Michele Bergamesca and Diane Bean hauled off and acted on a great idea when they brought This One Dress into being.
People who know me have kindly endured listening to sudden, animated descriptions of my many crazy ideas. They include multiple food concepts such as Veggie Palace, a Chuck E. Cheese-like house of fun and pizza where children can get excited about eating vegetables by watching them play in a band. (I know, not that original.) Readers of this column may be familiar with Karaoke for Cats, where participants donate funds to cat shelters or other no-kill advocacy organizations in exchange for performing karaoke songs.
In the past few years, I have developed a deep affinity for nonleather, American-made women’s handbags, and I have spent joyful hours dreaming up how to build a business that produces them via a remote workforce who gets all their materials from thrift stores. (VC funds can feel free to approach me on LinkedIn.)
This “what if...” game sustains my spirit every day. In my nearly 15 years as a business journalist, it has been my privilege to connect with hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs and hear their stories. These are people who woke up one day and went out into the world and did the thing. Made the phone calls. Launched the company. Realized it wasn’t going to work. Pivoted. Relaunched the company. Refused to stop swinging.
Michele Bergamesca and Diane Bean hauled off and acted on a great idea when they brought This One Dress into being. The company solves a major dress-shopping pain point for most people: Fit and incompatible details such as the wrong color, length or neckline.Stay up to date with the region’s thriving business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
The idea struck Bean, who is a CPA with Ernst & Young, at an Opera Columbus event about three years ago. She watched the lead singer come onstage in one dress that wasn’t quite right for her shape, and then in a second, much more flattering dress. It occurred to Bean that there was great need for a custom solution.
“Shopping for a dress is really frustrating for most women,” Bergamesca says. “We have to deal with inconsistent sizing across brands, poor fit for our body shape, and we just don’t have any options for customizing a dress, whereas men can get a customized shirt or suit.”
This One Dress offers three, and soon to be four, silhouettes and lets buyers choose color, length, sleeve type and neckline. That ability to customize on a per-order basis proved challenging when it came to finding a manufacturer, says Bergamesca, whose background as a global account manager for chemical giant BASF is “not fashion,” she says emphatically.
“We thought, we turned 50, why not start a business that we didn’t know anything about?” Bean says, laughing.
It took more than a year to track down a U.S. manufacturer who could accommodate their needs, but the pair was able to partner with an Alabama-based shop that fulfills their commitment to ethical sourcing and care for the environment. All the ponte knit fabric used to make the dresses is knitted and dyed in the United States.
The company guarantees fit by using shoppers’ self-supplied body measurements, and sizes go up to 2XL, with plans to get to 5XL.
Bean and Bergamesca recently partnered with Columbus College of Art & Design’s Suzanne Cotton, chair of fashion design, who challenged her advanced pattern class to create and cut a fourth style for This One Dress, a shift. It already offers A-line, empire waist and fit-and-flare.
Brooke Robertson, a junior studying fashion design, was selected as the winner, meaning her shift will join the company’s line.
I hope she is as inspired as I am by these two women who went out into the world and enacted their innovative ideas. (And every dress has pockets!)
Katy Smith is editor of Columbus CEO.