Renting the ritz

Published 9:35 am Friday, March 12, 2010

Janel Attig Heideman always believed that if men could rent a tuxedo, women should be able to rent a dress.

So with a closet of dresses never worn or only worn once, she and business partner Allen Karge opened Dream Dresses at 220 W. Clark St.

“Our concept was that we’d have dresses for rent so people could still afford to go to prom or be in weddings,” she said.

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Heideman said the average prom dress runs close to $300 after ordering and alterations are done. She said most women do not want to wear a gown after she’s been seen or photographed in it.

“And teenage girls definitely do not want to wear the same dress to prom two years in a row,” she said.

Since opening on Jan. 19, Dream Dresses has broadened its offerings to include rental and sales of formal and semi-formal dresses for brides, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride or groom, flower girls, prom-goers and more. There are dresses for first communion and quinceañera, homecoming and special evenings out. Accessories including veils, gloves, headpieces and jewelry, are available. Dream Dresses has also begun to offer cruise and vacation wear, leather, sun dresses, swimsuits and flip-flops.

Heideman said the gowns she stocks are meticulously cared for. They are cleaned and carefully altered. “Our gowns are always up to date and new gowns are received frequently,” she said. “We’ve worked diligently to provide a fun but elegant line that is well suited for contemporary, smart women.”

Dresses range in size from 0 to 20. Rental prices are $75 for long dresses, $55 for short dresses and $25 for sun dresses. Heideman offers a half-price special for girls going to prom who are in foster care.

“There’s a woman with 10 foster kids and this is the only way she can send these girls to prom,” Heideman said.

She said the gown rental idea has gone over well so far. “It’s surprising. Weddings have been the biggest thing.”

Heideman can custom-order gowns from DaVinci and Impressions. The closest shops offering gowns from these companies are in Rochester or Mankato, she said.

In addition, she works with a local woman who will custom-make dresses.

For prom, princess ball gowns are still popular, although prints are the trend. Most prom dresses are long again this year, Heideman added.

Heideman said the flip-flops she sells have been seen on “Desperate Housewives.” They include clever sayings like “I make the rules. I don’t play the game” and “I believe in a total body workout. Currently my finger benches 3 carats.”

Heideman said the next thing she’ll most likely carry is gift items for bachelorette parties, including honeymoon lingerie.

She added that she keeps cards of people in direct-sale companies like Tupperware and Lia Sophia, in case anyone needs to get in contact with someone from a particular company.

Dream Dresses is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. It is also open by appointment by calling Heideman at (507) 383-5338 or Karge at (507) 320-0352.

The grand opening celebration will be April 10.