For more than 30 years, Dore Designs has been known within the competitive ballroom dancing industry for its well-constructed gowns, made of quality materials from cutting-edge designs.
Over the past several years, the Cape Coral-based company has stepped more into the public arena, crafting outfits for the popular FOX television show "So You Think You Can Dance." President Dawn Smart explained that Dore has made the ballroom and Latin gowns for the last four or five seasons.
"We've been really excited," she said of taking part in the show.
Dore Designs' artist Maria Pia Malerba paints a design on a gown at the Cape Coral studio.
Smart called it a great opportunity and good publicity.
"It's good for our industry. Not just for Dore, but for the companies that make one-of-a-kind gowns," she said. "It's great exposure for the type of work we do."
Dore was founded in 1978 by Dorothy Salcedo in the guest bedroom of her Cape home. Her son, Carlos, needed to be dressed for his career with the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. As Salcedo became recognized by the local dancers as a fashion source for ballroom attire, the company was formed.
Dore grew, and the company eventually became nationally known in ballroom fashion.
"We primarily make gowns for the ballroom dance industry," Smart said.
In 2007, Smart purchased the company from Salcedo. A sales representative with Dore since 1999, Smart had been active in the ballroom dance business and the gown business for more than 10 years. Once a professional dancer, Smart managed a studio and constructed gowns prior to joining Dore.
"I really became focused on this and decided not to go back into the studio," she said.
"As a kid, I wanted to be a dress designer," Smart added.
When Salcedo was ready to retire, Smart jumped at the chance to take up the reins.
"I wanted to grow the company, but I also wanted to take care of the people here," she said. "I wanted to do for this for everybody. It wasn't just for me."
Currently, Dore employs a staff of approximately 32 people.
"I do most of the design work, and they do the construction," Smart said.
Each gown is one-of-a-kind and all of them are made in the Cape.
"They're all made on a body form. It's kind of old-school construction," she said.
It takes about a week to make a dress from start to finish, but the process is longer when ordering fabrics and materials is factored in. The gowns are custom dyed and can be adorned with everything from feathers, to Swarovski crystals. Smart pointed out that the crystals are only attached by hand.
"A lot of people think there is a machine for that, but it's not," she said.
Today, the company produces ballroom, skating, pageant and even evening gowns. Smart estimated that staffers put out about 50 pieces per month, which translates to hundreds of dresses each year.
"We have dresses priced on consignment," she said.
The gowns range from $1,000 to $8,000.
Most of Dore's clients are amateur dancers who dance with instructors, also referred to as Pro/Am competition. The company sponsors about 42 couples worldwide, with most in America and Canada.
"People aren't aware of how much ballroom dancing takes place in the United States," Smart said. "Every weekend there are dance competitions all over the United States."
Dore recently had a client turn over a dress for resale that was made in 1994.
"It looks perfect," she said, adding that the gown looks like it is new.
"Our quality it amazing and I attribute that to our staff," Smart said. "Some of our people have been here a long time."
In addition to catering to its competitive client base and making gowns for "So You Think You Can Dance," there are plans for Dore to create dresses for two new reality TV shows about dancing. One is called "Montecito," a Ryan Seacrest production on A&E, and the other is "Ballroom Blitz" on TLC.
The company will construct the Olympic outfits for the world champion ice dancers, has one of its creations on Broadway and is involved in making the costumes for a major sports team's cheerleaders.
"There's so much going on, it's hard for me to keep track," Smart laughed.
"We're being contracted for different things," she said. "We're not just a little mom-and-pop."
Dore debuted its new evening gown line last year during Fashion Week in New York, and toward the end of August, it will launch a ready-to-wear line. Smart called it the dance answer to yoga wear.
"It's a performance wear line geared toward dancers, but people can wear it out, too," she said.
Asked about the growing popularity of ballroom dancing, Smart was not surprised.
"I think it's safe entertainment," she said. "And the fact that people who have never danced before can dance is a surprise, is an amazing thing (for those watching)."
Smart sees the industry evolving into the future, and Dore along with it.
"I see us growing in the different aspects that we're growing in right now," she said. "We're going so many different things, we have to figure out how to do those well."
Dore Designs is at 4706 S.E. 11th Place.
There are also boutiques in New York City and Culver City, Calif.
For more information, call (239) 542-7708 or visit: doredesigns.com/.