Winchester charity receives huge donation of ex-display wedding dresses

Romsey Advertiser: (left to right): Celi Crossland, Hanny Crossland, Hannah Field. Pictures by Hilary Watts (left to right): Celi Crossland, Hanny Crossland, Hannah Field. Pictures by Hilary Watts

CHRISTMAS came early this year for one Winchester charity shop when a big collection of bridal gowns were donated.

Naomi House on St George’s Street was given 35 wedding dresses, shoes and flower girl dresses when owners of the Winchester bridal store, The Ivory Boutique, gave away former display gowns.

Andrea Balmer, store manager at Naomi House, received a call from the bridal store owner, Sarah Grieves, asking if she could take on the stock. Ms Balmer could barely contain her excitement when, within a matter of minutes of the call, Ms Grieves had the shop full of off-the-rack gowns, some of which were worth as much as £2,000.

Ms Balmer said: “I was over the moon and just so excited when she told me. It’s mad! We’ve already had so much interest. One woman was banging on the door before I’d even opened this morning. This has never happened before, well at least not to this scale.”

Ms Balmer said the gowns should fetch up to £400 each bringing in £14,000 just in time for Christmas. That doesn’t include the bridal shoes and eleven flower girl dresses that were also donated, some of which are the same design as those seen in the royal wedding of Will and Kate.

“It will be a fantastic start to a new appeal that’s being launched next year where we aim to raise £4m for Naomi House,” she said. “I think it’s just made everyone so happy, the models were so excited and the staff are so excited and it’s just such a great way to start Christmas.”

The dresses sparked so much attention from the public that some people even stepped into the busy Christmas Eve traffic to take pictures of the models standing outside. Within a short time of opening Ms Balmer said even more people came forward offering their own wedding dresses up for the good cause, which Ms Balmer calls the snow-ball effect.

“I was given a beautiful old rocking horse and then someone saw it and said they didn’t realise we take them so gave in theirs. Then another person saw the second one and brought in theirs. In the end it meant we ended up having a £3,500 week.”

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