Would you give away your wedding dress?
Your wedding dress is the most important item of clothing you’ll wear. It’s probably the most expensive too, but it’ll fit like a glove, make you feel a million bucks. It’s the sort of feeling you want to bottle. So it’s a shame you only get to wear once (although I confess I occasionally pop on my veil for fun – come on, we all do it).
Choosing your gown is exhausting, but generally fuelled with giddy excitement and bubbles before midday. The day my mum and I walked into the dreamlike bridal boutique in Islington north London to order my Alan Hannah dress was one I will never forget. She was teary eyed as the curtain revealed me in a strapless satin A-line with jewelled embellishment. Classic, with a bit of personality. A bit like me I guess.
I wore it for eight hours and since then it has taken up squatters rights in Mum’s spare bedroom. Initially I thought I was keeping it for my future daughter to wear. But I have two crazy boys, and don’t really see either them wearing it.
I was then invited to an amazing event at Bicester Village (Yes, I crossed the threshold into Oxon) to visit social enterprise e-tailer Bride Do Good’s first ever pop up store. They’re encouraging women to donate their pre-loved designer dresses, receiving a third of the gown’s resale price for themselves, while a third goes to charity and a third to cover costs.
Each bride’s donation is split between two charities: Too Young To Wed and Plan International, who are working towards the UN’s mission to end child marriage by 2030, by investing in local programmes to empower girls and educate communities.
“Around the world, 15 million girls are married before the ages of 18 every year. That’s one in three in the developing world, or close to 38,000 girls a day. They don’t choose their husband or their future. Their education stops, and no one protects them from violence,” explains Brides Do Good founder Chantal Khoueiry.
“The idea came to me eight years with friends and I learned one of them spent £8,000 on her wedding dress, which was not in a box in the attic,’ Chantal says. ‘Another friend had stated she would love a designer dress, but simply couldn’t afford it. Why not give a new chapter to a wedding dress and a brighter future to millions of young girls?”
The company’s website and pop up boutique now have stock from brands including Vera Wang, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Ian Stuart, with all dresses selling for on average 40% less than the original price. So brides-to-be can bag a bargain with the fuzzy feeling in knowing that this slice of their budget has helped a little girl from a life of misery.
But what if your a bride who (*ahem*) partied a little too hard on their big day? Your dress can take quite a battering from sloppy wine spillages and busting your best moves on the dance floor. But be assured; only gown in a ‘like-new’condition are accepted, and all are cleaned up before they go on sale so they are spinky spanky new.
As well as dresses donated by brides designers and boutiques have also given samples to the cause, so there’s a great chance to snap up something that’s never been worn before. For instance, Vivienne Westwood has handed over 20 designs and Ian Stuart selected 27 creations in a variety of styles and sizes. So there is something for everyone.
If you’re a former bride who’s a bit hesitant to let go, your reluctance is normal. “I’ve written a letter to the woman who will eventually buy my dress,” explains TV presenter Louise Roe, who has given her bespoke Pronovias dress to the cause. “Of course it’s a sentimental thing for me, I had this fairytale experience and went to Spain with my mum to design it. But I knew I wanted to donate it when I heard about Brides Do Good – I had no idea how prolific child marriage is around the world.”
So the upshot of all this is that I’m donating my dress. If only to release it from its Miss Havisham status, out ounloved and surrounded by cobwebs. If it can make another woman as happy as I was on my day (too lovey dove? don’t judge) but more importantly help give a little girl hope for her future I’m in. What better way to celebrate your wedding, knowing you have done good.
Brides Do Good pop-up store is at Bicester Village until Feb 19. bridesdogood.com