Monday, June 18, 2007

It’s Hawaii theme today at Lee Lee’s valise, the new boutique catering exclusively to women wearing size 10-30. When I called Lisa to talk about her new Carroll Gardens based business (that’s in Brooklyn, New York for you out-of-towners), I could hear the ukulele playing in the background. Lisa’s assistant had just run out for lunch and of course I felt compelled to listen to the conversations that Lisa was having with her customers whenever she needed to put me on hold. You call it eavesdropping? I call it investigative bloggerism.

Lisa has a vibrant personality and greets everyone who walks in the door cheerfully and with an offer for personal attention while they shop – no matter what size that person might wear, “after all, I don’t know if they are shopping for their mother, their sister or a friend. A woman came in just the other day; I fit people all day long so I could immediately see that she was smaller than a size 10. She came in to Lee Lee’s to find something for her sister and then she saw something she liked for herself. A few days later I had it here in her size, special order. We are here for the community.”

I asked Lisa if she had ever been given the cold shoulder while she was shopping and if that influenced her open-door policy to all sizes. “Absolutely,” she told me, “many times I have been completely ignored by sales staff while I watched them be attentive to thinner customers. They have a “you’re wasting my time” attitude. I don’t believe it’s an issue with poor customer service because any shopkeeper would want a happy customer; they want to sell you something before you walk out that door. It’s sizeism – I have no doubt.”

Lisa speaks enthusiastically about how much fun shopping should be. “I started this whole thing to be the kind of place where I wanted to shop,” she told me. “You shouldn’t be worried about whether or not something will fit. Some women are afraid to come out of the dressing room because they don’t want anyone to see that something doesn’t fit well but I tell them that they have to let me see so I can help. If you come here, you’ll walk out with an outfit that’s right for your body.”

Lisa is getting a reputation with her customers for her warm shoulder. “Shy people, boisterous people; I can work with everyone. They stop by to say hi on their way home from work. One woman needed a dress for her step-daughters’ wedding, she was getting divorced, she was crying – it was a very emotional time shopping for that dress. Everyone in the shop helped her find an outfit, in fact two outfits, and then she couldn’t find a pair of shoes to match so I gave her a pair off my own feet to wear at the wedding. My customers are family.”

Lisa was a web site designer for many years but she feels that this is much more gratifying. “I feel like this is what I was meant to do. Let’s make you as gorgeous as we can. Let’s dress you. Let’s see your body shape. Maybe an empire waist isn’t good for you. Not everyone is heavy in the same area. Arm issues, some women want to hide their butts. These are the same issues that thin women face every time they go shopping but heavy women are made to feel ashamed. Plus-size women have as much right to feel good about fashion. I say be proud of those curves!”

Lisa thinks that there are a few reasons why women with fuller figures feel more comfortable trying on clothes at Lee Lee’s Valise than elsewhere. “Partly it’s having the attention of a personal shopper, something that many of my customers have never experienced. Also, I made sure that the dressing rooms are larger for larger bodies; they are comfortable with fans and an Italian Tuscan theme.”

“Shopping for a new outfit should be fun not depressing. I want my customers to feel good when they come here and that begins by seeing the clothes in the store window on mannequins in sizes 16/18 and 20/22. That’s the reason why I chose my store name; because it sounds like a boutique. I didn’t want to use words like voluptuous or tons-o-fun because regular, fashionable women shop here. My weight doesn’t have to be announced over the front door.”

Lee Lee’s features some very stylish designers on the racks such as Trentacosta, Jessica Svoboda, B & Lu and the very new and trendy plus-size company out of LA, Fashion Overdose.

Alterations are available and coming soon will be “Jim’s Corner,” so named for her very supportive husband and others like him, which will feature a television, a lounge chair and an espresso machine.

I know that my husband will appreciate Jim’s Corner when we make our way down to Brooklyn so that I can have a Lee Lee’s Valise experience. I can hardly wait. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

The name Lee Lee's Valise originated from Lisa's childhood. When she was a child she would always spend her Christmas vacation in Long Island with her Aunt Theresa and Uncle Mickey and their children. After celebrating Christmas in Midwood, the whole group would trek into midtown to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show. Lisa would always pack her clothes in her grandfather's battered valise and her Uncle Mickey would have to lug it to the city and on the train to Long Island. One year, Uncle Mickey (who worked for the Port Authority) thought it would be a good idea to put the valise in a locker to be picked up after the show but little Lee Lee was devastated. "My valise, my valise….Uncle Mickey they are going to steal my valise and all my new clothes and toys…oh no… valise!" Poor Uncle Mickey had to leave the show to get Lee Lee's valise so she could know that her clothes were safe. To this day, her cousins still tease her and ask "Lee Lee…where's your valise?"

Well, now Lisa can tell them that her valise is 368 Court Street at the corner of President Street, in Brooklyn, New York, and is open from 11:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. for your shopping pleasure. Lisa can be reached directly at 1-718-246-LEES (5337) and online at Lee Lee's Valise.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a great shop. I wondered why a plus-sized boutique would carry a 10, but in NYC, that probably is considered a plus size...

Corinna Makris said...

Hey Jen,

Lisa told me that some of the designers run their sizes small and that she believes their size 12 to really be a size 10. She wants everyone to know that they are welcome. I had such a nice phone call with her, I can't wait to go myself!

ATaylor said...

Does she carry Olivia Harper?

Anonymous said...

My friend told me about them. I think they are only in Neiman Marcus.

Anonymous said...

Hi! It's Lisa from Lee Lee's Valise!
I just wanted to say, "Thank You" and that I just hooked up with Olivia Harper!! Also, I spoke with your friend from Hawaii and received some of their skin care products...OMG...wonderful!!! Thanks Corinna!

Corinna Makris said...

Well there you go ATaylor - ask you shall receive. We aim to please here at A Celebration of Curves and now you have your Olivia Harper available in Brooklyn - only a subway ride away.

Hey Lisa - I'm thrilled you met up with my friends from Hawaii. I knew you guys would hit if off. We're all about the networking here people.

Anonymous said...

I had an unbelievable experience at Lee Lee's Valise (and on my first visit too).

I decided to stop by on Friday after work (because of you Corinna - this post made me stop by) and not only did I get some great tops from Miss Phit but I met Anna Scholz. Talk about wow. She was there with her fiance Bailey and I spent practically the entire evening at Lee Lee's.

Both Lisa and Anna were so wonderful. Anna spoke about why she went into the plus size business, the challenges of being a plus size designer and her upcoming line. I felt so privileged, like I got insider information (it's really good to speak to a designer face to face).

I am definitely recommending Lee Lee's Valise to my plus size friends, the atmosphere was fantastic and the clothes are gorgeous, so many choices.

Anonymous said...

I'm spreading the word on my excitement. I went the store last week and was so happy to have so many choices. I also discovered some great new designers that I hadn’t heard of. Lisa was really sweet, and she gave all of us (there were at least eight other people shopping there) her personal attention. It felt good to have someone attend to you, I’m used to being totally ignored.
I walked out of Lee Lee’s with quite a few things.
Lisa also told me about a beach party have to go back, I do need a bathing suit.

Corinna Makris said...

Rebecca and Debra you ladies so rock! Thank you for sharing your shopping experiences with other readers. Shopping can be grueling and upsetting for women of any size and finding a location with superior service and clothes that fit, well that is like a slice of heaven. I must get down there soon...and you met Anna Scholz! Ooooh I'm jealous!

Anonymous said...

I'm just sorry I didn't have my camera with me :-(

Corinna Makris said...

Eureka Rebecca! That's it. You could be the Jimmy Olsen of A Celebration of Curves! Girl with Camera, Cub Reporter.

Bring your camera with you everywhere and take pictures of beautifully dressed plus size women.

You are a genius. I'm so glad you thought of that...:)

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