Rhonda’s extraordinary wedding dress gets a new life with Tamara Oudyn of ABC News

By Tamara Oudyn


February 17, 2020 06:43:19

It’s a strange world we live in when someone’s kindness is initially greeted with suspicion, but here we are.

There are the simple gestures that carry weight — like a stranger handing over a not-yet-expired paid parking ticket, or a compliment out of nowhere, that can briefly jolt you from your preoccupation with whatever’s front-of-brain.

But some unexpected acts of kindness come as a complete shock and leave a permanent imprint.

These ones float up quietly through the layers of everything else you’ve got going on, to suddenly burst through the surface and shake you awake.

Such a shocking act of kindness was lobbed into my orbit a couple of weeks before Christmas — a knock on the door of the makeup room at work, then the handing over of a suit bag. With a letter attached. From Rhonda Favaloro of Barwon Heads.

On lavender paper, in a careful and precise hand, she launched straight in:

“In 1979 I was wandering up Collins Street when I noticed the most amazing, yet subtle dress in a window.”

She was a registered nurse at the time, getting paid a registered nurse’s salary, so the idea of a $1,400 price tag on anything, let alone a dress, was absurd.

But she decided she had to have it.

“I had a thought which took me into George’s,” she wrote.

“My fiancé and I were planning to get married in December 1981, so explaining my predicament to the sales lady, I was given two years to pay it off.

“Every payday I took myself into George’s.”

A new home for Rhonda’s wedding dress

Her letter went on to say that it was a navy blue number — not your typical 70s wedding dress, and that after wearing it down the aisle, she donned it every year on her wedding anniversary for decades afterwards.

But now, aged 76, it no longer fits.

“For a number of years now I have been looking for someone who would not only look fabulous in the dress, but would have the social life that would see it being worn instead of sitting in my wardrobe.

“You have worn a similar style of dress and I feel it might have found a home.”

I think the blood may have drained from my face at this point.

The importance of this gesture weighed on me. And I was apprehensive — this could be really, very awkward.

“Well, go on,” came the chorus from the others in the makeup room.

“Let’s see it.”

It was a georgette-crepe creation, with a square leather yoke neckline and clear buttons, with panelling flowing into a beautiful flared skirt — a daring choice for someone who says she spent most of her days in a nurse’s uniform and had no idea about fashion.

“Put it on,” came the calls from my colleagues.

Meanwhile, I’m asking myself: “Really? Is this too much? Why would someone do this? What does she want for this?”

A photo to ‘complete the circle’

Of course, it fit like a glove.

And all she wanted was to know that it would live on.

“I would love to see a photo of you when you wear the dress. That would complete the circle for me,” she said.

I got back to Rhonda to thank her profusely and then moved through the following weeks a little rattled by her generosity.

I couldn’t shake the feeling of shock that a total stranger could reach out and entrust something held so dear, to me.

In January, I was in Barwon Heads on holiday with my kids. We met up with Rhonda for a chat over iced chocolates.

She told me she’d felt good about delivering her beloved dress to the ABC.

“I knew I had to do it. The only other place I was going to wear it was in my coffin, and they’d have to cut the back off it — I didn’t want that to happen,” she said.

“This way, I think it’s got a life again.”

She’s yet to tell her husband Shane what she’s done with it — he doesn’t even know it’s missing.

But she’s rather hoping he’ll recognise it when he sees it worn on the 7:00pm news — when the next chapter for her dress begins.








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