For Larissa Maner, a Carrollton shopkeeper, all that shimmers is gold. Having reinvented her life as a gown wholesaler, Maner is now dressing some of the world’s most premier debutantes.
Most recently, Maner, a Flower Mound resident, dressed Miss Belize Rebecca Rath, who competed last week in the Miss Universe pageant.
“There were 14 bags, and each had 100 crystals in it,” Maner said of the hundreds of Swarovski crystals that she applied to Rath’s Miss Universe gown. “It took me four days to do it.”
For the entire 18-day pageant event, Rath needed dozens of outfits to wear to dinners, interviews, runway walks and other engagements. It was Maner’s job to collaborate with designer Fernando Wong to create each original outfit tailored specifically for the variety of options Rath would need in Atlantic City.
“We took pictures of each one and numbered them so when she was there she’d text me throughout the week and tell me she needed an outfit for dinner or something and I’d go look at the photos and tell her which number to wear,” Maner explained.
Maner has dressed other pageant contestants as well, including women in the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. Her shop is a sponsor for the Miss Texas organization.
She met Rath when she came to look at dresses after the father of a woman Maner had dressed referred her. Rath was in America visiting her Texan godmother and shopping for apparel.
“I thought, ‘Oh, she’s definitely going to win,’” Maner said of her first encounter with Rath, who didn’t end up making it into the top 13. “She represented Belize very well,” Maner said. “She’s going back to Belize a celebrity.”
Maner has been in the dress business for 30 years. As a wholesaler, she moved from her original spot on the Downtown Carrollton Square to Addison and then back. Her signage brought in girls looking for prom gowns, but Maner turned them away initially. She eventually decided to lease a nearby storefront to have a few dress racks on the weekends.
A drive past the Plaza Theater on the other side of the Square turned all that around. Maner saw a pageant advertised there and offered to sponsor the winners. She dressed Coppell native DaNae Couch who became Miss Lake of the Pines. Further upping the ante, she handed out business cards at fast food drive-thru windows where teens often work. Landing Rath’s trust and dressing her was a piece de resistance.
“In my little pageant world that was a big deal,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”
When she was a young girl, Maner would watch pageants with her ballroom dancer grandmother.
“It’s kind of something. At any age dreams can come true. I never stopped to believe I couldn’t do it.”
At age 46, with two children of her own, Maner said she enjoys the entire process of sponsoring and dressing pageant contestants and even prom-bound high schoolers.
“For them to look up to me and respect my opinion and help them be better versions of themselves … it’s a blessing,” she said. “I love every minute of it.”
And her own children think she’s pretty hip too, household chores and all.
“I'm still mom, and they’re hungry and they want dinner and they want me to make their lunches,” she said. “But when they see my dresses on TV they’re proud of me.”
With a host of other fashion-related feathers in her cap, Maner said she’s pleased that her workplace is on the Square. Some of her clients will go down the way to Nail Spa by Sarah to have their nails done and Wonderful World of Cooking to eat. And that’s where this mom’s world becomes a bit more real.
“It’s a great spot; we all work hard,” she said.