SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Local dress shop, Cici’s Closet, opened in April 2009, as a consignment shop to provide pre-owned gowns, dresses and talent wear to local pageant contestants. Fast forward eight years and now Cici’s Closet is renowned as a wardrobe provider for many pageants, notably the Miss Alabama and Miss America Pageants.

Retired nurse and business owner Portia Miller, along with daughter Cierra Johnson Belser, opened Cici’s Closet to provide needed gowns, dresses, and pageant wear to local young ladies.

“It all started eight years ago with consignments,” stated Miller. “But then we started going to market for additional inventory because so many young girls started asking about certain designers, and now here we are with two Miss America candidates to finish in the top ten.”

Miss Sylacauga 2004, Cierra Johnson Belser, is Miller’s daughter and co-owner of Cici’s Closet. “After Cierra aged-out of pageants, we had her wardrobe at home and girls kept calling and asking if they could borrow certain pieces,” Miller said. “Cierra told me, ‘we can do this, we can open up a little shop.’ So Cici’s Closet evolved from there. We started the business with Cierra’s competition gowns, swimwear, and interview wear.”

Cici’s Closet provides many girls with formal dresses for pageants, proms, and special occasions. “But this year has been especially exciting for the shop as we had two contestants to finish in the top 7 in the Miss America Pageant, Miss District of Columbia (D.C.) and Miss Alabama. Being at Miss America was outstanding because we had a wonderful relationship with both girls, having dressed and sponsored them both; we were like family. We would scream for both girls when they went on stage,” said Miller.

Miss Alabama 2017 Jessica Procter has previously worn dresses that came from Cici’s Closet while Miss D.C., Briana Kinsey, garnered a talent dress and walk on gown provided by Cici’s. Kinsey, who is originally from Hoover, Ala., won Miss Marble Valley several years ago. “That’s when we started dressing her and sponsoring her – after she was a runner-up in the Miss Marble Valley Pageant here in Sylacauga,” said Miller. “Many will remember Miss D.C. because of her beautiful evening gown in Miss America. It was a stunning Jovani gown from Regalia.  The talent gown on the Miss America stage is a big deal, so that gown was also very important,” Miller explained.

Cici’s Closet has sponsored many previous Miss Sylacauga and Miss Alabama contestants including Miss Alabama 2016, Haley Barber, who wore one of their evening gowns in the Miss Alabama Pageant.  Many girls have won preliminaries wearing some of their clothing. “We sponsor preliminaries to any pageant girl; we can provide part of their attire or the entire wardrobe.  It’s wonderful to hear from clients who tell us about their experiences or pageant wins,” Miller shared. “We have also dressed several brides, as white evening gowns are usually required in pageants.  Some traditional brides have found their dresses here, but we have also provided quite a few gowns for non-traditional brides as well,” explained Miller.

When asked about which designers to carry, Belser replied, “I always ask myself three questions:  would I wear that gown; would I want some else to wear that gown; and do you have to have a perfect body to wear that dress?  We also examine the fabric to see how it drapes and flows on the body. We feel of the lace and look at the quality and value of the garment – is it worth the money?  We do a lot of work at market in choosing clothes for our shop,” Belser explained.  When asked about favorite designers, Miller and Belser both agreed that Jonathan Kayne and Vienna are up and coming designers that have great quality dresses at a good price point.  Sherri Hill, Mac Duggal, and Jovani are still great designers that they recommend.

Miller and Belser explained that “Girls like the one-on-one attention they get from us and when they come into Cici’s Closet, they are not overwhelmed.”  Miller also stated,  “We are going to spend a lot of time with them providing a great product, and we will be honest with our clients about what fits them best.  We also don’t want our girls to be seen in another gown that someone else has bought.  We take our time with each girl and make a private appointment, whether they purchase shoes, earrings, dresses, or an entire wardrobe,” she said.

Cici’s Closet is located on Broadway Ave. in Sylacauga.  It is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Check Facebook for additional information. Private appointments are recommended.

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