Red Carpet … privileged treatment of a distinguished visitor. That’s what proprietor Dawn Michelet offers the women who shop her popular boutique in Uptown New Orleans. Festive dresses, gowns and chic casual wear are staples of Red Carpet, whose recent expansion brings an eclectic blend of clothing to a brand-new store in Mandeville.
What inspired you to go into fashion and open a boutique?
I went to LSU for physical therapy and took fashion for a couple of easy A’s. I wound up getting involved in their fashion- merchandising program, did an internship at Saks, then worked for a local bridal store. And when it became available, I purchased it.
I really loved the social-occasion part of the business. So I decided to open Red Carpet [on Magazine Street] and just do social occasion.
What sets Red Carpet apart?
We do everything from blue jeans to ball gowns. We carry everything for a 16-year-old to a 70-year-old. The thing that really sets us apart is that we shop new markets where the new designers are.
Are design aspects important?
Yes, I look at a garment for structure, quality and fabric. I try to get something that’s totally different so when my customers go out, people say, “Where did you get that?” You won’t see [our clothing] anywhere else.
How does the new Mandeville shop differ from the one on Magazine Street?
It’s twice the size. And I think it will probably end up doing a lot more ready-to-wear.
Why the North Shore?
Mandeville [has] beautiful stores, but there aren’t a lot of middle-priced clothing stores that aren’t chains. And they don’t have any formal stores. The development we’re in [the Market at Chenier] is a $300 million multiuse development with condos, apartments and retail all in one. It’s cutting edge. And we’re the first business to open.
What’s hot this social season?
Color—we’re doing royal blue, royal purple, hot pink, lime-green—and prints; accordion pleating; empire, beaded tops with little tulle bottoms. The fabrics are amazing silks, chemises and nets. For a while everything was meow-meow sex kitten, and now everything is really elegant and rich. Style is a way to express who you are through fashion. Dress like the woman you want to become.
When shopping for a holiday cocktail dress, what should a woman look for to ensure a good fit?
You have to look at body type, because once you get how things fit people then you can really accent everything. A lot of people don’t know what’s appropriate or how to put it all together. And we do that. If someone’s worried about [their upper arms], we’ll wrap a shawl or pashmina around the neck and hang it over the shoulder so the arms are not the focal point. We put the whole look together: shoes, earrings, necklace, bracelet, handbag. So you feel like you’ve been styled like a movie star. We make sure that when you leave, you feel glamorous. And that makes us feel good. If you look good then it’s a representation that we did our job well.