Last month I was invited to the launch of Dress Barn’s new fall line. Though I’m always up for a fun event featuring new products, I was reluctant to spend my time looking at clothes that even my grandmother wouldn’t wear. (My grandma Blanche was a trend-setting fashionista in her day and would NEVER have bought off the rack, much less the discount rack. My grandma Eleanor, on the other hand, might’ve actually fallen for the shapeless polyester housecoats that I’ve always associated with Dress Barn.) But I digress…

The event was being held at a trendy restaurant in one of Manhattan’s hipper neighborhoods, so I decided to give it a shot. What I saw was surprisingly appealing. The new fall line was loaded with fun pieces for work, play and formal events. The fabrics were smooth and sexy (seriously!) and the cuts were nicely tailored. There were fitted blazers, dark-wash bootcut jeans, silhouette-enhancing tops, shimmery A-line evening skirts and other classic wardrobe staples that looked like they’d flatter almost any body.

Inspired by what I saw and excited about the price tags (most pieces were under $30!), I decided to investigate further. And with summer travel around the corner, it was the perfect excuse to pick up a few new summery dresses. So I grabbed my 4-year-old son, loaded him up with a bag of cars from the neighboring dollar store, and set off for my local Dress Barn. As I pushed open the doors, I was greeted by rack upon rack of soft, feminine dresses that I couldn’t wait to try on. Two dozen changes later, I found three pieces that I couldn’t live without. Each flattered my shape, cost under $40 and was made from that flowy, wrinkle-free fabric that I just knew would pack well for each of my summer trips. After signing up for the store credit card and taking advantage of a buy-two-dresses-and-get-ten-bucks-off sale, I ended up spending only $90 for two dresses and a great top to pair with a sexy pair of jeans. Ch-ching!

Is this my new favorite store? No, that status still belongs to Annie Sez, where I find heaps of up-to-the-minute designer pieces for a song. Nor can I completely ignore Dress Barn’s hefty stock of shlubby-looking frocks that I had to wade past to get to the good stuff. (Apparently they’re not willing to dump their most loyal customers in their quest to attract younger buyers.) But it’s definitely one of those shops I’ll keep in mind when I don’t feel up to hitting the mall. Check it out and see it for yourself. You may just get lucky.
For a list of stores, go to www.dressbarn.com.