Once upon a time, DRAMA was a fantasy. Now it was my life
I cried the entire subway ride home from Manhattan.
Moments before, I’d stood in front of Ben’s mirror and confirmed that, yes, the dress was perfect. Now I was holding a paper bag with the six pieces I’d sketched, tried, tweaked, and perfected.
A few stops before my house, I pulled out the pieces again, just to check they were still real. They were. DRAMA is coming to life.
The dream had been dormant for so long — I was used to ignoring it. Now, it was right there before me — a soft, beautiful collection I could feel between my fingers. That I could wear. I smiled to myself and folded the pieces back into the bag. At my stop, I rushed off the train. There was lots I needed to do at home.
Now that the samples of my first six dresses were confirmed, Ben would manufacture a full line. It was time for me to plan and prepare to debut my line at a pop-up event a local shul was hosting.
My company was so small I couldn’t afford to order customized bags, so in the basement of my parents’ house, surrounded by a mess of racks and hangers, my friends and I took paper bags and stuck a DRAMA label on each one, by hand.
Once upon a time, DRAMA was a fantasy. Now it was my life. I was the one and only person driving the business, which I’d set up in the basement of my parents’ house. If something needed to happen, I was the one who had to get it done.
When Ben’s guys delivered the dresses, my family and I needed to schlep the items down the steps into my parents’ basement. When I needed more racks, I needed to find, buy, and assemble them. When someone made an online order, I needed to process, package, and send it out. When I was booked for a pop-up shop, I needed to sort the items, pack up the racks, and load the car.
My friends would call to make travel plans — or even just to get coffee — and I’d tell them that I was sorry, but I just couldn’t manage to take off. For the first year, except for the occasional trip to the garment district in Manhattan or a pop up, I spent sunrise to sunset and beyond in the large room, with no social life. But I loved every second. My dream was coming true. My business was thriving.
My inventory outgrew the main room in the basement; my father helped me build racks in another. We outgrew the second; he helped me prepare the third. The rooms kept filling and people kept coming.
One night, a thin woman came in with her plus-sized daughter. They grabbed a few dresses off the rack and the daughter went into the laundry room — my makeshift fitting room — to try them on. The second the girl closed the door behind her, her mother burst into tears.
“My daughter never wants to leave the house,” she choked out. “She feels like everyone is staring at her. She can’t handle the shame of being plus-sized and feeling ugly.” She rummaged through her bag for a tissue and looked me in the eye. “This is the first time she’s stepped into a clothing store in six years.”
She told me how she showed her daughter DRAMA’s Instagram and described how her daughter’s face changed looking at it.
I knew exactly how her daughter felt.
Nights like that and conversations like those made every moment of self-doubt, stressful late nights, and financial worry worthwhile.
On October 26, 2018, only six weeks after DRAMA launched, I went to order my own checkbook from the bank. Then I hopped back on the train and paid a visit to Ben. I walked into his shop with a white envelope in my hand, a huge smile on my face, and gratitude filling my heart.
“Here you go,” I said, and handed him the envelope.
He opened it up and took out the slip of paper, a check for the full amount I owed him. I’ve written many checks since, but I doubt any will ever make me as proud as that one did. We took a selfie to remember the moment, one I still look at until today. The image of that day merged with the silhouettes of my loyal customers and the racks of clothing filling my parents’ basement… I think of those and know:
I did it.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)
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