REHOBOTH BEACH, DEL. -- The days of women having to shell out big money to buy a gown for a special event are over, at least in these parts. Now they can do what men do when they need formal wear: rent it.
Two shops on the Delmarva Peninsula offer rental gown services -- Something Old-Something New in Salisbury, Md., and Posh Frock in Rehoboth Beach.
Entering Phyllis Bahder's Posh Frock is like stepping into a lavishly decorated boudoir. "I want a woman to be able to come in here and feel fantasy and romance. What I've tried to make here is a show salon, so that's why I've spent a little more money on decor," she said.
The boutique opened Aug. 22 and has limited hours. But eventually Bahder wants to show dresses by appointment only, "so a woman can take all the time in the world" to find what she wants.
Bahder admits that the concept of a rental boutique could take some time to catch on. Although she admits there's not much opportunity to "dress up" at the beach, she said there are some social activities in the area.
"I have a lot of stock, but not nearly what I want. I'm going to have to see what the market is here -- if it's for older women, larger women, young women," she said.
Bahder carries wedding gowns, numerous formal gowns and silk cocktail dresses. Silk and satin slips, crinolines and hoops are also available for rental.
And if you don't have the proper coat or wrap, she has a full-length ranch mink, a beaver jacket and red, silver, and blue fox jackets for rent.
Cocktail dresses rent from $40 to $70, wedding gowns from $75 to $100, and formal gowns from $25 to $80. The furs rent from $75 to $100. Security deposits are required for all rentals.
Thelma Fields has been running a similar business for nearly two years from her home in Salisbury.
Fields has about 1,000 gowns that take up the second floor and part of her basement. Her inventory includes about 70 wedding gowns, bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, all-occasion gowns, prom gowns, and tuxedos for little boys.
She also rents slips, hoops and crinolines.
"I feel like I'm really a service. A girl can rent a wedding gown from me for $100 and attendants' dresses average $45 to $50," Fields said.
Fields said she first planned to rent only used gowns. But business picked up rapidly and there were requests for larger bridal parties, so she began buying gowns.
She got in the business after her daughter married three years ago and "we found out how expensive a wedding could be."
"We said it's a shame you can't rent gowns like a tuxedo and we talked about it for a year. My son finally said,'Why not do something about it?'."