Viviana Alvarez was tired of spending money on dresses she knew she would wear just once.
The Doral resident, who was born in Colombia, often found herself buying long gowns to wear for special events, only to have them later take up space and collect dust in her closet.
“Six years ago, I was in Medellin looking for a dress to wear to my daughter’s quinces and had trouble finding one I liked enough and that I thought was worth the price,” said Alvarez, 43, who moved to Miami in 2011.
“That’s when I realized there was a void I could fill as an entrepreneur and decided to open Tonight We Dance Medellin, a boutique in which women can rent beautiful, name brand, dresses without having to worry about wasting money on a dress they’re probably never going to wear again.”
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Now, as she opens her second store — her first in South Florida — Alvarez is surrounded by family, friends and fashion and beauty industry professionals as she celebrates the grand opening of Tonight Miami Dress for Rent in Doral.
Models show off bejeweled gowns while strutting their stuff down a red carpet placed on the second floor of Alvarez’s 1,290-square-foot locale.
“Opening this boutique is a dream come true for me,” said Alvarez into a microphone as she addressed the crowd, beaming in one of the gala-ready dresses available for rent at her shop.
Her 21-year-old daughter, Pilar Ramirez, who has set up a small rack in a corner of her mother’s boutique to display a line of sportswear she created, P.R Sportswear, takes the microphone from Alvarez and says “I’m so proud of my mom and everything she has accomplished.”
Ramirez, who attends the University of Miami and studies medicine, is wearing a sparkly navy-blue gown while she adds that she’d like to follow in her mother’s footsteps and open her own business one day.
“It’s been a difficult year for our family; the father of my children passed away so it’s been hard. But here we are, doing our best to move forward, and to work hard and be successful,” Alvarez said.
Despite the popularity of online stores such as Rent the Runway, in which users can shop through pieces sourced from 350 different designers, including Monique Lhuillier, Narciso Rodriguez and Oscar de la Renta, Alvarez cites the ability for customers to come in and try on clothes as well as the high quality customer service she offers, as the keys to her success, noting those two components as what set her business apart from the bunch.
“Sometimes you fall in love with a dress when you see it online or even when you see it on a mannequin, but you may not like it as much after trying it on,” Alvarez said. “At Tonight Miami Dress for Rent, you can take your time trying on different dresses until you find the perfect one, and if for some reason alterations need to be made, we can make them in-house because we have a seamstress on location.”
Alvarez’s two-floor boutique has four fitting rooms and a small but comfortable workspace in which seamstress Miryam Garcia, who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, can fulfill any alteration needs.
Tonight Miami offers dresses by brands Cinderella Divine, Colors, Dave and Johnny and Milano Formals, which run from $60-$150, can be rented for a maximum of three days, and are available in sizes 0-16. Larger sizes can be ordered, and special arrangements can be made for longer rentals.
For men, modern and classic-style tuxes are also part of Tonight Miami’s inventory, as are shoes and accessories.
“We offer everything a person needs to complete their look for that special night,” Alvarez said. “And we can help customers by styling them as well, if they need guidance in choosing an outfit or need advice on how to do their hair or which color looks best on their skin tone; all that is part of the process, too.”
Miami fashion blogger Andrea Bella, of www.belairbeautiful.com, who attended Tonight Miami Dress for Rent’s grand opening, thinks the concept behind Alvarez’s boutique will hit home for many.
“A concept like this has been much needed in Miami,” Bella said. “Not only for fashion bloggers or people in the media, but for everyone. In Miami, there’s always a party or special occasion happening, and the great thing about renting is that it eliminates paying full price for gowns — which can be quite expensive, so it just makes sense.”
If you go
▪ What: Tonight Miami Dress for Rent
▪ Where: 9558 NW 41 St., Doral
▪ For more information: 786-461-6278 or www.tonightdressforrent.com