Lauren Mann is a woman on a mission to relieve the financial pressure put on young girls and their families around ball season.
In true Cinderella style, the magazine editor is giving Wellington high school girls a place to shop for formal wear without worrying about cost with the focus, instead, on looking like a princess – if only for a night.
It took Mann less than two weeks to organise a one-day dress sale after a friend and high school teacher told her about five girls in her year group who were stressed out about meeting costs for their upcoming school ball.
“A lot of people struggle with ball costs, even high-income families. The costs seem to skyrocket year by year.”
The average cost of a ball gown in 2016 was around $500, with the other essentials for the big night – makeup, hair, transport and accessories – pushing the total up.
“While we’re not addressing that problem, we are trying to help out and give those who need it a night off.”
Mann runs lifestyle magazine Wellington Woman which, with its large social media following, was the perfect place to put out the call for help with the dress appeal.
“I was out for dinner that first night and I could feel, every minute, my pocket vibrating with another email. It escalated so quickly.”
Donations came quick and fast with Mann and her friends tasked with storing everything until the day of the pop-up.
“I thought we would get maybe 25 dresses which would help a few girls out but honestly I thought we would be pushing it if we got 50.”
So far, more than 400 dresses had been donated or pledged.
To ensure the dresses go to those they’re intended for, the sale will only be open to Year 12 and 13 students with school ID required at the door.
All money collected will go to Evolve, a Wellington organisation that provides general, mental and sexual health services free-of-charge for young people.
“It’s really up to the girl and her family to decide they feel they can contribute so if it’s only a couple of dollars that’s fine, no judgement – nothing.”
Leftover clothing and accessories after the sale will go to Dress for Success Wellington which helps women pursue their aspirations by providing clothing for job interviews.
“You’re not getting something for nothing, you’re also giving back to other community groups. It’s a nice circular thing,” Mann said.
To stock the shop, Mann and her team will collect ‘gently worn’ dresses and other fashion items until the pop-up event on July 15 at Te Wharewaka o Poneke.[“Source-stuff”]