If during a stroll on Chartres Street near Jackson Square you hear the sweet singing of birds, it might be the Gouldian finches Dolce and Gabbana, who live at The Voluptuous Vixen (818 Chartres St., 504-529- 3588; www.thevoluptuousvixen.com). The pair's festive, vibrant appearance makes them look right at home in the French Quarter.
"Some people say they look like Mardi Gras birds, because they're purple and green and yellow," says Jaclyn McCabe, owner of the store and the birds.
McCabe, who has several other birds at home, thought an avian presence in the store would be a nice touch. Dolce and Gabbana spend most of their time singing and playing on their spinning perch. When they are not filling the store with their tunes, the birds bounce up and down to the beat of whatever song happens to be playing on the store's sound system. Unsuspecting customers often are startled when they realize the birds are real. Once they capture the attention of passersby, the finches tend to get excited.
"They get more active if people are looking at them," McCabe says. "They'll kind of fly around and sing." When I photographed the two, it became apparent that Dolce, with the bright red feathers on his head, demands attention a little more vigorously, while Gabbana would rather take a back seat.
Another occasional visitor to the store is McCabe's dog Isabella, a border collie/Australian shepherd mix. During Isabella's rare visits, she lounges on the couch near the door, waiting to greet customers. Isabella spends most of her time running and playing in McCabe's spacious yard at home.
The Voluptuous Vixen specializes in women's clothing for sizes 12 and up from designers including Anna Scholz, Rachel Pally and McCabe's current favorite, Melissa Masse. Right now, the store has a wide selection of what McCabe calls "festival dresses," cute and comfortable sundresses that are perfect for the city's many outdoor events. Voluptuous Vixen also carries accessories and makeup, as well as intimate apparel. The store also offers bra fittings, a crucial service McCabe is happy to provide.
"Eight out of 10 women don't wear the right size bra," McCabe says, adding that a well-fitting bra plays an important role in how a woman feels. "It changes them, makes them stand up straighter."
After years of being a self-described "frustrated shopper" who was tired of scouring stores for fashionable clothing made for women with more curves than the average runway model, McCabe opened Voluptuous Vixen in 2006 to provide beautiful, stylish clothes in plus sizes.
"It's not about the size, it's about the style," she says.
McCabe found she was not alone in her frustration. "Customers are relieved to find the store," she says. "I am filled with gratitude daily by woman thrilled to find fashion-forward clothing in their size."
One of the goals of the The Voluptuous Vixen is to promote body positivity, with books as well as uplifting quotes on the walls of the fitting rooms.
"We not only dress women, we help them feel good about themselves," McCabe says. "The chatter in the store is always about being body-positive."
DOLCE & GABbANA'S favorite things...
Our spinning perch