A Champagne silk chiffon gown by Rina di Montella

Photo by Jason Mueller

Finding that perfect dress for their daughter or son’s wedding can be a time-consuming task for many mothers. But Distinctions in Fashion can make the search a little easier. “It’s a place where women can come and feel comfortable, no matter what size they are, and how much money they want to spend, whether it’s $200, or $2,000,” says co-owner Nancy Lehtman.

Lehtman and her husband, Bruce, combined their backgrounds in retail and merchandising to open Distinctions in 1988 as a sportswear store with a small percentage of mother-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-groom dresses. Since then, the Creve Coeur boutique—with its large inventory of special occasion dresses in a variety of colors and styles—has evolved to focus mainly on meeting the strong demand for such dresses. “We’ve had moms come back to us again and again for all of their children’s weddings,” Lehtman says.

When those mothers come into the store, Lehtman, her husband or one of their experienced staffers is ready to guide them through the selection of a dress. “After being in this business for so long, we know the styles that will work for certain body types,” Lehtman explains. “When a lady comes in and says, I have this problem, what would you suggest? our salespeople know exactly what to go toward and what to stay away from.”

After gathering information from the customer, including preferred length, color palette and any requirements from the bride, the staff introduces her to the store and the plethora of gowns available in different sizes and shades. “We like to focus on the style of the dress being appropriate for the figure,” Lehtman says. “We encourage people to be open-minded when they’re trying dresses on and to be willing to try a style that maybe doesn’t look fabulous on the hanger, but we know looks incredible on the body.”

The Lehtmans go to market each year in New York, Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta to procure dresses from designers like Jade, Daymor, Jovani, Marisa Baratelli, and Junnie Leigh. Depending on the time frame, Distinctions can order custom colors or specific changes to certain gowns. “If a customer loves a sleeveless dress, but needs a jacket, we can even order extra fabric, and one of our seamstresses can make one,” Lehtman adds.

Weddings are not the only big events at Distinctions. The store outfits a large number of Veiled Prophet and Fleur de Lis ball guests, even offering the all-important white gloves, and almost 1,200 high school students danced at their proms this year in dresses from Distinctions. A variety of accessories, from cocktail handbags to necklaces, helps complete any special-occasion attire, just another element of the customer service Lehtman takes pride in. “We don’t just leave you the minute you purchase a gown. We walk you through the entire process.”

Lehtman says that “the sky’s the limit,” for what they’ll do for their customers. “My favorite part is finding that right dress and making customers feel good about themselves—that’s what it’s all about.”