FEMININE FOCUS: “I love the buying, and I love it when customers come in and find just what they want.” Mary Hagemann, owner of Kiki D’s Dresses, is shown with a silk Jovani dress in a rainbow of colors, appropriate for prom or cruise.
Fluted hemlines, bubble bottoms, kerchief hems, long dresses, short dresses — the feminine focus is on display at Kiki D’s Dresses in the Princeton North Shopping Center. Owner Mary Hagemann opened the shop in February, with an emphasis on prom dresses. “I’d been wanting to start my own business for a couple of years,” she explains. “I thought a dress shop focusing on prom dresses was a good idea. Last year, my daughter and I had to go to Pennsylvania to find one.
“Now, however, we have expanded into dresses for Mothers-of-the-Bride and Mothers-of-the-Groom, and formal wear for other occasions, including cruises. And in addition to the teens, a lot of women are coming in, and they are all ages. Our customers range from 13 to 75 or older. It’s great when mothers and daughters come in together.” This is Ms. Hagemann’s first venture into retail, but she has always had a keen interest in fashion. “I’ve always liked clothes, and I love to watch the award shows to see what everyone is wearing.”
In the short time Kiki D’s had been open, there are already many regular customers, and a number of surprises as well. For example, Mrs. Hagemann sold a wedding dress. “A bride came in and bought a beautiful white lace dress for her wedding gown. That really was a surprise. “Another thing,” she continues, “women are coming in for long dresses to wear to weddings, as guests. There is more of a trend with this today, and we have a big selection.”
Dresses for graduation parties and bat mitzvahs are also popular, and cruisewear is becoming a big focus, both for dressy and informal wear. Kiki D’s has a wonderful selection of casual cotton sundresses, appropriate for cruises and also, as Ms. Hagemann points out, for backyard barbecues. In bright colors and patterns, they are a super spring or summer statement.
“White is very big right now,” reports Ms. Hagemann. “White dresses, white trench coats, white accessories, including handbags. Yellow is another popular color this spring. “There is also a big trend in bubble bottoms for dresses and trench coats. We have trenches in black, white, and fuschia, and everyone likes them. We just sold a trench coat with bubble bottom to a 70-year-old, a 50-year-old, and a teen. Bubble bottoms are definitely popular with all ages.”
Dresses are available from such lines as Cortise, Jovani, Sherri Hill, and Faviana. They are in many styles and fabrics, including silk, polyester, and cotton (sundresses). With so many irresistible choices, decision-making is a challenge.
For example, a gorgeous totally sequinned, shimmering white sheath prom dress is sheer elegance.
“A black and white Cortise accordion-pleated dress with spaghetti straps and flared hemline has wonderful movement,” points out Ms. Hagemann. “It’s a great dancing dress.” And there are so many others!
An important focus is the cross-over dress, she adds. Dresses that can be worn to more than one event. There are stunning 3-piece ensembles, with skirt, shell, and jacket in gorgeous colors and styles in this category.
“We also have a copy of the glamorous green dress that actress Keira Knightly wore in the movie Atonement, and another dress that is a copy of one worn on the TV show Deal or No Deal, says Ms. Hagemann.
Individuality is emphasized at Kiki D’s, she adds. “One of the things that is very important here is that I try never to sell the same dress to customers going to the same event — prom, bat mitzvah, wedding, etc.”
This is noted by one of the shop’s customers, Brittany Diamantoni, a senior at Montgomery High School, who has been shopping for a prom dress. “I love the styles here. They are different. You won’t see everyone else wearing the same thing. It’s a really nice atmosphere, too, and I like the color-oriented displays.”
Customers are also pleased with Kiki D’s selection of accessories, including dressy sandals, handbags, jewelry, and headbands and decorative combs. “We want this to be one-stop shopping for people. Our handbags are very special, including the Latico line. You will find versatile patent leather styles and silver and gold beaded clutches, among others.”
Hostess gifts, such as beautifully-packaged candles and plaques featuring a variety of inscriptions — the latter especially nice for a girl heading to college — are also available.
The decor and color-oriented displays at Kiki D’s are very appealing, all geared to provide convenience and ease of shopping for customers. Oversized dressing rooms with large mirrors are a highlight, as is the “waterfall” presentation of dresses. They are shown in a front-facing format rather than on racks. “This is very popular with customers,” says Ms. Hagemann. “The dresses are much easier to see.
“My daughter Kristen comes in and helps in the store, and we do the displays together. Her nickname is Kiki, and the shop is named for her.”
Zero to 28
Dress prices range from $150 to $800, with everything in between. Sizes are zero to 28. Many repeat customers are already part of Kiki D’s shopping scene, with people coming from Princeton and beyond. “The response is everything I hoped for and more,” says Ms. Hagemann. “I really believe I am filling a need. And not only are the teens coming for prom dresses, their mothers and grandmothers are coming in too. A woman came in recently to pick up a graduation dress for her daughter, and ended up getting a dress for herself too. I love dealing with the women, and I love senior women. They are so interesting. They know what looks good on them, what colors they like, etc.
“I love all my customers,” she continues. “They depend on me for the varied price range and the variety of styles. They may come in for a prom dress and find a dress for mom too, or one for a backyard barbecue. I look forward to continuing to be dependable for my customers. They can call me on the phone, and I’ll try to fill their special requests.
“My customers depend on me, and I depend on them. I never take them for granted. Customer service is Number One here.”
Mrs. Hagemann also provides catalogues for Mother-of-the-Bride dresses, and an on-line dress selection.
Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 11 to 6; Thursday 12 to 7; Saturday 10 to 5. Sunday by appointment. (609) 430-4600. Website: kikidresses.com.
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