What does every busy career woman need to see her through the flurry of invites the festive party season brings?
A well-organised diary, an iron resolve to stop her overindulging before she’s even got to Christmas Day - and an LBD.
Jewel toned sequins and silks and Ice Queen-white satins may be vying to dazzle on the dinner-dance floor, but the Little Black Dress is the go-to evening piece in the working woman’s wardrobe.
It needs to be a classy classic and look glamorous without hogging all the limelight. But it also needs to be on-trend.
And unfortunately, that means this hard-working eveningwear staple has a shelf-life.
You may have found your perfect LBD a few Christmasses ago, but the ugly truth is that there are only so many times you can slip into it without feeling like Cinderella.
But does its replacement have to be new and expensive?
“We don’t think so,” said the head of retail at Rotherham Hospice.
“Because we’re a local charity and the hospice is so close to many people’s hearts in the town, our nine charity shops scattered throughout the Rotherham area receive a huge number of donations of fabulous evening wear all year round. W”e’ve selected the very best party pieces to adorn the pre-Christmas rails,” said Kim Loughborough.
“There are party shoes, sparkling accessories, evening and cocktail frocks of all hues and from all manner of designers and high street names - and a wonderful selection of little black dresses.”
The hospice challenged three local businesswomen from Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce to head to the charity rails with a budget of just £25 each and exit with a perfect little black outfit.
This is how they fared...
Lisa Pogson is a director of heating and air-conditioning firm Airmaster, in Swallownest. The mum, 46, is also president-elect of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.
Shopped at: Rotherham Hospice Charity Shop at Tanfield Way, Wickersley and Brinsworth Lane, Brinsworth
Party outfit spend: £17.50 (dress £7.50, shoes £5, wrap £2, bag £3).
“At Airmaster we are very proud of our green credentials - we recycle and economise wherever possible and I walk the talk in my personal shopping habits - I take my clothes to charity shops and buy from them regularly.
You can afford to buy a couple of festive party outfits in July and store them away when they’re only £5 each.
I went to two Rotherham Hospice shops and everything was clean, tidy and really well organised.
I reckon they have the best evening wear stock I’ve ever seen on the charity rails.
If only I could have squeezed into the way too small Phase Eight sequinned cream full length gown that must have cost £300 originally. But I found a lovely strappy black dress with a subtle hint of diamante detail for £7.50 and accessorised from head to toe for another £10 - way under budget!”
Top tip - Don’t dismiss things without trying them on.
Mum Jackie Freeborn is MD of Skin Care Yorkshire, providing naturally-based products for commerce and industry. The 57-year-old is co-founder of local charity Work-wise Foundation, which helps young people transition from education into adult and working life.
Shopped at: Rotherham Hospice Charity Shop at High Street, Wath.
Party outfit spend: £15 (Ted Baker dress £7.50,vintage-style bag £2.50, Emilio Luca evening shoes £5).
“Buying gorgeous and expensive new dresses for the party season has never been me. I love fashion and dressing up but I hate spending a small fortune to do it.
My best buys were a brand new £2.50 evening dress which just needed a new zip and a vintage wool and cashmere swing coat I picked up for next to nothing.
The Wath hospice shop is a favourite haunt because it has so much stock - and not just for women. I sent my husband there when he needed a dinner suit for the first time. He picked one up for a tenner!
I didn’t just find one LBD, but two and both by great labels - a floaty Twenties-style with a matching lace shawl, which also worked around my second strapless satin number.”
Some people don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes, but I love wondering about the story behind the garment.”
Top tip - If you don’t spot anything on the shop floor, tell the staff what you are looking for and ask if they have anything in the store room.
Deborah Bullivant is the director of literacy charity Grimm and Co, which promotes reading skills through courses in Rotherham. The charity’s first shop, Story Destination, opens in Doncaster Gate, Rotherham, next year.
The mum is 48.
Shopped at: Rotherham Hospice Charity Shop at Browning Road, Herringthorpe
Party outfit spend: £11.50 (One-shoulder lace Dorothy Perkins dress, Marks & Spencer Autograph collection sequinned bolero £3.50, satin clutch bag £2).
“I didn’t have to ask twice to accept the hospice’s challenge. As a charity owner I get invited to scores of Christmas events and it goes without saying I’m a charity shop devotee.
I have altruistic reasons for my charity shop crush; it’s about supporting a worthy cause and recyclin but also finding brilliant value for money. My appreciation of that comes from having been a single parent for many years.
The staff at the Herringthorpe shop were so helpful and full of ideas it felt like a personal shopping experience.
The dress they helped me find is really striking, with a glittery lace finish and its one-shoulder styling. I plan to make it earn its £6 price tag: I will wear it as an elegant evening outfit but will also work a rock chick vibe for more casual Christmas nights out.”
Top tip -Don’t go with preconceived ideas of what you will be looking for.
Rotherham Hospice has nine charity shops, serving 10,000 customers each month.
The average spend from each customer is £4.40.
All stock is donated by the people of Rotherham and so bountiful are supplies that arrive at the door, the hospice rarely has to make a plea for goods
Shop managers are assisted by an invaluable team of over 120 unpaid volunteers who work in a variety of roles
The hospice’s retail Gift Aid scheme enables UK taxpayers to gift aid donations made via charity shop purchases to charity.
Two hospice shops - at Montgomery Square, Wath, and 39 High Street, Maltby - specialise in furniture and offer a collection and delivery service.
The hospice’s line of Christmas cards, calendars and diaries are on sale at all nine shops and this year there is also an online shop.