“When these little girls are all dressed up, they feel good, they feel beautiful, and their personalities come out. Some are silly, some are shy, but it’s a good thing—it builds confidence.”
A four-year-old girl looks in the mirror. She touches her tiny red lips and pats her swept-up hair and sighs, “I just can’t go out without my makeup.” Around her, several other little girls giggle and ooh and aah at each other’s princess dresses, hats and jewelry. For Colleen Barnes, who hosts Enchanted Dress-Up Tea Parties and Glamour Girl parties at Simply Puzzled, her boutique at 2010 Loy Lake Road, “it’s a girl thing.”
“When these little girls are all dressed up, they feel good, they feel beautiful, and their personalities come out. Some are silly, some are shy, but it’s a good thing—it builds confidence,” she said.
Barnes started Simply Puzzled, not on a shoe string but on a piece of ribbon, when she started tying hair bows and marketing them at craft fairs under the name Colleen’s Bows, more than twenty years ago. Today her business has grown to a gift shop and party room that caters to the female urge to dress up and feel glamorous.
Simply Puzzled is packed from floor to ceiling with fanciful, frilly merchandise: bows, jewelry, cheerleader uniforms, jelly bean boxes, pillowcases, dancewear and petti-dresses, the kind dancing fairies wear.
For Barnes, producing and selling so much “girly” stuff may be a self-defense move. She has four boys and one girl, Jacque Stumberg, who works with her mother in the business. It was because of the children that Barnes found it difficult to travel to craft shows, so twelve years ago, she opened Colleen’s Bows in a room in her house.
Four years later, she moved to a booth in Kelly Square, selling bows and hand-painted denim fashions. Still, she knew she needed something else to make Colleen’s Bows a thriving business. A friend, Lily Raywood, suggested parties.
To accommodate the new idea, Barnes moved her business to Woods Street, where she had more room. Raywood painted a Painted Castle mural and Barnes collected dress-up clothes from friends, thrift shops and garage sales. That was the beginning of the “Enchanted Dress-Up Tea Parties.”
With the addition of locally-made cheer gear and some ready-made fashions, “Colleen’s Bows” didn’t really describe the business anymore, but Barnes was stuck for something better. “Simply Bows? Simply Clothes?” she joked one day as she cut out small pattern pieces. “I’m simply puzzled.” It was one of those Archimedes in the bath moments, a genuine “Eureka!”
Today, Simply Puzzled employs seven part-time seamstresses to manufacture Barnes’ own line of cheer outfits, from size 1 to girls 12 and larger by special order. They personalize many items, stitching names onto pillowcases, teeshirts and purses. Now, instead of donateddresses, Barnes buys glamour gowns, and she replaces them often.
“They only last about four uses,” she said, then added, “We serve cake with the glamour parties, and I’ve learned the hard way. No chocolate, no butter crème, no dark or red colors. Our cakes come from Albertson’s. They have light pink roses with light green leaves and every person gets a piece with a frosting rose.”
As entertaining and charming as little girls are when they dress up, Barnes’ favorite party was for a sixty-two-year-old woman and her church group. The more the women dressed up and the longer the evening went on, the more like little girls they became, giggling and joking. Each person took the stage and told something sweet they knew about the birthday girl until it was time for a wobbly, eighty-year-old to climb the steps.
“Oh, Sweetie,” someone said, “you just sit down. You don’t have to get up there.”
“Yes, I do,” the octogenarian replied. “I’m all dressed up, and I’m going up there, and I know something about everyone here.”
“Dressing up is a good way to look and feel beautiful, and that is good for your self-esteem,” said Colleen Barnes, who sees the proof of that proposition played out, albeit in make-believe, every week.
For more information:
2010 Loy Lake Rd
Sherman TX 75090