If you have ever tuned into a Miss America pageant, it is very likely you got a glimpse at this month’s business spotlight. Right in the heart of the Thornton Park District resides a recognized pageant apparel store that has been wardrobing local-, state- and national-pageant winners since 1989.
Regalia has been in the Thornton Park District since 1995. Owned by Carry O’Neal and David Lang, it has established a reputation in the pageant world.
As you walk into the store, you are instantly greeted by stunning dresses dripping in sparkling design — as if you were transported to the back lot of a Hollywood studio. O’Neal is the designer behind these exquisite dresses, and roughly 60% of them are his designs. Customers can place custom orders or choose O’Neal-designed items from off the rack.
O’Neal landed a job in New York City as a private banker after graduating from the University of Texas. There, he pursued his love for sketching and fabrics while continuing his banking career. He attended the Parsons School of Design in New York City and volunteered to help fundraise for Miss Manhattan. O’Neal ended up running the Miss Manhattan program for three years.
During his tenure, Miss Manhattan won Miss New York under O’Neal’s direction. It was then O’Neal realized he found his passion designing for pageants.
O’Neal recognized instantly that there wasn’t a huge market for pageant wardrobes. So, he designed a business plan that would allow him to begin his new endeavors in design. He decided to settle in Orlando since Florida has a large pageant pool of contestants.
Pageant season is happening now, as local and state competitions are currently taking place; it all culminates with the culmination of Miss America later this year. In 2018, Regalia dressed 21 states for Miss America, which is easily the largest retailer in the American pageant system. This year, O’Neal and Lang will dress 25 out of roughly 32 Miss Florida contestants. And even more impressive, for the past 25 years, the winner of Miss Florida has worn a Regalia dress.
While O’Neal is extremely humble and will never boast about his reputation, the girls certainly will do it for him. It is almost a rite of passage to grace the stage with a Regalia gown. In fact, you truly didn’t purchase a Regalia gown until you take a picture outside the store with O’Neal or Lang with your Regalia gown bag, according to the many women who make the journey to their store. Be sure to tune into this year’s Miss America to see these gorgeous dresses in action.