Fashionable And Fabulous – Everything from Casual Wear to Couture for Every Shape, Style, and Budget
Article by Sue Baldani
Originally published in Brentwood Lifestyle
Deborah Wiggins finds it hard to slow down. And it’s no wonder. She comes from a long line of successful working women. Her grandmother, Dulcie Roberts, opened The Clothes Tree in Alabama in 1965 when she was 55 and worked there until she was 80, even continuing to stop by until her passing at age 99. Deborah’s mother, Ruth Johnston, who worked alongside Dulcie, is still a busy woman. Now 80, she recently married her high school sweetheart.
In 1995, Deborah made the store her own, calling it The Clothes Tree by Deborah. She also took it to a whole new level, moving into an over 7,000-square-foot space in Birmingham and expanding into long formal dresses for proms and pageants, formal wear for children, and wedding attire for the whole party.
Here, she talks about business, values and family.
Why did you decide and open The Clothes Tree Nashville in Brentwood this past December?
I had a lot of customers coming in from Tennessee, especially those competing in pageants, and I’ve always wanted to have another store. I started looking for a place and found one that used to be the salon and pageant retailer, J.S. Fields & Company. The owner, Steven, had passed away suddenly, and when I went to look at it, I saw it had great potential. But, the main reason I chose to lease it was because when I looked at the wall over the sinks, Steven had a painting of The Clothes Tree’s very first logo. It gave me chills and I knew this was where we belonged.
We absolutely love it here. It’s such a great area and everybody is so nice.
What makes The Clothes Tree Nashville special?
We call everyone who works at the stores Team Tree. The manager here, Claire, and my staff are just truly nice people and like helping customers not just feel great, but look great.
We have everything from casual wear to Jovani couture, and we make sure we have racks of 75% off clothing for people who may not be able to afford our regularly priced items.
We’ve also had the pleasure of dressing Miss Alabama for the last 22 years, including Deidre Downs, and we continued to dress her for Miss America, which she won.
We have sizes ranging from 000 to 28, so there’s something for everyone at all ages and sizes. About eight years ago, we had a girl come in who was probably a size 22. We didn’t have anything she wanted that day, so I told her and her mother to come back the following Saturday and I would have something amazing in her size that she would love.
The next week, when she came out of the dressing room, she was crying because she was so happy. Her mother was crying and we were all crying. After that, I made sure to order more current styles in these larger sizes. Plus-size women want what everybody else is wearing. My staff is also made up of all sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds. We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping here.
What are some of the most popular items for spring and summer?
I love ordering prints, but we have a lot of solids too. I also love color, so for the warmer months, we’re doing a lot with fuchsia, yellow, and emerald. Maybe match a flowy dress that’s casual and comfortable with a cool tennis shoe and a little jacket.
Metallic merchandise is also popular right now, but the biggest trend is sparkly sequins in every style from dressy to casual.
What about accessories?
You can have a plain wardrobe but make it look totally different every time with accessories. I try to find things that are unique and different.
We have a lot of jewelry with Pavé diamonds and semi-precious stones, and they’re at all price points. We have handmade Swarovski crystal earrings by Stefanie Somers, really cool necklace combos and more.
How does it make you feel to know you’re continuing the legacy of your family’s business?
I love it! I have many family members working for me including my daughter and co-owner, Tori Wiggins Chappell, who does all the social media, as well as my daughter-in-law and nieces. I have three granddaughters, one of whom makes jewelry that we sell in the store. Along with my staff, we’re one big happy family.