“Rent the Dress, Own the Night” is the tagline for Liylah, an in-store and online rental boutique for modest evening gowns in Pikesville’s Greenspring area. Liylah’s CEO, Shirah Wealcatch, 41, launched the boutique in 2017, after years of working as a designer and personal stylist for Nordstrom.
Just three years after Liylah’s launch, Wealcatch, her staff of five dressmakers and her team plan to move to a 4,000-square-foot showroom for couture evening wear and wedding gowns on Old Court Road in Pikesville on Dec. 1. The new showroom will house her own Asher Maxwell formal wear and her new brand of wedding gowns, the Asher Maxwell Bridal line.
Wealcatch’s inspiration came after she realized that brides wanted something more in the gowns they were offered, a special something that Wealcatch has been able to create, with modesty and style.
“The new showroom will have a luxurious bridal lounge and a full lingerie section for shapewear along with a jewelry rental and bridal shoes. I am very excited to offer Pikesville a personalized and richly unique experience,” Wealcatch said.
And while Wealcatch can and does design gowns for everyone, her focus is on the modestly dressed brides from the Baltimore and Washington area and all over the world.
“We ship gowns from our website for people to try on in the comfort of their homes, and we have been fortunate to dress people all over the country,” she explained.
“The locally available choices for Orthodox women fulfilled the modesty part, but not the high fashion part,” Wealcatch said. “And so many brides and the women in their party ended up going to New York and other places to find a gown, it struck me as silly not to have the option here. We wanted to bring the modesty and high fashion together for the modestly dressed community.”
Wealcatch’s customers have included bat mitzvah girls, friends and family of the bride, brides and women who want to show up to an event wearing a special gown.
Wealcatch’s interest in fashion came when she was 10 or 11, growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family in New Orleans, where her paternal great-grandfather had settled after arriving from Eastern Europe. “There was nowhere to find modest clothing in New Orleans,” Wealcatch said. Wealcatch and her mother created and designed her clothing together. With the lack of venues, Wealcatch had to be resourceful and tapped into her creativity, “I learned to be creative by buying two skirts and making them longer. Or I would buy two blouses and add to the neckline and sleeves.”
Wealcatch’s family moved to the Pikesville area when she was 12. She attended the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, and then studied in Israel for two years. Wealcatch and her family have a close connection to Rabbi Zvi Teichman and attend Congregation Shomrei Emunah in the Pikesville Greenspring area. She is now the mother of three children — a 19-year-old son studying in Israel, a 12-year-old daughter who attends Bais Yaakov of Baltimore and a 4-year-old son.
Where does the name Liylah come from? “I wanted a name that had the tone of a strong, successful, feminine woman,” Wealcatch answered. “The tagline came first,” she explained, “‘Rent the Dress, Own the Night,’ then, as we were thinking of a name, a friend suggested Lailah, the Hebrew word for ‘night,’ which was perfect. We found out the domain name was taken, so we used the exotic spelling Liylah instead.
“It can be challenging to find that gorgeous, dreamy fashionable, ‘from the runway’ gown that also fits that individual’s modest dress code needs,” Wealcatch said. “Here at Liylah, our goal is to provide those high-end creative pieces that allow the wearer’s personality and inner beauty to shine through.
“We carry only modest gowns in the showroom, but we can design any style to meet everyone’s needs,” Wealcatch said.
Wealcatch emphasized that modesty and fashion complement each other. “Modesty can be expressed in many different ways and means so much more than covering up certain areas on one’s self,” she said. “It’s about dressing in a way that showcases and brings out the wearer’s inner spark, beauty and personality in a profound way. We love being able to showcase the beauty and creativity of dressing modestly.”
Liylah was not spared from COVID-19. During the first two months of the lockdown, Liylah’s business stopped. As businesses have slowly opened, so has Liylah — the team, Wealcatch shared, has done a lot of face time in the past few months, with a few in-person meetings keeping social distancing in mind. And Wealcatch is excited about the new showroom, and the prospect of providing a more intimate experience for brides and their friends and family. Life goes on, as do weddings, and new beginnings.
Haydee Rodriguez is a freelance writer.