Ducky’s celebrating ‘happy memories’ even during a pandemic

DeKALB – Prom season typically is the busiest time for Ducky’s Formal Wear.

However, in 2021 the store located at 250 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb went from being open six or seven days a week to being open by appointment only because of the pandemic.

“We’re usually crazy busy during prom season,” Ducky’s owner Diane Hosey said. “Last year, we were pretty much closed down, with no proms or homecomings and only a couple of weddings in August, September and October. Last year was our 20th anniversary, but it was a difficult year to celebrate anything because of the pandemic.”

Hosey said business last year as an eighth of what it has been in other years. In 2021, she only bought a handful of new items.

“We had to wait and see whether prom would be held,” she said. “Once schools made the decision that prom was going to be held, business has picked up in the last three or four weeks. But it’s nothing like what it has been in previous years. We hope that by the fall, things will be more back to normal.”

Diane’s husband Joe said the pandemic “crunched the whole downtown area, and we still don’t have as much foot traffic as we normally would.”

“We’re hoping things keep improving,” he said. “We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We appreciate that people have remembered us and have chosen us to help be a part of their celebration, one of the happiest times in their lives.”

Diane Hosey also thanks her loyal customers for choosing to shop at Ducky’s.

“We love being part of the special times in your lives, and we love receiving photos of the events,” she said. “We’re so thankful, so appreciative, that you chose our store to help you make your happy memories.”

Ducky’s has about 300 formal dresses, including bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, in stock on the floor. To guarantee a unique prom dress, the store will not sell the same dress in the same color to anyone attending the same event.

The shop also has a variety of colors and styles of tuxedos and suits to rent or to buy. When renting a tuxedo or suit, vests, jackets, suspenders, bows, ties and shoes can also be included.

Hosey said styles have come and gone through the years, and she’s kept up with the trends.

“Prom dresses have always been long, and homecoming dresses short,” she said. “Right now, dresses with pockets have been big hits. There’s also a glittery fabric that sparkles that’s very popular. There are always fashion trends, and it’s been fun to see them come and go through the years.”

Eunice Celestino and her daughter Lillyanna, a senior at Sycamore High School, were looking for the perfect prom dress last week, something “special” and “unique,” which is why they went to Ducky’s.

“We went to other stores, but they didn’t have much inventory,” Eunice Celestino said. “[At Ducky’s] there are a lot of options and beautiful dresses. I think she’s been trying everything on, even dresses she wouldn’t have in the past, because she wants a dress that’s perfect.”

After about half an hour of trying on different dresses, Lillyanna chose her “perfect” dress: a red floor-length evening gown.

“I’m really excited because last year, there was no prom at all,” Lillyanna said. “It’s our last chance to celebrate being a senior and being in high school, so we’re going all out. I’m looking forward to getting to spend time with my friends. That’s the best part.”

Eunice Celestino is happy that her daughter will be able to make “once-in-a-lifetime memories” at this year’s prom.

“This is going to be her first prom ever, her only prom,” she said. “We’re so happy that she’ll be able to celebrate this milestone, being so many events have been canceled because of COVID. This year’s prom is going to be extra special for the students. It means the world to them.”

Bella De La Cruz, a senior at DeKalb High School, first visited Ducky’s for her quinceañera dress and returned to purchase her prom dress.

“It will be my first prom, and I’m excited to be with my friends, get ready and take photos,” she said. “I’m even more excited now that I’ve found my dress.”

Sharon Bergman, Ducky’s seamstress, said she is happy to see students back in the store, smiling and taking photos as they try on dresses and tuxedos.

“Last year was difficult for everyone, but especially on the students that missed out on high school ceremonies, like prom and graduation,” she said. “Prom is part of high school life, and everyone wants to experience that. I’m happy for all the kids that can have prom again this year, that can celebrate life and have a little bit more normalcy.”

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.