By Shopping at Bella’s Attic, You’ll Never Be Caught Again Wearing the Same Dress

September 7, 2011
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Allie Ortega looks stunning in this tiered black and white frock.

Kate Ortega looks stunning in this tiered black and white frock.

Dress–$200, shoes–$50, jewelry, nails, make-up, plus flowers, limo …. What’s a high school parent (with a daughter who’s been invited to homecoming, the prom and the sports banquet in the same year) to do?

Imagine La Verne’s Linda and Ralph Ortega’s predicament. They have twin daughters, Kate and Allie, 17, both in the full flower of their youth. Over their high school careers, figuring three formal/semi-formal occasions each year for four years (freshman, sophomore, junior and seniors), they could possibly attend 24 different engagements.

Heaven forbid, they get invited to a wedding or a bar mitzvah. No wonder the Ortegas aren’t contemplating retirement any time soon!

“You can spend anywhere from $500 to $700 for one dance,” Linda said, “and when you have two [girls] like I do, you want to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that you can.”

That opportunity came last spring when Linda went rummaging through her girls’ closets and found eight formal/semi-formal dresses, each worn just a single time.

“I thought if I have eight, how many others are out there sitting in other girls’ closets that have been worn only one time, never to be worn again.

“That’s just what girls do,” Linda said, explaining teenage girls’ one-and-done mindset. “They only want to wear them once. They never want to be seen in the same dress twice.”

Although she understood that impressionable teenage girls are always looking for something new and exciting when it comes to fashion, she thought they wouldn’t mind wearing someone else’s dress one time for a formal occasion. In fact, fashionistas on Melrose Blvd. and other hipster locales have embraced the “recycling” trend.

“My girls are borrowing and trading dresses all the time,” she said.

So, Linda fired up her Facebook network, asking relatives and friends if they had any “gently worn” dresses that they would be willing to donate to a new online store she was creating, called Bella’s Attic, named for her grandmother.

“My idea was to lend and trade gently worn prom and homecoming dresses to young girls and women – to give them that fairytale evening without breaking the bank,” Linda said. “I would like for every girl in the area, from La Verne, Claremont and Pomona all the way to Azusa and Fontana to know that there are nice dresses available that you don’t have to pay a lot of money for.

“In fact, if they don’t want to pay any money at all, they can borrow or trade for dresses that they might have in their closet.”


“That would be good,” she said.

So instead of running off to the mall to sort through dozens of dresses and paying possibly hundreds of dollars, girls invited to the prom or a sports banquet or preparing to celebrate their Sweet 16th could visit her online store and then arrange for a fitting at her home for practically nothing.

Kate is pretty in pink.

Allie is pretty in pink.

Ever since that first Facebook posting, the attic has been filling up with popular dresses from Betsy Johnson, Wet Seal, Forever 21 and H&M and dresses she’s purchased from the Los Angeles Fashion Mart. They come in a variety of styles – long, cocktail length, short. She even has a number of vintage dresses.

“I go pick them up or people drop them off,” Linda said. “I’ve even had people mail them from as far away as North Carolina, Louisiana and Chicago.”

Linda dry cleans them all. She’s worked out a special price with La Verne Cleaners in the Stater Bros. shopping center.

If a shopper falls in love with a dress, she also has the option of buying it. Prices range from $10 to $30, a tremendous discount off the retail sticker for a new dress.

In addition to her collection of 85 dresses, Linda has about 50 pairs of shoes that have been donated. Inside her online store is another department called “Hair Flair,” where the shopper can find “hair jewelry” — accents and accessories like headbands, pony tail bands and hair flowers.

“I do charge for that,” Linda said. “I keep the prices low so they are affordable. The idea is to be able to offer a girl who is going to a special occasion or engagement any kind of product or service that she might need.”

Where is Linda stockpiling her growing inventory? Bella’s Attic is two attached wardrobe closets inside Linda’s home? Linda has the space because her two older boys now serve in the U.S. military – Michael with the Navy and Matthew with the Marines. (Message to Michael and Mathew: Don’t think about moving back home; you’re rooms are taken.)

The only man left in the house is husband Ralph, who for many years coached Pop Warner and other youth sports. Bella’s Attic is Linda’s payback for all those years Ralph stuffed the garage with extra cleats, helmets, shoulder pads and other athletic equipment while coaching his boys and other kids in the neighborhood.

“Mine is another collection,” Linda said, laughing.

But if Ralph ends up saving a few dollars the next time Kate or Allie gets invited to a special engagement, he just might be laughing, too.

With Bonita’s homecoming dance scheduled in November, why not go online and see what Linda has in Bella’s Attic?

“l am sure,” Linda added, “there are girls and families who will want to take advantage of this and I’m sure there are more people, especially in our community, who will want to donate dresses.”!/pages/Bellas-Attic-Prom-Dresses-Shoes-and-Hair-Flair/200705263304384

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