ARTHUR ‒ A local salon is trying to increase rural access to formal event clothing, one piece at a time.
Opening the free event closet earlier this year, Caitlin Batenchuk was inspired by programs like the Princess Project, to create a space in her salon that would allow individuals access to free formal clothing year-round, rather than just at graduation.
“When you go to (events like) a wedding, they can be fairly expensive when you're all said and done paying for everything, especially if you have a large family,” said Batenchuk. “So I thought that (the closet) could just be something that anyone could utilize because everything is so expensive now.”
In a "boutique-esque space" tucked into the back room of Batenchuk’s salon, Frayed Ends, in Arthur, clothing and accessories are displayed on the walls and arranged on side tables in addition to being hung inside the actual closet.
“I figured that it would bring more options and (make this type of clothing) more accessible for people,” said Batenchuk. “Instead of having to spend the gas money going down to Guelph or Kitchener to then spend more money on outfits.”
Home to close to 75 pieces, everything is free, although Batenchuk asks that if you see something you like, to try and donate something in its place that day or in the future.
“My biggest thing is I don't want people to feel hesitant to come in and check things out,” said Batenchuk “You can just come in, see what I have, and if something suits what you're looking for then you're free to take it home.”
While the closet is open to anyone, Batenchuk is looking for more donations of formal clothing for teenage boys and young men, in addition to shoes in general.
“I think I have maybe six pairs of heels and absolutely no gentlemen's shoes at all,” said Batenchuk. “I’m really looking for more gentlemen’s clothing so that I can have more of a variety for them to pick as well.”
But as word spreads, so has the closet's selection. Last week, Batenchuk received a large donation of brand-new, brand-name, and hand-made dresses in "lots of beautiful prints and styles."
And if you don’t see something you’re looking for, Batenchuk is always willing to keep an eye out. She recently assisted a customer who was looking for a white and blue dress for a wedding next month and quickly found something that met her criteria.
“I feel that people need to keep an open mind when they come in,” said Batenchuk. “It’s understandable if you’re looking for a specific colour but it’s when customers get into super specific silhouettes or designs.”
To use or donate to the event closet, curious passersby can stop by or call the salon during opening hours, and/or check Batenchuk’s Facebook to see what’s available.
Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.