Owner Cheryl Angier wants women to stop by and rent dresses for special occasions as well as holiday parties and special dates. Photo by Duane Tinkey
Owner Cheryl Angier wants women to stop by and rent dresses for special occasions as well as holiday parties and special dates. Photo by Duane Tinkey

Cheryl Angier was helping her daughter shop for a homecoming dress when she realized that Des Moines was missing something: a store where girls and women could rent nice dresses for special events rather than buy them.

“These dresses are so expensive; it’s just nuts that you can’t rent them when you can rent tuxes,” she said.

So, searching for deals, she started collecting gowns through Craigslist, buying sale items from department stores like Dillard’s and Younkers, and finding garments abandoned at dry cleaners. After about a year, she had enough dresses to open her own store, Cheryl’s Borrowed Occasions, on Nov. 5.

The 2,200-square-foot store in West Des Moines is filled with nearly 400 dresses and gives customers a chance to rent a gown for a quarter to a third of the cost of buying one, she said.

Cheryl’s Borrowed Occasions features wedding dresses, mother-of-the-bride gowns and homecoming gowns in sizes 0 to 22. The store also sells accessories like jewelry and purses.

Customers can keep the dresses for up to two days after their event, she said, adding that she’s willing to be more flexible on return dates for wedding dresses.

However, customers don’t need an event like prom or a wedding to rent an outfit, Angier said. She wants her store to become a place where people will stop in to look at dresses for holiday parties, Valentine’s Day dinners and anniversaries, too.

Angier said stores like hers have really taken off on the West Coast and are starting to pop up on the East Coast as well. Popular websites like Renttherunway.com offer similar services, allowing customers to talk with stylists and rent high-fashion pieces from top designers. But the Midwest and Des Moines were missing out on the action, she said.

She hopes her store gains in enough popularity so can expand her West Des Moines store and open a second location.

Cheryl’s Borrowed Occasions is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.