Prom dresses at consignment prices

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
CHINA GROVE — Encore Elegance is a teenage girl’s wildest dream come true. The new boutique at Encore on Main features more than 600 prom gowns in every color of the rainbow — solids, print, shimmery iridescent gowns with lavish accents of sequins and crystal — and some decidedly more understated.
If you’re headed to prom this spring, this should be your first stop.
Because Encore on Main is a consignment shop, some of the gowns are previously worn, explains owner Scottie Davis. “But I do order new gowns. I get them from bridal shops, usually last year’s styles, and shops that are going out of business.”
The gowns are size 0 to 26 and are typically priced between $70 and $120. There are a few pricier gowns, too. Scottie pulls from the rack a pastel-colored plaid Jovani gown, the original tags still on it, priced at $535. She’s selling it for $289. There’s also a royal blue Caché gown, originally priced at $925, that she’s selling for $349.
Encore Elegance is the new home for other special occasion wear such as bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses and cocktail dresses.
Scottie, who’s been in business seven years, began offering special occasion clothing the first year she was open — and eventually outgrew the first-floor corner where the gowns were on display.
During prom season, Scottie’s regular customers often had to wait a long time to try on clothing.
“We needed more space,” Scottie admits. “We had to give up our storage room.”
The upstairs area is spacious, with two dressing rooms and an alteration room that often does double duty for high-school girls who want to try on prom gowns. She also stocks shoes, jewelry, hair bands and purses.
Although most are full-length, Scottie does have short, flirty gowns, too.
There are more affordable gowns, too. Scottie points to a sale rack of mostly gowns in older styles, still beautiful, with prices such as $22.95, $24 or $32.
“Some of the girls want something simple,” she notes. “They don’t want anything fancy.”
Styles this season range from fitted gowns to the Cinderella-style ball gowns. Some are showered with crystal and sequins, some aren’t.
“It’s all a matter of personal taste,” Scottie says.
Hours for Encore Elegance are 3-8 p.m. Thursday; 3-5 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. During these times, the boutique is open with dedicated staff members — but shoppers can come by at other times as well.
“We’ve tried to accommodate everybody,” Scottie says.
This is a busy time of year for shops that cater to prom-goers.
“Teenagers are hard to please,” Scottie says.
She cautions against buying a dress too early. She’s already had customers who have come to her shop to buy a second gown, because they changed their mind on the first one they bought elsewhere.
Most customers try on anywhere from eight to 10 gowns.
She advises young women to be open-minded in trying on prom gowns.
“It’s sometimes very surprising,” Scottie says. “They end up purchasing a gown they had no intention of buying.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Encore Elegance was hopping.
Michelle Ours and her daughter, Mary Margaret Yates, were shopping for a gown that Mary Margaret could wear to the South Rowan High School prom. Mary Margaret was also looking for a dress to wear in a wedding.
“We found some maybes,” Michelle reported after her daughter had tried on a pile of dresses. “I work here on Thursdays, so the dress will be coming from here for sure.”
Ashley Parker, also attending the South prom, tried on several dresses. One was a neon coral halter gown, another a zebra print. Finally, she put on a black-and-white stunner that was brand-new, and priced at $109.
Kristin Cheek came with her family from Gastonia to shop.
“I didn’t come to look,” said her dad, Ray. “I came to buy.” Kristin was looking for a prom dress but also for formal dresses to wear on a spring cruise.
“I don’t want her to have the same dress as anyone else,” her dad said.
Mom Monica took the time to point out that Kristin, who’d had heart surgery when she was a young child, was her daddy’s girl.
Kristin ended up choosing three gowns — all strapless and with beading, in dark blue, turquoise and hot pink — priced from $49 to $129. Her father was pleased.
Scottie notes that teens on a limited budget can volunteer at Encore on Main to earn credit toward a gown. They can also host a Shopping Party, earning a 25 percent discount as well as host points for gowns purchased. Finally, Scottie is inviting a limited number of students from area high schools to a prom gown party on April 4, at which about 100 gowns will be available for purchase at $10 each.
“Girls still want to look good and have a pretty dress that’s in style,” she says.
Scottie may be just a business owner, but she also very well may be a fairy godmother in disguise.
For more information about Encore Elegance, call 704-857-1584.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.