Her friend, Aubrey Vaughn, was getting married. A “discerning” bride, as Bostrom describes her, Vaughn had traversed the South looking for the perfect dress, often with Bostrom in tow.
As they zigzagged from North Carolina to South Carolina to Georgia, the two friends noticed a key flaw with all of the shops.
“What we found through that experience was either the garments at the boutique were gorgeous but there was a lack of customer service and knowledge or vice versa,” she said.
The idea for their own bridal shop was born.
J Majors to Erin Grey
J Majors, nestled in Dilworth on Park Road between a yoga studio, cake shop and other stores, has been around for over 40 years – but Bostrom’s involvement with the shop stretches back only to 2005.
Following Vaughn’s wedding, Bostrom opened Demoiselle Boutique, a high-end bridesmaid dress shop in South End, with Vaughn. After Vaughn left to be a stay-at-home mom in 2004, Bostrom merged her shop in 2005 with then-owner Anna Chin’s J Majors boutique.
Bostrom became sole owner of J Majors in 2014.
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As Bostrom interacted with clients at J Majors, she noticed that many of them wanted alterations to their dress – added sleeves here, a sweetheart neckline there. But the brides often had trouble envisioning how those changes would look.
“So, what I decided to do is create a concept where you pretty much built your own (dress), and you could see it – versus trying to envision it come to life,” she said.
Bostrom decided to create her own line of dresses — Erin Grey Couture — in 2012.
Erin Grey dresses are distinct from many of the other dresses at J Majors in that they come in two pieces, allowing a bride to choose a preferred top and a desired skirt – rather than having to take a whole dress as is. Some brides opt to have gowns designed completely from the scratch, she said.
Many brides decide to have those two pieces sewn together into one dress but some use the separate pieces to transition their dress from a long, wedding style to a party-ready short dress, she said.
Bostrom said the idea for two-piece dresses was inspired in part by her elopement in 2003, when she was just starting out in the wedding industry.
She couldn’t find a dress that suited her, so she bought two separate pieces — which she still has use for 13 years later.
“I still to this day can wear the top and the skirt separately. … I love the nostalgic feeling of ‘this was my wedding gown,’” she said.
Bostrom does all of the cutting, grading and pattern making for Erin Grey at a facility in Waxhaw. She has two seamstresses and one other employee.
“I personally have my hands on every garment that goes out the door,” she said.
She’s not a trained designer and did not study fashion in college. She was actually a biochemistry major at UNC Greensboro, but she has always loved fashion and had a flair for style, she said.
When she designed her first Erin Grey collection, she worked with a pattern maker. But she hasn’t since, instead utilizing her math-oriented skill set to make her dresses.
“Everything to me is very mathematical, which is … my background in a lot of things,” she said. “It just sort of made sense.”
Bostrom usually has about two to three brides per month buying Erin Grey wedding gowns at J Majors, and two to five buying the line’s wedding accessories, she said.
“Each year it’s gotten more and more (popular),” she said.
Erin Grey is now expanding to several boutiques in states like Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
As it expands, the location and her detailed involvement in the production of each dress will have to change, Bostrom said.
When Erin Grey first came onto the scene, Bostrom did a fashion show at the Foundation for the Carolinas. She plans on doing another fashion show next year and wants to do New York Fashion Week as well.
Last spring, she did one in London to test out the European market, which she said “was very well-received.”
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But perhaps two of her favorite sources of feedback are the namesakes of Erin Grey Couture, daughters Erin and Devon Grey.
“They influence me tremendously because they both have two totally different aesthetics and styles,” she said. “And they’re still young, but they have a huge input in everything that I make.”
Photo and video: Eliza Wireback