It wasn’t hard to decide what to write about for my first post on all things charity shops, write about what you know don’t they say. Well, being of ‘that sort of age’ more than a few of my weekends drift by in a whirlwind of confetti, tulle, declarations of undying devotion and of course a healthy dose of the Dashing White Sergeant! I suspect I’m not alone as we enter the height of wedding season so it seemed topical to share our recent diamante encrusted steps into our new wedding department.
When taking my seat before the ceremony, like every other girl of ‘that sort of age’ the first game of the day is obviously who’s sporting the largest/most glamorous hat, aka is anyone trying to outdo the Mother of the Bride. But this is all merely to amuse oneself until the music starts, everyone stands, the groom looks like he’s going to pass out and we get to see what we’ve really come for, the dress. I know how obsessed I get choosing my outfit for a wedding and I’ve never been more than ancillary to proceedings, so deciding on the perfect dress for your big day must be a thrilling if not slightly daunting experience.
Now, I appreciate not being engaged, it would be slightly odd and not a little bit sad to go to a bridal shop and pretend to be getting married in order to try on a beautiful dress (that never happened!) but given my passion for fashion I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to have a guilt free trying on session if the opportunity presented itself and present itself it did. As the latest padded, heart confetti filled envelope landed through my postbox I realised, there’s a whole market out there we haven’t tapped into.
Capability Scotland have 18 charity shops throughout Scotland. When I’m doing the rounds I often see a wedding dress or two in the back waiting to be loved again. When I ask the Shop Managers about them I’m often met with ‘ooh it’s lovely isn’t it, I’ve had it for a while, I’ll try it in the window again next year.’ It struck me that the odds of a bride-to-be walking past their local shop and seeing their perfect dress in the window in their exact size was fairly remote to say the least. What if there was a place you could go to see a selection of dresses at a fraction of their original price. Well blow me down with a vintage inspired lace trimmed veil, let’s create one!
Phase 1: Get some dresses.
Although the bulging suit carriers started turning up at the office as the shop managers were more than happy to share their wares, this was only going to work if we could keep the stock coming in. Capability Scotland do not sell new goods, we are entirely stocked through the generosity of the Scottish public, a generosity that continues to humble me 4 ½ years into my post. We do sometimes get shops donating ex-display or last season stock they can no longer sell and really, although the ticket prices are high I didn’t suppose bridal shops should be any different. In hope more than anticipation I wrote out to bridal shops across the country asking for stock. Within a week the wonderfully generous (and can’t thank them enough) ladies at Lianne Xquisite Brides (Falkirk) and Apple Blossom Time (Perth) got in touch both ‘absolutely delighted’ to help. The ball was officially rolling.
Phase 2: Get some photos to promote the department.
Fortunately our multi-talented Head of Fundraising is a keen photographer and her time can be easily bought with home baking. An additional piece of good fortune is that there is no shortage of stunning girls in our office. It took around 30 seconds to secure enough willing volunteers and in the spirit of not asking others to do what you’re not prepared to do yourself, I volunteered myself (let’s face it they were getting me whether they wanted me or not!)
As much as you may want to, you can’t wear your wedding dress to work. You can however get it to work in other ways, by donating it to Capability Scotland and so our work based shoot was created.
Phase 3 – Create the department.
Whether you’re a bride on a budget or spending a fortune everyone deserves the experience of buying their dress to be a special one so we couldn’t just lump the dresses in a corner and hope for the best. One of the differences between charity retail and normal high street retailing, is our budget for anything is invariably zero and creating the wedding department was no exception. Luckily our chosen shop for this new venture Stockbridge in Edinburgh has an uber creative manager who jumped at the opportunity to turn a corner of her shop into a bridal haven.
So here is our latest venture, finished and open for business. If you’re a bride-to-be, you never know you may well find your perfect dress and it will be at a fraction of its original price. Not only are you getting a stunning dress (and remember I’ve pretty much tried them all on so I know how beautiful they are!) but you are enabling our organisation to continue our work supporting disabled children and adults across Scotland.
How can you help?
Well if you’ve had your special day maybe have a think about your dress and whether you would consider letting it shine again. You can’t wear your dress to work, we tried, all those trains are a health and safety nightmare, but it really can work in other ways.
If you would consider donating your dress to Capability Scotland or for more information please contact either myself on 0131 347 1075 or by email.