It has been three months since we opened our doors to the bridal community. There has always been a road map for Pearl and Birch, but if I am being honest it was probably more like scrawled directions on a cocktail napkin. I wanted to create a place that felt traditional in its options and services without the price tags. I wanted to rescue every long-forgotten gown from every closet and style her for a modern day bride. I wanted to build a team of local entrepreneurs that have passion and expertise in the areas that I clearly would not. I wanted to introduce something new, something necessary. This was my dream. The answer to every question I had ever had about how I could best serve others and be happy while doing it.
Its been hard. So very hard. To be everything a new business needs all the time. It's been hard to balance my ever growing list of things I require in to order to reach my ideal client. It's been hard to offer a clear picture of that to the social media masses in a way that feels authentic and purposeful. It's been hard to build something from nothing and support a family. Its been so very hard. But, do you know what hasn't been hard? Getting out of bed to go to a job I love every day. It hasn't been hard to discover new ways to display our inventory. I hasn't been hard meeting new people all the time. It hasn't been hard learning how to become better every day at a job that challenges and fulfills me. When you believe in something so much that you know you will continue to reinvent the message so as many people can fall in love with it like you have, that's the path you stay on. Regardless of how many road blocks. Regardless of the failures. Oh, they will sting a hell of a lot more than that time you understaffed a Friday night and the kitchen got killed while the serving staff flailed through dinner service like a plummeting airplane with one engine. Because it always hurts more when true love is involved. But, you will carry on. Because this is so much bigger than that. The currency of your paycheck is purpose. That is all I have ever searched for. I took me years to understand that. I wanted to feel of service to others. I wanted to share my values. I wanted to be proud of my contributions.
As a business, how does that translate into what I do? I had this idea of what I thought my boutique should offer. I looked at bridal salons and drew on my own experience as a bride in order to answer the question: what do our Prairie Brides need? I know what they want. I know what all brides want. They want to walk into a store and feel welcomed and excited. They want to find just enough options in their budget to feel like they are in control of their choice. Brides want as little or as much love and support when making that choice by the people they trust to include in that process. They want a space where that feels warm and intimate. They want to feel the value of their wedding gown far exceeds the price tag. Brides want to fall in love with themselves. I knew what their wants were because I had all those same wants when I was searching for my gown. The needs? The needs were a mystery to me. Because everything I "want" is about the emotive experience of shopping and selection. The needs are those small details that are required in order to see the vision through to the end.
After spending 90 days developing a space for the bridal community to connect and sell their gowns I understand the needs so much more. The needs are where the expertise and organization of a business who cares about your wants takes over. Educated consulting was my first learning curve. I need to have all the information regarding style and fit in order to analyze the collage of Pinterest images you have been swooning over. But I don't need to school you on terminology. Brides just require the correct balance of descriptions and real terms. I know I would have felt more in control at a fitting if I knew the difference between trumpet and mermaid. Not to mention what alterations are optional and required down the long, winding road to Dress Day. Most of our Prairie Brides feel empowered at the boutique because they understand how to ask for what they are looking for throughout the rest of their search.
90% of brides are not aware of how formal sizing works. Which is not surprising because we live in the three-sizes-fit-all label world. My job was to develop a way to get that out in the open and establish where to start on our racks. Formal sizing is based on measurements. It is also less forgiving than street sized labels. I always tell my brides "size shock" is a syndrome we are going to leave behind us. We get it out of the way and we move onto the prettier parts of the appointment. Nothing ruins a fitting more quickly than squeezing in and out of gowns that are snug. You regret the bacon you had for breakfast, you start size-shaming yourself and before you know it your sweating in and out of gowns that you may have loved- if they were the right fit. It can be extremely deflating. Its not you- its them! So let the dressmakers worry about the number- we are going to focus on the gorgeous options we have that will fit you the best.
Lastly, an education in alterations under the watchful eye of our resident expert, Robyn, our seamstress. Having an experienced, passionate and mindful teacher has allowed me to understand assessing and discussing alterations from both a value and aesthetic perspective. Most formal gowns will need some form of alteration. Hemming, bust reduction, increase in the side seam. All of these elements must be expertly observed and explained in real terms as they apply to both the fit and the price tag. Sometimes, brides have a vision that includes custom work in order to create their gown. Understanding both the limitations and options for the dress is vital. At Pearl and Birch, we have the added variable of dresses that are previously altered. This can save our Prairie Brides real money on details like sewn in cups or bustled skirts. But they might also present challenges in the form of letting out a gown that has already been taken in. When we meet all of these needs, subtly and intentionally, we are able to write new love stories in our fitting room.
I have learned an incredible amount in such a short time. There is so much more to selling dresses than one might imagine. With our Consignor's I have a whole other skill set I have honed in order to accurately price a gown in today's competitive and vast bridal market. I will be talking more about the "Great Gown Rescue" and the pursuit of modernizing Preloved next week!
It is hard not to worry about what tomorrow will bring. No one follows their heart feeling certain about the future. I am sure that first date didn't feel like you knew what the rest of your life would be like from that day forward. That's the thing about love stories- they are written in chapters. I can't live in uncertainty and failure. I refuse to. Even if it seems eminent. I did that, all my life. Fearing the what ifs. I wasn't until I stopped being afraid of losing something I didn't even have that I was able to let myself be loved, by myself and others. And that's how I live today. I bring everything that I have to the table. Every day. I learn and I grow and I serve and I discover what the people around me need and I offer it to them in the best way I know how. I stand tall in the drought. I live like the rain is coming today.