DRESS BARN PARTIES: Dress Barn stepped out of character Wednesday night by throwing a party at its Dressbar pop up shop in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan. “This is our first party in 53 years,” surmised Jeffrey Gerstel, president of Dress Barn, which was founded 53 years ago. “Maybe we had a Christmas party,” Gerstel hedged, but it would have been internal, not like Wednesday’s, which was loud and crowded with 250 guests, a mix of company executives, designers, stylists, models, shoppers and media. “This is a new chapter for the brand. We hope to do another party a lot sooner,” Gerstel said, noting that Wednesday’s was to celebrate how the company is updating, and its new format inside Dress Barn stores called the Dressbar. It spotlights an array of dresses created by Carmen Marc Valvo, Heidi Weisel and Michael Smaldone from Adrianna Papell, marking the chain’s first designer collaborations, as well as other dresses in the assortment. The setup has fixturing, mannequins and signs distinctive from the rest of the store, and iPads to help shoppers and associates find and learn about products. “We have variations of the Dressbar in 22 stores. We’re testing what makes the most sense and what customers respond to.” As far as the designer product, best-sellers are emerging after only a few days of selling including Weisel’s mixed media dress with eyelit woven skirt and knit top; Valvo’s sheer floral dress with a subtle stripe and waist-tie, and from the DB RSVP in-house line, a shantung hombre floral dress.