In Bloom with Lori Lumbattis and Frugal Dame
By Kimberly Boney
By Kimberly Bonéy
Photos by Melinda Hunter
There’s a moment in a girl’s life in which she meets the full-fledged woman growing within her – the moment she swaps her T-shirt, jeans and boots for a dress that makes her feel alive in a way she’s never experienced before. It’s a moment that Lori Lumbattis, owner of The Frugal Dame in Redding, refers to as “seeing a young woman bloom for the first time,” and it’s what she calls the greatest joy in owning a business that specializes in formalwear rentals for women and men.
Established in March 2013, the concept of The Frugal Dame began 24 years ago when Lumbattis’ mother rented a mother-of-the-bride dress for her wedding. She saw that idea to fruition about four years ago, during which time she has curated a vast selection of rental bridesmaids dresses, evening gowns, cocktail dresses, prom dresses and classic and western tuxedos for men. In addition to the formalwear, The Frugal Dame also offers a selection of shawls, purses and shoes for rent. Lumbattis recently added a line of bridesmaids dresses called Gather and Gown to her collection, which are available for sale, rather than rental. This modern collection of dresses is designed by world-renowned wedding guru David Tutera.
The Frugal Dame could be called “the best of both worlds” in that it offers beautiful, one-of-a- kind dresses – many of which have been embellished by Lumbattis herself – all year long at a mere fraction of the cost of a formalwear purchase. It’s often difficult to find formalwear during the summer months, but the options are always available at The Frugal Dame, even when the window for purchasing such fabulous formalwear has closed for the season at major retailers.
Lumbattis finds that some of her clients rent with her during “weight fluctuations,” when women who are in between sizes don’t find it necessary to commit to purchasing an expensive dress that will only be worn for the short time between sizes. Her biggest struggle, she says, is keeping up with trends and having enough inventory available in all sizes for her clientele. But with a size range from 0 to 28, she’s firmly committed to rising to that challenge because it means having something to make every woman feel stellar.
“There are ladies that say they’ve been all over town and can’t find anything who come into The Frugal Dame and find three or four options that work for them. They often can’t decide which dress to go with. My customers know that once I get to know them, I can have them ready within a few minutes,” says Lumbattis.
Suzanne Birch, one of The Frugal Dame’s best clients, says The Frugal Dame “is an extension of my own closet, with a huge bonus. That bonus is Lori Lumbattis. She has invested the time in getting to know me and my color and style preferences, but she always nudges me to try something new. I always step out in style and confidence in a dress from The Frugal Dame.”
The shop gets new inventory at least once a month and rotates items out periodically according to style and wear and tear on the dresses to ensure that the selection is always fresh. While much of The Frugal Dame’s selection comes from purchases from wholesale companies, she offers shop credit in exchange for items her customers bring in for her to rent out to her clientele – credit that can be used or gifted to someone in need. Rental prices are $25 for short dresses, $30 for long dresses, and between $35 and $50 for prom gowns for a Friday to Tuesday rental.
With prom season in full swing, Lumbattis is busy maintaining a full selection of the best 2017 has to offer. This prom season is sure to see the ever-popular mermaid, trumpet styles and A-lines, but she’s noticed that sleeves on gowns are making a comeback. “Soft fabrics like tulle and chiffon are always popular, as is basic black jersey material.” And, of course, dresses with the bling factor always shine.
The other thing that shines brightly, not only at prom season, but all year long is Lumbattis’ giving spirit. “There are a few local teachers who know me directly and sometimes they’ll let me know of a young woman in need of a prom dress. They know I’ll take care of her,” she says warmly.
Lumbattis also offers help to organizations like Ready For Life Foster Agency, Anderson Teen Center, Compass Shining Care, and Norcal Think Pink. She’s a sponsor for the Think Pink Prom. No matter where she extends a hand of kindness, her goal is always the same: to help people embrace their uniqueness, because according to Lumbattis, “that’s where the true beauty lies.”
The Frugal Dame • 3300 C Bechelli Lane, Redding
(530) 999-3020 • www.thefrugaldame.com
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Hours: Tuesday to Friday, noon to 6 pm; Saturday, noon to 5 pm