Bellissima owner wants wedding dress shop to be approachable, down to earth

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — As Monica Cameron tried on her wedding dress five years ago, a bridal consultant in Winston-Salem placed a beautiful veil on her head.
When Cameron asked about the price, the employee revealed the veil cost $1,500.
“I kind of gasped and said, ‘Oh, I can’t spend that on a veil,’ ” Cameron said. “And she rolled her eyes.”
Cameron left the shop feeling terrible.
She already was spending more money than she had planned on a designer wedding dress and felt guilty. Then came the eye roll.
“That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Cameron said.
One day, Cameron thought, she would open a wedding dress shop with all the glamour and beauty of couture but none of the attitude.
Five years later, Cameron has opened Bellissima on the Square in downtown Salisbury. Approachable and down to earth, Cameron offers a no-pressure atmosphere where custom-made wedding gowns are appreciated as works of art but not idolized.
“If someone says she can only spend $100 on a veil, I will find the prettiest $100 veil I can and make her feel great about it,” Cameron said. “Everyone deserves that.”
While the shop carries some veils, sashes and other accessories in the $100-range and prom dresses starting at $250, wedding gowns begin in the four figures.
Bellissima’s couture dresses from seven designers run from $1,300 to $6,000. Gowns are made-to-measure for each bride from luxurious fabrics and laces.
If a bride can afford a dress from Bellissima, Cameron will work to keep her — and her mother — on budget. She recently recommended a sash to a bride that cost half as much as one she had tried on.
She also suggested the bride wait to order her dress because she could get 10 percent off during an upcoming trunk show.
“I want my brides to know I’m looking out for them,” Cameron said.
Jessica LaCroix tried on four dresses recently with a large audience filling the shop — her mother, father, mother-in-law and a bridesmaid, plus some family friends who stopped by.
“This shop seems like it should be in New York,” said LaCroix, who lives in Charlotte and tried on dresses in Huntersville and Concord. “Even the building.”
Bellissima occupies 1,200 square feet on the first floor of the Plaza, a seven-story building at 100 W. Innes St. Cameron signed a two-year lease with Downtown Salisbury, which acts as the leasing agent for the Plaza. The city owns the historic building.
LaCroix said she loved shopping at Bellissima, especially the one-on-one attention. Cameron closes the shop during her two-hour private appointments, which are free and recommended.
So far, Cameron hasn’t sold a dress but is averaging one appointment per day, a good clip for a shop open less than a month. Brides have traveled from Atlanta, Burlington, South Carolina and elsewhere to try on dresses only available at Bellissima.
Several brides have returned two or three times.
Cameron compares the process to buying a new car. Brides like to visit all the dealerships before they make a decision.
Bellissima’s final dresses — six designs by designer Angel Rivera, whose career took off while helping brides “Say Yes to the Dress” at Kleinfeld’s in New York City — arrived Thursday. The shop is officially complete, and brides can feel confident about their decision, Cameron said.
Cameron will host several upcoming trunk shows, where designers bring their entire collection for a weekend. The wedding trunk shows are appointment-only, and they’re booking quickly.
“It’s really exciting,” Cameron said. “It’s great to love what you do.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
What exactly is a trunk show?
A bridal trunk show is a traveling collection of wedding gowns. The dresses go from one salon to the next, usually only for one weekend at a time.
Trunk shows often include the newest styles from a designer, which means brides have the chance to try on and buy dresses that are not otherwise available in stores yet.
Prom Weekend
Feb. 10-12
Extended hours 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. No appointment necessary. About 70 dresses available. After the show, Bellissima will carry between 30 and 35 designer dresses until prom.
Simone Carvalli
Feb. 24-25
A representative for the designer will bring about 50 dresses in the haute couture collection. Bridal gowns made of silk, lace and Swarovksi crystals. Hour-glass shape with traditional or fashion-forward styles. Appointments required.
Sassi Holford
March 9-10
The British designer’s entire collection will fill the racks at Bellissima. Holford designed the gown for Autumn Kelly’s 2008 royal marriage to Peter Phillips. Classic English wedding gowns with a contemporary edge, set to be featured on the new TLC show, “Randy to the Rescue.” Appointments required.
Angel Rivera
March 23-25
Rivera himself will dress brides at Bellissima for three days. His career took off while helping brides “Say Yes to the Dress” at Kleinfeld’s in New York City. Dresses feature silks, laces, embroideries, beading and trains. Rivera will provide a signed sketch of each dress purchased at the show. Appointments required.
To make an appointment, call 704-754-5330.