Originals by Ouida: Ouida Davis has found a nice business niche in making customized garters
By Katie Scarvey
Did you know that fancy garters aren’t just for brides anymore?
These days, the frilly, snappable bits of fabric are a hot prom trend, and Ouida Davis of Salisbury has developed a nice business making the fancy accessories and selling them at her mother’s shop, Ruby’s.
Long a mainstay in downtown Salisbury, Ruby’s is now located at 3325 Bringle Ferry Road.
But Ouida’s garters have found their way far beyond Salisbury. Ouida now does a brisk wholesale business, shipping garters around the country to formalwear shops that can’t seem to keep them in stock.
The business, Originals by Ouida, didn’t happen overnight, of course.
Back in the mid 1980s, Miss Ruby’s ran out of blue garters ó and brides were clamoring for them. Miss Ruby’s suppliers were out, and there were no blue garters to be found.
Ouida decided to take matters in her own hands. She knew how to sew after all.
She says now that her initial garter efforts were probably on the crude side. The first ones she made did not feature French seams, but her mother, Ruby Goodman, soon set her straight on that.
“I’ve learned to listen to her over the years,” Ouida says.
And that’s how it all started, from a relatively small project designed to address a minor emergency, to a sophisticated home-based business that has cranked out thousands of customized garters in an amazing array of styles.
Sequins, zebra and cheetah prints, polka dots, school or team colors: Ouida can do it all. Lately, camouflage garters are becoming something of a rage.
Next year, it’s looking as though giraffe and snakeskin prints will be big, says Ouida, who is clearly not too thrilled about the snakeskin trend.
One of her biggest sellers has been the turquoise hologram sequin garter ó she’s made hundreds of those, she says. Turquoise is a hot color for prom dresses this year.
She recently received an order for a pasta garter, to be worn by a bride. She will somehow attach real pasta to it, she says ó and she’s looking forward to the challenge.
She’s done garters that feature motorcycles, chili peppers, dice ó if you can name a theme, Ouida has probably sewn a garter in keeping with it.
Ouida loves the variety, which keeps her job interesting. She estimates that this season she’s probably made 5,000 garters ó which is a lot of elastic, ribbon, sequins, feathers and charms.
The business works well with her lifestyle. She can work from home and still care for her two young granddaughters, ages 2 and 4.
She does have some assistance; daughter Amy Durham helps her do invoicing and labeling. Her cousin, Robin Arey helps out as well and Ouida’s aunt, Cheryl Kluttz, also helps as needed.
Selling wholesale is much different from selling retail, Ouida says. It can get crazy when you’re pushing to get the next order out, she says, and she does work long hours when she has orders pending.
Ouida’s busiest time is from January to May. After Mother’s Day, she can generally relax a bit ó but not too long, because there’s always next season to prepare for.
Although it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to make a garter ó about 30 minutes, there are many steps in the process, she says, from fielding customer telephone calls to neatly packaging the garter to shipping the completed orders. Everything is done from scratch. Ouida even has a printing machine so that she can customize the ribbon, with the name of the wedding or prom couple, for example.
She isn’t sure that any schools in Rowan County do it, but many schools around the country have a prom garter ceremony, in which the girls line up in a circle on the dance floor, exposing their garter-adorned legs.
They then remove the garter and their escort pins it on his jacket.
Some girls actually buy two, Ouida says, so they can give one to their date to keep.
“You see a lot of them on rear view mirrors,” she says
Garters are generally one size fits most, but she does make some plus-sized garters and does not charge extra for them. Ouida markets her garters at shows around the country. This year, the Chicago Bridal Market was a good one, she says. You’d think that things would be slowing down this year, with prom season already in full swing, but Ouida say she’s continuing to ship garters out.
And she’s even getting orders for next season ó one shop has already ordered 45 dozen.
“It makes me feel good when (a customer) calls back and says, ‘Send me more,’ ” she says.
Ruby’s sells garters for about $12. Customized garters fetch a bit more.
Ouida says that some retailers charge as much as $19.95 for her garters.
Ouida says she’s not really doing anything that anybody who can sew couldn’t do, but she seems to have gotten garter-making and selling down to a science ó while maintaining an artful touch.
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To check out Ouida’s garters online, go to www.obogarters.com.
For more information, call 704-279-5657.
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