MADE IN (269)
That moment when you find the perfect dress!
(OR SEE THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE IN IT)

STORYKEITH KEHLBECK | IMAGE MITCH CONRAD

Perhaps nothing is more personal—or more of a rite of passage—than choosing a prom or a wedding dress. To many prom-goers, as with prospective brides, the process is one fraught with anticipation, expectations, and emotions.

Memories Bridal & Evening Wear aims to make the experience a joyful—and painless—one.

“Styles have changed quite a bit over the years, but what we do has stayed fairly consistent,” says Adrienne Wissner, owner of the bridal and evening wear shop on Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo. “We want our clients to have an amazing experience.”

A passion for unique dresses showcasing personal style

Adrienne always wanted to own her own business, but she didn’t know exactly what that business would be. “I went to school for biology and chemistry and wanted to go into environmentally friendly agriculture, but I also had a passion for unique dresses, so I ended up opening a dress resale side business while I was pursuing a degree, and that business grew and became my vocation and my husband’s vocation.”

The original Memories started in Adrienne’s hometown of Stevensville. “Then, we opened this one 10 years ago, and Kalamazoo is the main shop now. We’ve since closed the one in Stevensville, because this is where everyone wanted to go,” she says. During prom season, which starts in January, the Wissners open a seasonal prom store in the RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville, and this year they will also be doing one in Portage at the Crossroads Mall.

At the flagship location, Memories does everything: bridal, prom, pageant and tuxedos, with bridal being the main focus.

Here comes the bride

When brides-to-be come in, Adrienne notes that they usually have something in mind, but they sometimes end up going in a different direction. Memories’ staff works one-on-one with the customers, seeing how clients react and sometimes suggesting a different style. The goal? Finding the right dress for each woman.

How much time does it typically take for a prospective bride to come up with the right dress for the occasion? “Most of the time we’ll be working with them for at least two hours during their first appointment. A lot of girls do choose their dress during that first appointment, but some like to see all of the options, and they want to have more time to think about things. Usually three appointments are the most that we’ll do. We’ll help them narrow down their options until they feel good with their decision.”

The most unusual wedding dress request? “Probably our most unusual requests are for full color dresses or for camouflage print dresses,” says Adrienne. “Some girls love hunting and embrace the country lifestyle. Sometimes, they want to show that with their dress, too. We haven’t actually done a full camouflage dress, but we have done beautiful dresses with added camouflage accents for girls and then outfitted their guys in camouflage vests and ties to go with that outdoor feel.”

Competition and reputation

“Our business is all about reputation. There are other competitors in our market. There are big box stores for prom. We compete with stores at the mall. And, there are also some smaller independent shops. For a designer wedding dress or prom dress, girls will drive to find the right store. We will pull clients from an hour, hour-and-a-half radius in to come and shop at our store because they’ve heard we have a great selection and are fun to work with.”

Prom Style 2017

The prom business is Adrienne Wissner’s favorite. “Most of what we do is bridal,” she says. “The prom is where my passion lies, however.” Why is that? “I love the variety,” she says. “Pretty much anything goes with prom. Girls can really showcase their unique style. That’s what I’m most passionate about in the store—helping girls feel like they can really be beautiful, and showing them that they can embrace their personal style and be proud of how they look.”

For proms, Adrienne notes that trends do vary quite a bit. “For prom this year, it’s going to be a lot of two-piece dresses, which have been big the past year or two. Floral prints are also popular. That started hitting last year, and it’s going to be really big this year. For the prom, I’m seeing more dresses with long and very sophisticated sleeves.”

Here’s what coming to that bridesmaid closet

“Every season we try to see what’s new and different. We try to get dresses that don’t look as bridesmaid-y. For the most part, they are one-time-wears. We are seeing trends with more lace dresses or sequin dresses. Depending on what color the bride chooses, selected dresses can later be incorporated into a date night or that kind of thing. For the most part, (bridesmaid dresses) are still one-time-wears because you love the bride and you want to be a part of her special day.”

Good for the goose, good for the gander

Men need to look great at proms and weddings, too, right? Adrienne notes that the big current trend with tuxes is gray tuxes and navy tuxes. And the bow tie is back. Was it gone? “Yes, 10 years ago I don’t think I could’ve rented a bow tie to anybody, but now they are popular again,” she says. Long ties and a vest have been replaced with the classic bow ties and suspenders.

The cost of looking good

Dresses at Memories go up to about $3,500, but most are in the $1,000 and $2,000 range. “That’s fairly reasonable in terms of wedding gowns. All of the dresses that we have, our bridal gowns, our prom and bridesmaid dresses, are all designer brands from popular designers throughout the country. Our prom dresses typically range about $250 to $550. We have different ends of the spectrum, but that’s where most of our dresses fall in terms of price.”

The Cinderella Project

Sponsored by Memories Bridal & Evening Wear in partnership with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, The Cinderella Project of Kalamazoo is an annual event that provides free prom dresses and accessories to local high school young women in need. Originally founded in 2006 as a partnership between Memories and The Junior League of Kalamazoo, each year The Cinderella Project gives away hundreds of beautiful dresses to help young girls’ prom dreams come true. “Our goal is to make sure every young lady that wants to attend prom has the opportunity to do so no matter what her personal or financial hardships,” says Adrienne. The Cinderella Project is a community-wide event only made possible by the generous donations of gently used prom dresses and accessories. If you would like to clean out your closet and help make prom dreams come true, donations of dresses, jewelry, and shoes can be dropped off at Memories year-round.

The February 18, 2017 event was the 11th and biggest year yet for the Project with 2,600 dresses up for the picking at the Girl Scouts facility on Maple Street in Kalamazoo.

“It’s an open-call event, so any girl who is in high school that needs our help is welcome to attend. We do our best to get a free dress for her. We try to reach out directly to the schools and then push it through Facebook. It’s something we’ve wanted to do or wanted to incorporate into our business from the very beginning—to be able to give back to girls who otherwise wouldn’t be able to feel like a princess. Every girl should feel like a princess at least once in her life.”

On the lookout for that perfect dress?

For two-piece dresses, dramatic backs, fun prints, Bohemian Weddings and more, visit dresslikeyou.com for hot 2017 trends in proms, weddings, and pageants. The website also offers Frequently Asked Questions and a 360-degree virtual store tour.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
(269) LIST

(269) LIST for September/October 2017
Includes Six of the Best Weekend Getaways!

See who else made the (269) List!

(269) THOUGHTS
LIFE LIST
TWITTER FEED

11_Ad-Keyser
11_Ad-Gallagher
11_Ad-Eaton
11_Ad-RiverRun
11_Ad-MIWorks
11_Ad-SMBT
11_Ad-Greenleaf
11_Ad-Peregrine
11_Ad-Amerifirst
11_Ad-Arbor
11_Ad-Custer
11_Ad-FirstNational
11_Ad-MEDC
11_Ad-BCBS
11_Ad-CTS
11_Ad-StateTheatre
11_Ad-IST
11_Ad-AlwaysForward
11_Ad-FirstLeaders