AT WORK: The Dressing Room boutique in Wallingford

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — With wedding season and summer style in full swing, the Record-Journal stopped by The Dressing Room on North Main Street to chat with owner Christine Rinere of Madison about her business, the demands of the fashion world and changes in the industry.

Q: How long has The Dressing Room been here?

Rinere: We’ve been here for 10 years, we just had our one year anniversary of our Madison store.

Q: What do you sell here at The Dressing Room?

Rinere: Our boutique has everything from denim to evening gowns to pretty much everything in between. It’s almost like a mini department store. We have shoes, we have handbags, jewelry.

A lot of mothers-of-the-bride come to us because they don’t want that typical mother-of-the-bride look, they like to look young, they like to look on point. We’re one of the few stores around that is like great New York shopping but right in the heart of downtown. It’s kind of what sets us apart from everyone else.

Q: What made you want to open this type of business?

Rinere: I was working out of my house and had designed my own clothing line – it was like a sportswear line and I was just looking for a very tiny retail space to open a small concept store.

This was available, and at the time it was an established business, it was called The Dressing Room. She was selling the whole store with inventory and everything but the location was so great. 

It kind of took on a life of its own and we became more and more popular for formal wear.

Q: What is your background?

Rinere: I’m originally from New York.

I have a background in finance, I used to work in corporate finance. My husband owned an insurance agency and I was the CFO of that company. I stayed at home with the kids and I was very active and kind of saw this niche in the market for sportswear that was easy on and off, comfortable but still looked nice, which now has turned into a whole category in itself called athleisure wear. 

I kind of learned from the ground up, from pattern making and marketing and sewing. 

Q: What was the response from people to having this New York style feel boutique here?

Rinere: When I started the store it was 2009...which was a terrible economy. The girl I bought it from said, ‘don’t buy this brand, don’t buy that brand it’s expensive, no one is going to buy it.’ I did the exact opposite.

I think if you bring quality but with an eye for value and what fits and what’s worth the money, people will respond – and they have. 

Q: How has the fashion business changed in the last decade?

Rinere: It’s changed a lot. I think the market got very saturated with that kind of disposable fashion. 

Companies expanded too fast and opened a lot of outlets everywhere. They oversaturated the market and created so much waste and then had to slash all their prices and they got stuck with a lot of inventory. People got so tired of seeing the same thing in every store they went to. 

More people started to appreciate the smaller boutiques. I think people starting appreciating supporting local business. 

Q: Are there any designers you look to for inspiration when buying for your boutique?

Rinere: Yes. I have always followed fashion so the way it works is all the couture designers, so Christian Dior, Chanel, all the high high end designers, their collections come out way ahead of the ready to wear market.

I always look to see kind of what their collection feels like, because you know that’s where fashion is going to go.

Q: What’s your favorite style that you try to keep in your boutique?

Rinere: It’s a mix because there’s so many different aspects to life. I love clothes that feel like you’re in your pajamas but you feel fabulous and look very put together.

I always look for comfort but looks very fashion forward.

Q: What are the most popular designers you carry?

Rinere: Nicole Miller is a very established New York designer, we go to her in New York. Nicole is there, she’s designing the collection and that’s one part of the business that I love.  

Another designer we carry a lot of is Ted Baker London. We also carry his handbags and shoes.   

Another brand is Keepsake and we’ve done very well with that.

Q: What do you see as the future of your boutique?

Rinere: We’ve definitely been working on building our online business, like yesterday we shipped to Hong Kong so we’re shipping all over the world and that takes a lot of marketing. Staying up with social media, just growing the existing business.

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