Style Cover Stories


Nancy Lehtman was enjoying a rare day off from Distinctions, the upscale boutique she has owned with her husband, Bruce, for more than 25 years. Anticipating a leisurely afternoon of Law & Order reruns, she took a hot shower and threw on her comfiest pair of sweatpants. She’d just settled on the couch, her hair soaking wet, when the phone rang. It was Bruce, asking if she could come into work. “One of our favorite customers was ordering a dress and wanted me to take her measurements,” Lehtman recalls. Without a second thought, she set aside the TV remote and began blow-drying her hair. “You don’t get that kind of attention when you order a dress from a website,” she says.

Lehtman is educating a new generation of customers on the joys of personalized service. “There’s a trend among high school girls to order special-occasion dresses, including prom gowns, online,” she says. “Some online stores offer free shipping and don’t charge sales tax. So the girls think they’re getting a good deal, or that it’s easier than coming into the store and trying things on.” But there’s a price to pay for every penny and minute saved by shopping online, Lehtman says. “To get the right fit, you need expert attention from someone who understands how clothes are made. Maybe you’re a size 2 in one dress line and a size 6 in another. But a website doesn’t know that, and a website can’t alter a dress if it doesn’t fit correctly. You can return it and request a different size, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have it in stock, or that it will arrive in time for prom.” Distinctions’ full-time seamstress alters each garment to perfection, she says.

“When you order online, no one tells you when a style doesn’t look good on you—and no one has the knowledge, ability and tact to help you find something more flattering,” Lehtman says. Even worse, some sites show photos of designer dresses online and charge designer prices, but ship the customer a cheap copy. “But when you order a Sherri Hill dress at Distinctions, that’s exactly what you’ll get,” she says. “We pride ourselves on offering the very finest fabrics and workmanship.”

Distinctions stays ahead of the curve when it comes to stocking the latest trends, including lace, cut-outs, sheer side panels (with a double lining of nude fabric to flatter every figure), two-piece dresses that show a bit of midriff, and gowns that feature beadwork to just above the knee and sheer chiffon or organza below, Lehtman says. The store also carries the Duck Dynasty dress, a lace top and polka-dot skirt popularized on the hit TV show. “But we also offer romantic, flowing dresses for girls who prefer a traditional look. We have dresses at just about every price point—and we have the expertise to make sure every girl of every size looks her very best on that special night.”

[Distinctions, located at 12354 Olive Blvd. in Westgate Shopping Center, stocks an array of on-trend dresses for prom season. The store offers extended hours through April, staying open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 314.434.5445 or visit]

Photo by Tim Parker Photography
Pictured: Model Ellie Krauss