SWC Bid To Benefit: A Dress For Every Story

By guest writer, Liz Dungate - Art director, Make-up Artist, Photographer

What’s the most meaningful dress you will ever wear?

The grad dress your aunt painstaking sewed by hand in your favourite shade of blue? Wearing your mother’s wedding dress, carefully preserved for years, because it carries with it all the love that made you who you are today? Or maybe that smart little black dress, bold enough to carry you across the stage to be recognized for a special achievement? Each of these dresses is so special, telling a story of celebration, of potential... of a life-changing event.

What if your next special dress meant something to someone else, too?

A short while ago I volunteered to help the Surrey Women’s Centre prepare images for their upcoming Bid to Benefit online auction. A high end dress shop had closed, leaving SWC a huge bequest of dresses perfect for formal, wedding, cocktail, and casual events. Initially unsure what to do, the Centre decided to auction the dresses, so they put the call out for volunteers to help with a photoshoot to document the lot for an online auction.

Coincidentally, I have been working with SWC/SMART for a couple of years now, through my work with Tugboat Group, designing their identity, marketing and communications materials to help them reach women in need, as well as other businesses and organizations who can help or partner with them. I can’t tell you how passionate I am about their work, how highly I think of them, and how lucky I am that my employer is so generous with my time for this client. I feel really good doing this work.

But this time I wanted to help them “on my own dime”, so to speak, so when they appealed for help, I volunteered to do make-up and hairstyling, and photography, to help create images to successfully promote the event.

It was an amazing, fun, chaotic day... from prepping the volunteer models and the flurry of them racing in and out of dresses (over 150 in one day!), to me trying to capture some “moments” in between another volunteer photographer cataloguing three views of every dress for the auction. Not to mention (although I will) another three volunteer make-up artists who responded to my call, a fine group of SWC staff and volunteers bustling about steaming and styling, and finally, our videographer, generously volunteered by Tugboat Group, to create this short heart-warming video (and a helpful social media “toolkit) to help them get the word out:

Each winning bid on a donated dress provides the opportunity to change someone’s life... for the better. 

As little as $25 can provide mobile emergency help to a woman or girl who has been assaulted, by a stranger, or by someone she knows. The 24/7 Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team (SMART) is available throughout the lower mainland, all the way to Boston Bar, providing a wide range of crisis, court and counselling services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other forms of family violence. Last year they responded to hundreds of local women. But they could always use a little more help*.

A dress for every story

Some of the women helped by SWC in the past have come forward to share their Stories of Courage, which you can read here (warning, potential triggers). Every new dress sold has the potential to help another woman or girl tell a story of courage and fresh beginnings. 

So, if you - or someone you know - is looking for a dress, please check out the Bid to Benefit Auction, July 18th-28th... 

I guarantee it will be a very meaningful dress.

* You don’t have to bid on a dress to make a difference, there are so many ways to help!

Note -  Behind-the-scenes video captures courtesy Scott Valentine

= = = = = = = = = 

Guest blogger Liz Dungate is an art director by trade and a make-up artist and sometimes photographer by passion. You can see her work on her: website or her Tumblr, or follow her on Instagram.