BRIDGEWATER - Miss Louise's Prom Closet and Special Occasion Rental Shop is the only gown rental shop in New England.
"This past prom I had over 900 rentals and that includes girls from Martha's Vineyard to Hartford, Connecticut," owner Julie Costa said.
She prides herself on being affordable and accessible. Prom gowns are only $40, mother of the bride dresses $30, and homecoming dresses are $25. And if you need shoes that's only $5.
"I just thought dresses that are sitting in our closet are not being worn. They're made to be worn more than once and it's great for the environment as well," Costa said.
Julie came up with the idea during the pandemic after losing her job. After that, she wanted to help others who also faced hardships.
She put out a call on Facebook to start a prom closet and after four weeks she had over 400 donated gowns.
"We were home, and we weren't doing anything. We were purging our closets, our attics, our adult children's rooms," she said.
She got the gown racks from stores that were closing and liquidating their furniture. The shop started out of a basement closet that she rented from a storefront area business. She quickly outgrew that space and when one of the shops opened upstairs, moved the shop there.
Once events started happening again, Julie was busy with over 400 rentals for prom 2022 while still getting donations still every day. She carries sizes 00 to 26 and wants everyone who comes in to feel special. Every year she gives free gown rentals to girls who are in need for prom.
"I have girls even women that walk in and have never even tried on a dress, so I like to educate them. This isn't just a shop it's a service," Julie explained.
From starting in a basement closet to almost two years later, nearly outgrowing the storefront upstairs, she knows her grandmother Louise would be proud.
"It's a dream come true," she said.
To provide people with easy access to local prom services, Julie also started a prom expo with vendors such as photographers, limo services, and hair and makeup artists. She says there hasn't been a prom expo for small businesses in New England in over 20 years. The expo for this upcoming prom season will be Jan. 7 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bridgewater Veterans Club. It's free to attend and catered toward proms on the South Shore.
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