by RONA MANN / Photos by Stephanie Sittnick

Although she once trained as a doctor of chiropractic, she is in truth a “psychologist.”

Wellhile local business people and ardent shoppers on the shoreline know her strictly as Tracy Brent of the distinctive Tracy Brent Collections, one of her many and varied talents does lie in the field of psychology. “The psychology of the dressing room,” Brent laughs.

Tracy Brent embraced the world of fashion from a young age, but realized early on that to just focus on fashion alone would be a mistake. Therefore, Brent studied business in college with a minor in fashion so she could educate herself to fully understand the whole picture, not just the allure of pretty clothes and accessories.

Following college, she quickly became immersed in every aspect of the fashion industry, learning as she went. From an internship with famed New York designer of fashion, shoes, and accessories, Betsey Johnson, to stints at Banana Republic, managing department stores, designing window and visual displays, and opening new venues nationwide for The Limited, Brent paid her dues in spades.

A family medical emergency brought Brent back to Connecticut where she found a position with the 100 year old Sage Allen department store. But eventually Sage Allen closed their doors, and Tracy decided to make a major career change… an understatement since she made a 180 degree turn to study chiropractic, eventually opening an office in Guilford. Brent bought a house dating back to 1774 that had space for a freestanding store in front and her chiropractic office in back.  Once again, whether it was fate or merely life intervening, Tracy Brent reinvented herself.

In 2007 the newly remarried Tracy Brent Calafiore, in her own words, “transitioned out of the educational investment I had made in chiropractic and into a personal investment of having my own store.” She was once again a part of the world of fashion: The field that fueled her passion; the industry to which she had always been drawn.

“This is an industry that uses all aspects of my mind,” Tracy said. “Both the creative and the analytical.” But Tracy Brent Collections would never be a typical woman’s store, because the woman at the helm is herself far from typical. “First and foremost, we focus on the woman, even before the fashion.  We look at every customer differently. What makes her unique? What does she do? What does she want? Then we give the kind of personal attention that speaks to that woman alone. That’s what sets us apart.”

It is that psychology of the dressing room to which Brent often refers. Out of all interior spaces, perhaps none are as fearsome as the fitting room.  Laden with secret psychology, they are spaces in which life’s truth are tripled in tripartite mirrors. To many women a dressing room is the ultimate confrontational space. Men view fitting rooms differently. To a man they merely need to be accessible… nothing more. If a man cannot easily find a dressing room, he will often put his items down and just leave the store.  For women, the dressing room is a bit more complicated. Women are more likely to  either favor or eschew an item based on the lighting in that dressing room which can magnify flaws or complement figures, often distorting their actual mirror image.

But it’s a different experience Tracy Brent Collections offers. First and foremost above the collections, above the accessories, above color, price, and style comes the woman… the whole woman.  The employees at Tracy Brent Collections are most decidedly not sales clerks, but highly trained stylists experienced in understanding different body types, preferences, and the psyche of a woman. “Nobody here is on commission,” Tracy emphasizes. “When we assist someone, we genuinely want to help them find exactly what makes them feel good. We’re not here to push anything on anyone. We have nothing to gain by putting you in something you don’t feel or look good in.”

The result, in addition to very happy and contented customers is, “we get very few returns of purchased items. But many return customers. No one is pressured into buying more than they want, need, or can afford,  So they don’t get home, look at the purchases, and say, ‘What have I done?’  We work from the heart here, and it becomes a win-win for everyone.”

The personnel at Tracy Brent Collections have had instilled in them not to ask how someone looks in an outfit, but how do they feel in it? This is the true psychology of the dressing room, for when customers are asked how they feel, the entire buying experience takes on a different tone.

The customers who frequent Tracy Brent Collections are as diverse in personality, age, and situation as there are diverse groups of women. “We have 15 and 16 year old girls who come in to buy something special and wonderful; and we have likewise dressed clients for The White House, for television, for the stage, red carpet events, and openings. Sometimes both demographics may wear the same thing, but they wear it differently. That classic tunic for the businesswoman might be worn as a dress by a teenager.”

It’s truly a tip of the hat to smart merchandising to see the varied inventory that’s displayed in that historic little house. With careful design, each room is organized by style, color, and seasonality to immediately garner attention and best show off the clothing and accessories. Spanning the gamut from casual tees and shorts to cocktail clothing, Tracy Brent Collections features the corporate classics as well as the casual and leisure in sizes 0-16, extra small to extra large. Price tags begin as low as $35., and there is always a sale rack.

While the fashion industry is dictated by the economy, as is true of every other industry, Calafiore readily admits, “When women want to shop, they want to shop!  Consumer confidence is certainly dictated by the economy and even by time of the month, so it’s interesting to see how people shop and whether they’re paying by cash or credit card.”

There are always changes in any industry from year to year, and the fashion industry is no exception.  Tracy notes that right now it is the textiles themselves that are at the forefront of that change. “Utilizing laser cutting techniques, clothes are being created that move with you. The designs are fabulous, and we are even finding that silk and leather will stretch for a more comfortable fit. Perhaps the biggest change in the industry is the mixing of fabrics. You might have a top with a knit front, but a leather back.”

Tracy Brent Collections offers the busy woman personalized wardrobe consultations so that a customer may call ahead, schedule an appointment with one of the professional stylists, and be guaranteed that their time will not be shared with anyone else. Clothing,  belts, bags, and jewelry to complete the total look may be pre-selected, so as to make the most efficient use of a client’s time.

Tracy herself strives to make fashion not just a business, but fun as well, often staging fashion shows for non-profits while also booking private events at country clubs and for client’s birthday parties and other special occasions.

76 Broad Street, Guilford  (203) 458-9100 /

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