A little black dress. Diamonds. A tailored suit. A sexy pair of heels. Some things never go out of style. They may evolve over the decades – a dart here, an inch there, but the overall sophistication stays the same.
I sat down with Mary McKay, owner of The Little Black Dress Store on trendy Main St. in Vancouver. What started out as an interview to talk about a staple in every woman’s wardrobe, ended as a three hour conversation about fashion, beauty, society, philanthropy, independence and courage.
Mary McKay was living the “perfect” life, when a little voice cleared its throat and started filling her head with big ideas. She owned her own condo, had a steady job and made good money, but something wasn’t right. Mary wanted to open her own business and knew that she wanted it to involve little black dresses. Like most entrepreneurs, she literally risked everything to follow her dream.
Almost one year later, the LBD store has become a destination boutique for any woman wanting a chic wardrobe solution for a wedding, graduation, cocktail party, birthday, or just to make an ex boyfriend grovel at her feet. Whatever the occasion, Mary has made little black dresses in all shapes and sizes her business. The Little Black Dress Store carries sizes 0 to 28 in a variety of styles and price points. “What happens after size 16? Does a woman that size just drop off the face of the earth?” Mary asks me, knowing that she has found the answer. Sick of searching high and low for a LBD between seasons, paying top dollar prices for a dress that didn’t fit properly and repeatedly finding the same style dress in each store, she knew wanted to make any size woman feel fabulous, classy and beautiful – all within a budget and at one store.
The LBD Store operates within a niche and Mary has used this to her advantage. She is proud of the fact that her store offers literally walls and walls of unique pieces unavailable anywhere else. The customer focused boutique offers some of the best customer service that I have ever witnessed and after watching Mary personally greet each customer as they walked in the door, there is no doubt in my mind that she wants nothing more than to make each one of them feel special and beautiful.
“If you don’t rock it in the store, you’re not going to rock it out there.” Mary says, as she points to Friday afternoon traffic on Main St. She wants every customer to leave on a LBD high and if that means trying on every dress in the store, so be it.
Mary doesn’t just talk the talk; her unique return policy also supports her vision. Unlike most boutiques, she offers a two week, full-refund return policy. “I want you to be happy with your purchase and I want you to feel good about your dress. It’s an investment in your wardrobe and ideally, you should get lots of wear out of it.” A little black dress can be worn year round and taken from the day to the night, with some slight tweaking. Mary suggests changing your hairstyle, makeup and heels, if you’re limited on time. Also try playing with your accessories, adding some funky nail polish, and getting rid of any extra layers that you wore in the office.
The search for the little black dress can sometimes be tedious and Mary suggests that customers keep in mind that a LBD isn’t like other clothing. You don’t necessarily have to follow the current trends in order to look beautiful. “Do you feel fabulous enough so that you’re wearing the dress, instead of it wearing you?” Maybe you just don’t think you can pull off shoulder pads. Instead of tugging at it all night and feeling self conscious, go for a look that truly makes you shine and you feel comfortable wearing. The wonderful thing about a LBD is that because it’s so classic, it can be easily updated by playing with other aspects of the outfit.
Despite its beautiful black, white and pink décor, The Little Black Dress is so much more than just a stylish bo utique. Mary frequently runs fundraisers and donates to local schools and nonprofit organizations. Their current fundraiser even offers a perk for the LBD shopper. Bring in your gently used bras and new underwear which will be donated “Undies for Africa” and get a 15% discount on your purchase. Give a little and get something black back!
After an afternoon at the LBD Store, I suddenly found myself excited to dig through my closet and revisit my little black dresses. I was also eyeing ten different dresses I wanted to try on in Mary’s store. What better way to spend an afternoon than investing in my wardrobe while doing a little good in the world. After all, what better investment is there? Little black dresses and giving never go out of style.
Article & Photography | Kendra Hagerman