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Glendale dress shop caters to traditional tastes

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Although the Planet Fashions clothing shop in Glendale was officially closed one day last week for inventory, that didn’t stop owners Mila and Joe Gagliano from opening the front door when passersby peered curiously through the glass.

Not too many places do that sort of thing today.

“This is one of the last remaining mom-and-pop kind of stores, which is kind of like a dinosaur,” Joe Gagliano said. “There aren’t many of us around anymore.”

The women’s clothing store sits unobtrusively at 61-08 Myrtle Ave., one block down from the Conrail tracks. “Planet Fashions — The Little Cotton Shop” is spelled out in slender capital letters on a plain white awning, a no-frills label for a store that’s anything but.

The Gaglianos admit it’s easy to miss.

“I’ve tried hard with our window decorations and it’s like people walk by as if we’re not here,” Joe Gagliano said.

The Gaglianos sell sundresses, house dresses, and cobblers — along with the appropriate accessories — as well as an eclectic array of vintage-style toys.

Mila described the clothing as “old-fashioned,” but Joe hesitated at such a label.

“It’s more functional, practical,” he said.

Although the dresses and slips lining the walls of the narrow store certainly recall another era, “it’s not vintage clothing,” Joe Gagliano said. “People wear this today. This is all new.”

Planet Fashions boasts a steady group of devotees to its clothing, many of them immigrants accustomed to more traditional styles of dressing.

“Our customers say this is the only store we can find this stuff,” Mila Gagliano said.

Among their most popular wares are cotton stockings, a commodity so rare today that even the manufacturer said Planet Fashions is one of the few places to still order them.

“When we pull them out and show them to ladies who come from Europe, they love it” Joe Gagliano said.

While the dresses sport a variety of attractive floral patterns, most of the customers love them for their practicality — especially the two large pockets in the front of every dress.

“That’s very important, because the old ladies want to put in their tissues and their keys,” Mila said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Most of the store’s clientele range from 40 to 90 years old, an age bracket Mila Gagliano has worked with for years.

At age 17 she entered a convent in the Philippines, her homeland, to eventually spend 21 years as a cloistered Carmelite nun, her life consisting entirely of “prayer and sacrifice.”

She left the convent at age 40 on the advice of the nuns, who thought she might accomplish more good in the outside world. After spending four years caring for the sick and elderly in the United States, Mila was instructed to return to the convent in March of 1992.

In February, she met her husband. They were married four months later, and Mila Gagliano never returned to the cloistered life.

“She’s a prize. I wasn’t about to let her get away,” Joe Gagliano said.

Relics from the lives of both Gaglianos line the shelves of the store, as with the sculpted baby Jesus the nuns crafted and sent over to Mila.

A customer saw it in a glass display case and asked how much it went for, but she kindly replied that it wasn’t for sale.

He still left happily with a Betty Boop doll.

“She has a rapport with her customers that’s unbelievable,” Joe said.

The Gaglianos purchased the store five years ago from Harry Gourdji, who had owned and run Parkway Fashions at 62-26 Myrtle Ave. for 40 years.

They changed the name and ran the store on that site for three years before moving one block away to their current location.

Planet Fashions is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 718-386-2812.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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