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It’s more than a dress

Nonprofit boutique provides teens confidence, opportunities

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Ivey Davis, 16, shows off the gown she chose from Becca’s Closet in LaGrange. The teen is preparing to attend prom at Callaway High School on April 9.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_Ivey-1.jpgIvey Davis, 16, shows off the gown she chose from Becca’s Closet in LaGrange. The teen is preparing to attend prom at Callaway High School on April 9. Submitted
Denná Muncy, owner of Becca’s Closet at 1108 New Franklin Road, shows off a dress among a range of dresses the shop has in stock, from dramatic ball gowns to flirty cocktail dresses in an array of colors.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_BC0-1.jpgDenná Muncy, owner of Becca’s Closet at 1108 New Franklin Road, shows off a dress among a range of dresses the shop has in stock, from dramatic ball gowns to flirty cocktail dresses in an array of colors. Melanie Ruberti | Daily News
Denná Muncy, owner of Becca’s Closet at 1108 New Franklin Road, shows off one of the gowns she recently received. Muncy said most of her stock comes from corporate sponsors in the United States and in Europe.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_BC2-1.jpgDenná Muncy, owner of Becca’s Closet at 1108 New Franklin Road, shows off one of the gowns she recently received. Muncy said most of her stock comes from corporate sponsors in the United States and in Europe. Melanie Ruberti | Daily News

LaGRANGE —When Ivey Davis, 16, glided out of the dressing room in a strapless, rich red, full ballgown with a decorative flowered bodice, the teen said she immediately felt like the belle of the ball.

“The dress was stunning and it makes me feel very confident,” she said. “The way my dad and Denná (Muncy, owner of Becca’s Closet) looked at me when I walked out of the dressing room … it was all it took to make me love the dress. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

The ball gown was the 15th dress the Callaway High School teen tried on at the Becca’s Closet boutique — and the one Davis will wear to her prom on April 9.

“I am insecure, but so far the people I have showed my dress to say they love it,” she said.

The teen’s designer dress is one of a kind and normally would be priced in the thousand dollar range.

But Davis did not pay a cent for her gown, instead pledging to perform community service or pay it forward by donating the dress to another teen in need after she wears it to her event.

That is part of the mission behind Becca’s Closet and one of the reasons Muncy decided to open the shop in LaGrange.

“When I came back to LaGrange three years ago, there were so many young ladies whose parents couldn’t afford prom dresses,” she explained. “I remember when my own mom worked double shifts to get me my first prom dress. The dance is really the first momentous occasion in a young girl’s life.”

It is a vision started in 2003 by Rebecca Kirtman, 16, a Florida high school student. She collected 250 dresses for underprivileged teens in her school so they could attend formal events like prom and homecoming.

Kirtman was killed in a car accident in August 2003, but the teen’s legacy continues through her family and people like Muncy who open chapters of Becca’s Closet, a nonprofit organization, across the United States.

The LaGrange boutique is seemingly hidden at 1108 New Franklin Road at the end of a plain, gray, brick building next to a satellite equipment business and a sanitation services company. The only detail that reassures customers they have arrived at their destination is a dainty, bright pink logo in the shape of a ball gown elegantly painted on the front door.

But once young ladies and women step through the entrance to the boutique, their surroundings suddenly are transformed into a glamorous room, filled with racks of enchanting ball gowns as far as the eye can see.

The chic and stylish dresses are arranged in a dazzling display of color, like a rainbow that sweeps around the room. There is a gown for every occasion — dramatic ball gowns to fun, flirty cocktail dresses — and everything in between.

Muncy said the dresses are gently used or, in most cases, new and shipped directly from company sponsors.

“We do keep a few older dresses because some people like a classic look, but we also keep up with fashion,” she explained. “This year we have dresses from 2014, 2015 and 2016. The dresses come from U.S. corporate sponsors, from Europe and from movie stars. It may not be the actress’ exact gown, but a backup gown.

“Many of the dresses are straight off the runways,” Muncy continued. “I’ve gotten them as far away as Japan. You won’t find the same dress here. If I do find a duplicate in a shipment, I pull it and send it out to another chapter.”

The shop is never low on stock. While the Daily News was interviewing Muncy at Becca’s Closet, her phone rang.

The caller was Maria Navarro, owner of Anjolique Bridal and Formal in Charlotte, North Carolina. She learned about the Becca’s Closet stores, the mission behind the shops and wanted to help out.

“When I read Becca’s story, it was very touching,” Navarro said over the phone. “It is wonderful to see other high school students opening up chapters in their schools. That is very encouraging … to see a young woman take this project on to help other young women shows empowerment, and we want to applaud that. We hope other businesses also get inspired by Becca’s story and become motivated to do the same.”

Navarro said she randomly picked out three boutiques and donated 50 brand new dresses and gowns. Two of the Becca’s Closet chapters were in Virginia; the other one was Muncy’s shop in LaGrange.

Muncy said the shop carries all dress sizes — plus shoes, purses, wraps and jewelry. Everything is free.

She also pays it forward by donating extra gowns to other charitable organizations in town like Emma’s Attic II, which gives proceeds to the Emmaus homeless shelter.

According to Muncy, Becca’s Closet is not just about discounted dresses, but fulfilling the dreams of every young lady who walks through her front door.

“You see the girls’ faces light up, especially when they find that one dress,” she explained. “They hold themselves differently. They feel beautiful … some have never heard that word used for them before.

“So many (teen girls) struggle. So many are homeless. This is their first time wearing a gown and they feel beautiful. So we treat them all like homecoming queens, and just for that moment they get to feel special,” Muncy added.

A sentiment Ivey Davis attested to.

“Becca’s Closet is truly amazing and heart warming,” she said. “My event is April 9th. I would have been able to attend, but I would not look as beautiful as I do in my dress.”

Muncy said the boutique is not just for teens attending school social functions but for women of all ages looking for appropriate attire for other events such as military balls, black tie dinners, job interviews and weddings.

Becca’s Closet is open by appointment only on Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information, to book an appointment or make a donation, call Denná Muncy at 706-885-2346. People can also visit www.beccasclosetlagrange.org or facebook.com/beccasclosetlagrange.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.