New shop dresses up Port Orchard

Carmen Bloomfield-Martin watches a bridal fashion show at her new store, Robes Elegante. - Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo
Carmen Bloomfield-Martin watches a bridal fashion show at her new store, Robes Elegante.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo

With the December opening of Robes Elegante, Port Orchard now has a place where residents can rent or purchase formal wear — or where brides can select the wedding dress they will treasure for the rest of their lives.

“Port Orchard doesn’t have a place like this,” said store owner Carmen Bloomfield-Martin. “If you want to rent or buy a formal dress, you need to go to either Tacoma or Silverdale and fight the crowds. For people in Port Orchard, we provide location, selection and service.”

Bloomfield-Martin, who also runs a consignment shop on Bay Street, had no plans to open a new store — especially in this economic climate. That was before she came in contact with an older couple looking to liquidate their stock of formal gowns.

After several discussions, these dresses primed the pump for the store’s collection.

This has grown into a large, varied display of sizes, prices and styles.

Bloomfield-Martin has connected with several high-profile designers and is the exclusive Northwest representative for Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings.

The new store, with 10,000 square feet of retail space, is located in a building that has been vacant for several years near QFC in Port Orchard.

When they began moving items in the fall, store personnel could barely get their work done for all the questions from passersby.

They put a few mannequins and signs in the window to answer the most obvious questions, but this generated even more interest.

By the time of the store’s Dec. 1 opening, there was already a considerable anticipatory buzz.

This culminated in a catered fashion show last week, during which local women modeled both traditional and modern gowns from the store’s collection.

“I never thought of doing this,” Bloomfield-Martin said. “And this has been a surprise to the people who know me. I didn’t grow up as a girly-girl. Right now, I coach boys’ soccer. But people are always going to get married, so there will always be a market.”

The economy has resulted in some cutbacks, but Bloomfield-Martin said that people view a wedding as something they will only do once and want to get it right.

A dress may cost $65 or $3,500, but it needs to be what the bride wants.

“Every girl is planning for her wedding all her life,” Bloomfield-Martin said. “She wants to be the princess of her day. We are here to help her realize this. It is our job to see what she envisions, and offer it to her within her budget. We don’t want to encourage a purchase she will regret.”

Today’s bride, in fact, could be purchasing a future heirloom that could be worn by her daughters and granddaughters.

Bloomfield-Martin admits that her downtown store has weathered a slow winter, and that the current business climate is a cold one.

Still, people will always get married despite economic conditions.

She also expects to succeed through partnerships, and has already made agreements with local caterers and photographers.

“The economy will bounce back,” Bloomfield-Martin said. “Even though no one can predict when that will happen. People will always spend money on their weddings, although it is a matter of how much. And they will always look to rent formal wear.

“People like dressing up because it makes them feel good,” she said. “And they like to leave a good impression.”

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