fun place to be.
For so many folks receiving help, choice and control are not an option. They are often resigned to taking what is offered with no say. We want to give students control over their prom experience.
I have had the opportunity to work with timid students who assume the experience is going to be merely transactional. It is always an exciting moment for me to dispel this myth and tell them that’s not the way we do things at Bella. I show them around the different dress departments, the shoe walls and the accessories area. It’s then they start to understand that this is going to be a special experience for them.
Shoppers leave Bella with a steamed and bagged dress and accessories, a voucher for free hair and makeup services and great memories of a rite-of-passage shopping day. We strive to create a retail experience without the cash registers. When we say that Bella Boutique is more than just a dress, we really mean it.
Photo credits: http://austinstudiodenver.com/