Glendale’s Gem

Glendale’s Gem

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Tucked away in historic Glendale, Bella Donna specializes in helping budding and seasoned socialites, mothers of the bride and more find beautiful dresses for any “dress up” occasion. Owner Donna Wesselman channels her lifelong passion for fashion into a shop that bursts with eveningwear in an array of colorful fabrics, elaborate ruffles and swirls and stunning beading.


Bella Donna, which celebrates 10 years of business in February, sets itself apart from other Cincinnati boutiques by carrying exclusive eveningwear designers such as Marisa Baratelli, Siri and Nicole Miller. Pretty and feminine dresses are displayed through the two-story house that the shop calls home.


Another unique aspect of Bella Donna is the range of sizes available on-hand in the shop. Dresses can be tried on and purchased in sizes 2 to 16, with special order sizes available (just be sure to allow 8 to 12 weeks for delivery). “Women are pleased to know that they can come in to try things on, and I have their size,” Wesselman says.


For fashionistas with packed social calendars — maybe you’re off to a wedding, to Zoofari or even to a Presidential inauguration — Bella Donna has eveningwear that trends from dressy casual to belle of the ball. “We even sold five or six gowns for Bush’s inauguration!” Wesselman says.


No matter the occasion, Bella Donna’s customer service is the key to finding THE perfect dress. Once she’s established the date of the event, followed by any specific requests for colors or style issues. Wesselman, or another one of her five fabulous associates, will walk with you through the store, explaining each line as to their look and feel — long or short, soft, flowy, structured, ruffles — every line has unique detailing that appeals.


Once a few standouts are selected it’s time to try things on — or “Let’s go play dress-up” as Wesselman playfully says. “Every woman is different,” Wesselman says. “As I see things on, I can assess the fitting and help her determine what looks best on her.” In many cases, dresses can be ordered in alternate colors, and in some, details such as beads or trim can be either added or omitted.


In 2009, formalwear trends will not vary wildly from ‘08; however, you can count on seeing plenty of strong dark colors season-round on the racks at Bella Donna. In addition, prints will make a comeback with florals, paisleys and ikat on long gowns, a la last year’s maxi dress. The empire waist (pronounced om-peer) is still prominent in many lines, as is the sheath dress. Wesselman carefully combs the fashion markets for designs and styles that work for her shop while still embracing a classic contemporary feel.


To get a better idea of what next year’s lines will hold, consider checking out a trunk show at Bella Donna: Feb. 5 to 7 (Marissa Baratelli) and March 5 to 7 (Daymor and Damianou). (A trunk show is a preview event featuring a designer’s entire upcoming line. It’s strictly to view and to special order the day of the show). Jan. 8-10 Siri, Feb. 5-7th – Marissa Baratelli, Mar.5-7th – Daymor and Damianou.)


Next time you’re seeking a dress for an upcoming black tie/social event, visit Bella Donna and find a gorgeous dress that will definitely cause heads to turn!



Photos: Amy Storer-Scalia

Model: Donna Wesselman