My £50 wedding dress will change lives

AN incredible donation of 200 new wedding and prom dresses has lead to the creation of a new bridal shop at Oxfam Boutique Durham.

Brides-to-be can now snap up a pristine unworn creation or a pre-loved showstopper that has just had one careful owner for a bargain price which will be spent on improving lives in Africa.

I’ve donated my own wedding dress, pictured above, which can be snapped up for just £50.

Behind a velvet curtain  are racks of designer dresses just waiting to make someone’s big day very special. Their anonymous donor is a local business owner who wanted to gift their end of season stock as one of its employees is a loyal customer at the charity’s branch on Elvet Bridge.

PRISTINE: One of the many designer gowns donated to Oxfam Boutique Durham

PRISTINE: One of the many designer gowns donated to Oxfam Boutique Durham

“When we went to collect them we were a bit apprehensive because you never know what you’re going to find so when we saw the quality we were shocked,” said Michael Ridsdale, manager of Oxfam Boutique and its sister shop, Oxfam Books and Music, located nearby. “We’ve never had a donation as big as this before. They have given us a real opportunity so we thought let’s go for it.”

The gowns, some worth thousands of pounds, will be sold for about a third of their retail value.
Brides will be able to select dresses from a list of descriptions and pictures available online and make an appointment to try them on in a specially decorated room to make the experience as special as possible.

My own dress has been tucked away in a wardrobe since its only moment in the spotlight 11 years ago. For someone who loves fashion so much I found searching for a wedding dress a surprisingly intimidating experience.


STUNNING: Donated designer dress on sale for £1,500

I remember walking into a very popular bridal boutique and seeing lots of women standing on stools while their voluminous hems were pinned in place…and walking straight back out again.

I just could not get my head around spending a fortune on a dress I would only wear once. I toyed with the idea of buying a classic Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress for about £300, something I couldn’t otherwise afford and would definitely get use out of but, at the end of the day, I still wanted to look like a bride.

It was my husband-to-be, Matthew who ended up finding my dream dress just two months before our wedding. I saw it, tried it on and bought it. Bish, bash, bosh, done.

There still isn’t a dress I wish I’d rather had. It was elegant, simple, but quirky too and it only cost £150.
It’s now one of the gowns waiting to be walked up they aisle again after being donated to Michael’s collection and will be sold for £50, hanging alongside visions costing £2,000.

As well as selling gowns straight off the peg, the branch is also planning to upcycle and alter dresses to meet customer needs.

ORNATE: One of the 200 beautiful wedding gowns donated to Oxfam Boutique Durham

ORNATE: One of the 200 beautiful wedding gowns donated to Oxfam Boutique Durham

The Oxfam Boutique already stocks high quality vintage, designer and high street women’s and men’s clothing and accessories. Many items have been created by its dedicated team of volunteers who customise donated stock and, in addition to its own Reinvented range, it also sells Junky Styling, remade bags by Laura Queening, silver jewellery by Wright & Teague and Oxfam’s new fairtrade range of jewellery and giftware.

GIFTED: My wedding dress which cost £150 has gone on sale at Oxfam Boutique Durham for £50

GIFTED: My wedding dress which cost £150 has gone on sale at Oxfam Boutique Durham for £50

“It’s nice that we can be part of someone’s big day, we say it’s twice the gift, as a bride is getting her perfect dress but is also supporting fantastic projects that really make a difference to people’s lives,” added Michael. “As well as looking for more-preloved items we’re also in need of people who can describe them to show them off to their full potential online.”

The proceeds from my £50 dress could help train midwives in remote villages in countries where women can’t access free healthcare for £16, train a teacher for £27, build a toilet to help stop the spread of disease costing £42 or buy a goat couple for £50.

So, to the person who buys an immaculate size 12, Grecian-style, ivory dress by designer Dawn Stretton – please let me know. I’d love to see it being twirled around a dance floor again while helping those in need – that really would be a match made in heaven.


Twitter: @OxfamDH1Bridal @oxglamdurham

Oxfam Bridal Boutique, 18 Elvet Bridge Durham City

Volunteer to describe, measure, photograph and list wedding dresses on Oxfam online by calling the boutique on 0191-3847440.

At the Festival of Thrift, Lingfield Point in Darlington this weekend (September 26 and 27) an OxGlam Fashion Show is taking place at 3pm – a journey through the styles of the last 190 years, with outfits on the catwalk styled from donations to Oxfam stores in Darlington, Durham and Jesmond.