(Above left) Bill and Haoling Day are very excited about B & L Bridalâ€™s move to larger quarters. (Above right) In addition to wedding gowns, Haoling designs outfits for other occasions. (Below left) Many of Haolingâ€™s skills as a clothing designer and seamstress (sewing on the machine she currently uses) come as a result of her initiative since she is primarily self-taught. (Below right) A particular favorite is the outfit that features a famed N.C. lighthouse. Allyson Levine / Lincoln Times-News Contributed: Lighthouse outfit
If you have driven down East Main Street lately, you may have noticed that what used to be a small alterations business has become a much larger formal wear store.
For Bill and Haoling Day, the owners of B & L Formal Wear, the move means more than just a change of scenery. For Haoling, it means a chance to showcase the talent she developed on the other side of the world, in her home country of China.
Before coming to the U.S., Haoling taught herself the art of designing clothing by reading books and simply by practicing. She worked as a designer for a company and even had her own factory for making her creations. For Haoling, fashion equals passion.
â€œI like drawing and sewing,â€ Haoling said. â€œDesign is the most interesting part to me.â€
Having their own business was not something the Days had really planned on doing. The couple met online and eventually married when Haoling made it to the U.S. She worked doing alterations in Gastonia for awhile, and when she decided she wanted her own shop, the couple took the plunge.
Soon, Haoling gained a reputation as a highly skilled seamstress. People even began bringing items they already had altered, to her, asking her to fix the mistakes others had made.
When the opportunity to expand arrived, the Days decided to put Haolingâ€™s design skills in the limelight. On Dec. 1, 2006, the Daysâ€™ opened up their new business right next door to where the old one was.
To get them started, the couple bought Simply Elegantâ€™s bridal department when that store moved. Now, they have a large selection of just about any type of clothing one would need for a wedding, including bridal gowns, 60 different styles of tuxedos for rent, jewelry, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses.
Prom dresses are another big part of the inventory at B & L Formal Wear.
â€œWeâ€™ve got almost 400 prom gowns in here,â€ said Bill. â€œWeâ€™ve had a lot of lookers. Girls are just now starting to buy prom dresses.â€
Prom-bound girls looking for something unique may want to check out B & L Formal Wear. The Days have their own brand of dresses, thanks to Haolingâ€™s special talent.
â€œWe have a factory in China that makes dresses for us,â€ Bill said.
When she still lived in China, Haoling won second place out of 4,000 contestants in a design contest. In America, she has become the go-to designer for some local celebrities, including Charlotte news personality India Lucas and Lincolntonâ€™s own Shannon Devine, the reigning Mrs. USA.
There is even a little girl from Myrtle Beach who comes to Haoling every year to have outfits made for her dance competitions.
Haoling will make dresses based on designs people bring her or she can create a design based on the customerâ€™s specifications. She also has the know-how to tell people what will work and what will not work when it comes to a dress design.
â€œMost people that come in here have an idea of what they want, but canâ€™t find in anywhere,â€ said Haoling.
Hopefully, that is one problem that will soon be solved. The Days have begun running an ad for B & L Formal Wear on Charter Cable. It started Feb.1. They are also planning on having a website up and running in the near future, and a store on eBay is also in the works.
The Daysâ€™ goal is to make their business more retail-based. Although Haoling will continue to do alterations, she wants to be able to focus more on designing.
Both Bill and Haoling Day want the community to know that whether doing alterations or helping design a wedding dress, their focus is always on their customers,
â€œWe would like to thank all our customers for their continued support,â€ Bill said. â€œWe are grateful beyond words.â€
B & L Formal Wear, 120 E. Main St. can be reached at (704) 735-0555. Hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday – Friday; 9 am. – 4 p.m. Saturday.
by Allyson Levine