Leeds wedding dress mystery

BYGONE DAYS: Felicity James, assistant manager, and volunteer Liz Fairbrass with the wedding dress.
BYGONE DAYS: Felicity James, assistant manager, and volunteer Liz Fairbrass with the wedding dress.
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Charity workers have turned to Yorkshire Evening Post readers for help in piecing together the story behind one of the most touching donations they have ever received.

An elderly customer recently gave his late wife’s wedding dress to the Sue Ryder vintage store on Otley Road in Headingley.

It is thought he wanted to do his bit to support the charity as his wife had passed away at its Wheatfields Hospice, also in Headingley.

Fundraisers at Sue Ryder are keen to say ‘thank you’ to the man but store staff didn’t take his name. Now they are appealing for their mystery benefactor or anyone else who knows him to get in touch as soon as possible.

Dating back to the 1950s, the navy blue dress is made from parachute silk – like many were in the post-war period due to a shortage of materials. It was dropped off in its original bag, which bears a ‘Leaders Fashions’ logo.

The man also left a photo from his wedding day and a note saying that the dress had been bought in 1953 at a shop on Commercial Street, Leeds, for around eight guineas.

A spokesman for Sue Ryder said: “It must have been extremely difficult for this gentleman to part with such a treasured item and we were thrilled to receive such a generous and heartfelt donation.

“Our specialist vintage and retro shop in Headingley stocks a wide range of items which are kindly donated to help us raise funds to provide incredible care to people with life-changing illnesses, including in the local area at Wheatfields Hospice.

“This dress has already proved very popular with staff and customers alike and there has been a lot of interest in it.

“Unfortunately, the gentleman didn’t leave his details, and although the staff were very grateful for the gift, we would really like to get in touch with him to say a proper thank you and find out the full story behind such an unusual wedding gown.”

Anyone with information about the benefactor is asked to ring Paul Martin at Sue Ryder on 0207 554 5955 or e-mail paul.martin@sueryder.org.

The soft, fine nature of parachute silk meant it was popular among people having to make their own clothes during and after the Second World War.

Women from Earlswood in Warwickshire even tackled a downed German airman in 1941 so they could get hold of his parachute to cut up and turn into underwear.

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Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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