UT Alumna Tessie Crow Opens New Longhorn Fashions Location

After graduating from UT, Tessie Crow saw a business opportunity and took gameday style to the next level.

Tessie Crow’s first week of school at Louisiana State University could have gone better. It was the same week in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. And just a few weeks later, Hurricane Rita wreaked havoc as millions of evacuees fled the coast. “That was a hard way to start your freshman year,” Crow says. “I was really homesick, and I had a lot of friends who went to UT. When I visited them I just fell in love with Austin. I think I knew by October that I wanted to transfer.”

Now, a little over a decade later, Crow, BS ’09, Life Member, is a proud alumna of UT. Not only that, but as the owner of Longhorn Fashions, a popular UT-themed boutique and online store, she’s the arbiter of style on the Forty Acres. Her customers include everyone from freshmen who need an outfit to wear to their first game to Sally Brown, Victoria Strong, and Camila Alves (wife of Longhorn leading man Matthew McConaughey). The third and largest iteration of her store opened its doors this July on the ground floor of The Quarters Sterling House apartments at the corner of 22nd Street and Pearl. The boutique is palatial, unapologetically girly, and cheerful—the sort of place where shoppers might want to sip mimosas while they search for a burnt-orange statement necklace. (Editor’s note: Mimosas and donuts will be served on gamedays.)

 Longhorn Fashions is the realization of a lifelong dream for Crow. “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to open a store,” she says. “Growing up, I was fascinated with retail. In middle school my mom’s friend had a wholesale account and she let me use it to go to Dallas Market Center. So I would buy a bunch of butterfly clips and sell them in the girl’s bathroom at school.” For a painfully shy kid who turned bright red when people spoke to her, fashion was liberating. It gave her confidence and helped bring forward her personality.

When Crow arrived in Austin and started going to football games, she noticed Longhorn fans were decidedly dressed down compared to their counterparts at LSU. While Longhorns wore logo-ed tank tops and cut-offs to beat the heat, the ladies of the SEC—LSU and Ole Miss most notably—wore sundresses and big jewelry to every game. Lilly Neubauer, Crow’s older sister, watched as she began setting the trends on campus. “Tessie brought that LSU style with her to UT, and influenced her girlfriends. As a result, her class had a dressier gameday style.”

After graduation, armed with a degree in corporate communications and a business foundations certificate from McCombs, Crow went to work in digital marketing and helped brands boost their online presence. But a store of her own was always in the back of her mind. “At that point in 2010, my friends and I didn’t have a lot of money. We wanted clothes we could wear to games, but also to work and go out with friends. I realized that if I started as a small website, with burnt-orange and white clothing at affordable prices, I would hardly need any funding—so I just went for it.”

Crow bought small quantities of inventory at a time, and then used the profits she made selling it to buy a little more the next month. Eventually the business outgrew the apartment she was sharing with roommates, so she bought a 1968 Airstream trailer on Craigslist that had been gutted and left for dead. She and her husband spent the summer cleaning it up and putting in shelves. They even built a tiny fitting room and jewelry display area.

Crow parked the trailer on Bevo Boulevard at home games and was finally able to meet her customers in person. “Women would come in and buy outfits and change into them right there for the game,” she says.

After a few games, Crow knew she was onto something, but she needed the concept to work year-round. That meant moving into a tiny storefront in West Campus and carrying on-trend dresses and accessories she knew her customers would love. “I was so excited to get the key to it,” Crow says. “I was like, This is the best day of my life!”  Last year, she took an even bigger leap and signed a lease on a nearly 1,700 square-foot location.

Though styles come and go, Crow has a few tried-and-true fashion tips for the Longhorn faithful. For example, she says if burnt orange isn’t your color, wear a white dress and UT it up with burnt-orange jewelry. Also, navy and turquoise look great with burnt orange. “Of course, in Austin the fabric has to be cotton or something breathable,” she says, “but you can mix up our team colors with patterns or embroidery. Lastly—and maybe this goes without saying—cowboy boots are always a good idea.”

Candice Edwards, BSPR ’10, Life Member, has been a client of Crow’s since the very beginning. “It’s amazing to watch someone graduate from UT and put her passion and heart into building a business,” Edwards says. “All of my friends, and even my mom, have a million things from her store. Chances are if you see someone wearing a cute burnt-orange dress on gameday, it came from Tessie.”

Photos by Eileen Wu.

 

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