Airline senior Courtland Dilley was chest deep in a sea of rhinestones and tulle as she searched for the perfect dress for homecoming.
It’s a process that usually begins months in advance, but Friday was the first chance she’s had between dance classes and school functions to actually go shopping.
“I don’t want anything puffy and no cupcake dresses,” she said aloud, browsing through racks at A Yellow Ribbon: Formal Wear in Bossier City. “Blue is a good color and black is one of my favorite colors. I think I want something with a slim fit.”
After pulling a variety of styles, both long and short, it was time to try them on. There were two important things she was looking for.
“It has to be classy and it must be comfortable,” Courtland said.
The first one she walked out in was a short, A-line Sherri Hill dress in her favorite color, blue. The second dress was, again, blue, but in a longer style. The form fitting dress in jersey knit material brought out a certain smile in her that the first one didn’t.
One by one, she came out of the dressing room and stepped up onto the platform. Dress three, four and five just didn’t compare to that second one.
She had to put it back on.
“Oh, I love it,” Courtland said, standing in front of the full length mirror. “I like it more the second time on. It’s soft and it feels good. It’s so simple and has what I’m looking for.”
Gerry Shephard has heard those words and witnessed those moments many times in the 28 years she has owned A Yellow Ribbon. It’s a busy time of year for her and fellow Bossier dress shops, Sloan’s Formals and Azarue’s Bridal & Formal.
Shephard said a contributing factor to the increase in business is I-49.
“We started getting a lot of people coming in from north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas,” she said. “They can get here in about an hour whereas it would take them two or more hours to drive to Dallas.”
All three shops agree that floral prints and two piece are the trending styles right now. Sabrina Durham, Sales and Marketing Manager for Azarue’s Bridal & Formal in Bossier, said there are a lot of cutting edge designs on the racks this year.
“The dresses look more fashion forward,” she said. “We’re seeing more velvet and chokers this year…a lot of daring dresses with bold patterns too.”
Patti Maughon, owner of Sloan’s Formals, said they are getting in new dresses every week. Sloan’s opened its doors in April and has increased traffic through their store by word of mouth.
“We try to have a one-on-one experience with every customer,” Maughon said. “We want to build that relationship with the customers because it makes a big difference in the overall experience. We also encourage our customers to take pictures when they are trying on dresses. They can send them to their friends and get their opinions, too.”
One thing that’s proven successful is hiring a younger sales team. Durham said they have “fashion ambassadors” that check in and post photos of the dresses they have in stock.
“We employed girls from local schools in all shapes and sizes so customers can see what the dresses look like on a real person,” Durham said. “It has worked well for us.”
Sloan’s has a similar business tactic.
“We’ve got a wide range of styles and sizes…from 00 to plus size,” Maughon said. “My girls and I can help them find whatever they are looking for. It definitely helps to have younger girls working with you because they know what’s trending and what looks good.”
No matter the style, color or look desired, students, like Courtland, won’t have to travel far to say ‘yes’ to a dress this homecoming season.