As warmer weather hits and the world seems to be opening up with small events and celebrations, a new fashion item has emerged to invade our comfortable pandemic wardrobes. It’s called — brace yourself — "the party dress" (remember it?) and, many of us haven’t seen the likes of it for more than a year.
But the garment making its debut right now is not quite as we left it pre-pandemic.
"It’s not black-tie … and it’s not tailored or that mother-of-the-bride formal, that just doesn’t feel right," says Afshin Haghani, the co-owner of Gallery Couture, a high fashion boutique in Manhasset where hundreds of dresses have recently been ordered based on demand and at a recent trunk show, dozens of dresses sold out in a day. "The dress of the moment is flowy, more languid, easier on the body and romantic," he says.
Selling like crazy? "Pretty florals or ditsy prints either long with a Bohemian/Victorian vibe or shorter hemlines for women who are finally — after a year — wanting to show off their legs," he says.
A FITTING FAIRY TALE
"It’s almost a Cinderella moment," says Adam Glassman, the creative director of "Oprah Daily" and special correspondent for "Extra TV," referring to our somewhat frumpy lockdown clothes and now, these jubilant designs.
And although fancyish frocks may seem a far cry from what we’ve all gotten used to, he adds, "Dresses are the easiest piece of clothing to transition into after a year of wearing athleisure. We’re not talking the va-va-voom skintight Kardashian dress. We’re not really ready for structure. These dresses can feel more effortless than putting on a pair of sweatpants. And I think there’s a lot of joy in today’s dresses — they’re meant to make people feel alive and beautiful," he says suggesting that the much-watched romantic/drama Netflix series, "Bridgerton," has influenced some of the trends including feminine prints, featherlight materials, ruffles, tiers and exaggerated sleeves.
THE DRESS BOOM
"Our customers are starved for dresses," says Jenny Montiglio, the owner of Ooh La La Boutiques in Babylon and Seaford where dresses are flying out the door. "They were robbed of them last year, so the desire has kind of doubled."
Last season, dress sales here and in many places were a bust with all the finery ending up on the sale rack.
"We had all these feminine dresses and absolutely nothing was selling. Now I have customers looking for a dress and leaving with three or four, the desire to dress up is so great," says Montiglio adding that tapered maxis are her hottest sellers and looks in happy colors that can go "day-into-night" are most popular.
"People are looking for flirty, romantic dresses as opposed to the tailored black dress," she notes, echoing Haghani’s sentiments. One of her customers, Sara Seaquist, 24, of Bay Shore, who favors long floral styles, says, "After a year of being in sweats I’m s-o-o ready to look presentable and get back to going to events."
Likewise, at Sage and Angie boutique in West Hempstead, owner Sagine Pierre says her customers are "not wearing these black-tie sort of things. People want flowy, flowery, light, airy and colorful and even if they’re not going to events they want to feel dressed up."
One such woman is Dana Perisco, 54, of West Bay Shore, who is the CEO at the Long Island Nail Skin & Hair Institute in Levittown. She’s already entered the dress zone big time. "I’ve lived in leggings for months and am so done," she says. "I’d like to have a campfire, put them all in a pile and say so long."
To that end, she’s buying dresses in multiples. "I’ve bought a ton," she says picking them up at various price points from retailers such as Ooh La La, Gilt, Nordstrom and Target. "And not one of them has any black. They’re very wearable and the fabrics talk to femininity and feeling good about being a woman. We’re coming out of a time that was very challenging and dark. It’s time to celebrate us and I am there."
Dana Perisco, 54, of West Bay Shore is so done with her pandemic low-heeled shoes and is all-in with high strappy sandals. But, footwear just might be an issue for some.
Not everybody is ready to go high after wearing sneakers, flats and slippers for a year. In fact, Ooh La La Boutiques customers are still wearing their sneaks with their new dresses along with short boots and wedges according to owner Jenny Montiglio. But Afshin Haghani, the co-owner of Gallery Couture, says a higher shoe is a must. “It’s time to put on your heels and start practice-walking in the kitchen.”