It’s prom season: Formal wear business owner talks store changes and buying habits

Published 6:06 am Friday, March 15, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

NORTHWOOD — High schoolers everywhere are getting ready for a special event in their school career — prom.

The past few months have been filled with shopping for dresses, tuxes, making arrangements for alterations and more. Northwood business Fringe and Lace by Brittany is one example of this. 

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Store owner Brittany Low, originally from Albert Lea, spoke about how this time of year is special for her business and how buying habits have changed over the past few years. 

Low’s store began as an alteration business with pop-up stores for prom dresses. She opened the brick and mortar building in February 2018. Although originally a consignment shop, Fringe and Lace now exclusively sells new apparel.

“All of our prom dresses are all new, available for order,” Low said. The business also sells bridal gowns, tuxedos and mothers formal wear. 

The store currently has six staff members counting Low. She said that from January to early March the store is busiest in terms of dress purchases. Although normally closed on Sundays, the store opens its doors seven days a week during prom season.

“Prom is a unique season because it’s so much in such a short amount of time,” Low said. “By this point, most of the girls have already purchased their dresses so now we’re just busy with tuxedos and alterations.” 

According to Low, proms in the area usually begin around mid-April and are wrapped up at the beginning of May. 

The store typically has customers coming in from towns within a 60-mile radius. However, Low said she has also had customers come in from Rochester, Des Moines and even the Twin Cities.

“I’ve had people tell me that they’re actually looking for that small, intimate boutique that has that personal service, that personal touch rather than just being that larger store that you’re just kind of shuffled through, so I really like hearing that,” Low said.

During the pandemic, Low explained that the state of Iowa gave her and several other women-owned businesses grants to offset financial hardship, one of the reasons the store was able to stay afloat while proms and weddings were being canceled or downsized. Low used the pandemic as a time to transition to selling by appointment only. This has streamlined the buying process and made it possible to offer more personalized service to customers. 

“We can give better customer service by having our customers book appointments because then we’re focused on you,” Low said. 

Appointments are required for trying on bridal gowns so there can be a designated staff member available to help the bride and her party as well as making sure that the special bridal dressing room at the store is available. 

She also said that walk-ins are available for looking at prom dresses, but she cannot guarantee that a fitting room will be open. 

As shopping online increases in popularity, Low talked about some of the benefits of getting a dress or tuxedo from a local business. 

“Buying habits have changed drastically,” she said. “I think that there’s still something very unique and comforting about buying from a brick and mortar, family-owned business.”

She added that there is also a risk when shopping for dresses online. 

“I know plenty of people that have tried to buy prom dresses online, and it doesn’t show up,” she said. “A lot of times what happens is, a lot of these websites look legit but they’re counterfeits … That doesn’t happen for us.”

Low’s favorite part of prom season is getting to know her customers. 

“Having the kids come in here and getting to know them … learning about their lives and what they’re up to, and seeing how respectful they are and how kind they are, that’s definitely the best part,” she said. 

Low also loves being part of an event in which kids can step back from their busy schedules and enjoy a fun evening with their friends. 

“These kids are so busy and they’re being pulled in so many directions whether it’s sports or band or school or National Honor Society,” Low said. “They’re always so busy, and prom is just one of those times that I hope that they can actually … take a step back and relax and enjoy it with their friends and have some fun and just let it be for what it is.”

In June Fringe and Lace will hold a bridal gown trunk show. This is an event in which designers send a collection of 12 to 20 dresses to the store to have for a week or two for brides to come, look at and try on. 

Fringe and Lace by Brittany is at 808 Central Ave. in Northwood. For more information or to book an appointment, visit or call 641-323-7400.