Natalie Gottlieb,

Founder & Stylist at The Dress Reserve

Interview: Voyage Chicago


Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Gottlieb.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Prom was the true catalyst for The Dress Reserve. During my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted a show-stopping Jovani style dress. However, my limited budget could not come close to affording an $800 gown. So instead, I decided to create my own! I plunged into the latest Bazaar magazine, admired the couture fashion of Beyoncé’s centerfold feature, sketched my design, and started dyeing fabric to create my prom dress.

Through this process, something clicked. Just like many other girls, I knew I would never wear my prom dress again. If I had the opportunity or confidence, I would have let someone else borrow my dress for their prom. I dreamed of a revolving closet of dresses, for women to share, and I would revisit this idea after my years of working in retail.
My first job introduced me to designer retail and selling on the eBay platform for a local consignment boutique in Evanston. For the next decade, I worked in all ends of the resale industry including Plato’s Closet and started collecting dresses.

I styled my friends during our vacations and their special events. We were all different sizes, so you can only imagine my obsession over collecting dresses I could not even fit into. In 2014, I started The Dress Reserve and I have been slowly expanding my dress rental service ever since. I am in the business of making women of all shapes and sizes find the perfect dress for the occasion. Whether it’s a cocktail party, a wedding or a gala. I want to help you look your best as the stylist and owner of The Dress Reserve. You can rent a designer dress that you know you would only wear once, while avoiding the full retail price tag. It is a curated collection of modern and vintage pieces that changes every week. I have learned to listen to my clients, and provide functional pieces for their impressive social calendars. My clients’ rock and I am surrounded constantly by fellow girl bosses.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road less traveled is not smooth. Any entrepreneur knows it can be lonely, and your passion requires patience.

The first bump I experienced was the deterioration of brick and mortars. I found myself sitting at my store, 7 days a week, and anticipating walk-ins. It was a good place to start my business plan and marketing, but I needed to know more about my client. She is the excelling professional who loves to work, and has little time to shop. Therefore, I needed to find her online and outside of regular retail hours. This led me to online styling and consulting as an included service of the rental experience.

Every client that books an in-studio appointment receives a custom look book of options. This has been a great way to communicate my expertise, and give them the confidence they need before trying on my curated collection. It creates a time-efficient, sizable, and stylish experience.

It was quite the adjustment to work for a big company with a great team, to creating your own brand and model by yourself. It made me appreciate the team members I did have, and that my past success was truly a reflection of their hard work. I also have great friends who have been supportive of my not so normal work hours. When in doubt, they know that sometimes they may have to jump into a photoshoot to spend some time with me. So far, so good!

The Dress Reserve – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Dress Reserve is a supplier of designer dresses available to rent or purchase for special occasions. The curated collection is filled with modern and vintage pieces for the everyday woman. As a curator, I buy styles that I believe will work for my clients. We carry popular brands you will find at local retailers such as: Badgley Mischka, Halston, Ralph Lauren, Adrianna Papell, Tadashi Shoji, Sue Wong, and of course… vintage!

We specialize in formal occasions (gowns), and are currently expanding into bridesmaids rentals. Our collection includes limited and rare pieces which makes our clients feel unique. My business is very stylist driven from the creation of the curated collection, to offering a personalized rack of items for every client. I make a connection with each client before their appointment by collecting their size and style information. This allows me to offer the best options for their occasion. I can proudly say less than 10% of my clients leave empty handed. I always want to ensure to the best of my ability that every client who walks in the door has multiple options to try-on, and leaves confident and prepared for their event.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
In the beginning you would think working with celebrities is the end goal and may create a euphoric moment that would last a lifetime. I take that back. I still want to work with Tracee Ellis Ross or Celine Dion. That would be a dream.

However, my proudest moment has been tapping into this strong network of women in Chicago who are brilliant and enjoy mentoring other women, and quite frankly used to intimidate me! We all want to see each other succeed. We all desire success, and can tap into our resources and help everyone problem-solve and grow. I have been able to see the entrepreneurial lens from many perspectives, and it allows me to dream with an unspoken support of sisterhood.