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Mystery donor who gave $6,000 designer wedding dress to Goodwill revealed

TikToker says she’s holding on to wedding gown to wear it ‘whenever that time comes’

Meredith Clark
New York
,Megan Sheets
Wednesday 20 September 2023 21:16 BST
Related: Ed Sheeran crashes wedding as stunned bride and groom break down in tears

A mystery arose at a Goodwill store in Alabama when a thrifty shopper discovered a designer wedding dress worth more than $6,000 - and took it home for just $24.99.

Now, the story of how the dress ended up at the Birmingham store has been revealed.

Emmali, who goes by @emmalifaith on TikTok, went viral on the app when she shared a video of her latest Goodwill discovery. “I’m making this video because today I found my wedding dress at Goodwill for $25, and it fits me like a glove. It wouldn’t need any sort of alterations,” she began the clip, which has been viewed more than 2.8 million times since it was posted last week.

In the video, the 21-year-old nursing student explained how she came across a white, couture Galia Lahav gown that retails for more than $6,200. “It’s gorgeous,” Emmali continued, as she twirled around in the dress to show off its flattering angles. “I found it online and the original price is $6,200. It’s by Galia Lahav.”

Meredith Carter, the owner of a sample bridal shop in Birmingham called Bustle, later revealed how she and the owner of another shop in Louisiana came to donate the dress to Goodwill, Bham Now reports.

Carter said I Do Bridal Couture owner Ramsey Sims had reached out to her for help finding the perfect bride for the stunning dress. The dress then waited on the rack at Bustle for a time before the paid decided to give it another chance at Goodwill.

“The gown was perfect. In fact, it’s one that stands out in both Bustle and I Do Bridal Couture as a truly incredible gown. We just knew there was something special in store for this Galia Lahav,” Carter said.

Carter and Sims said they were thrilled to learn that Emmali had picked up the dress, and expressed excitement at learning what she does with it.

Emmali gave her TikTok followers a close-up look at the white lace dress, which was embellished with pearls and rhinestones and featured a deep, plunging neckline. Emmali pointed out that a handful of celebrities have also worn the brand. For Paris Hilton’s 2021 nuptials to husband Carter Reum, the socialite also donned a Galia Lahav couture gown - one of six dresses she wore for her big day.

Unsurprisingly, Emmali’s expert thrift store find had many TikTok users wondering where they can snag a bargain wedding dress for themselves.

“As someone who has worked in bridal for nine years and still has never seen a Galia Lahav in person, my jaw is on the FLOOR,” commented one person under her viral TikTok. “The find of a LIFETIME!”

“I’m not even engaged but now I wanna go thrifting for a wedding dress,” joked someone else.

“That dress was literally sitting there waiting for you!” a third person wrote.

Speaking to The Independent, Emmali explained how she was “very surprised” to find the couture wedding gown at her local Goodwill in Birmingham, Alabama. “I just did not think that Goodwill would have that dress priced for $25,” she tells us. “I was just kind of shocked because I figured that they would have that behind the counter or in one of their cases up front, or that it would be way more expensive than it was. I was just shocked but extremely grateful.”

However, she did note that some of the reactions to her thrift store find were quite mixed. “About 99 per cent of the comments were extremely uplifting and supportive and kind. I got so many compliments on it,” she said, before pointing out some of the “negative comments” she received.

In a follow-up video, she took the opportunity to answer some of these pressing questions about her newly-acquired wedding dress.

"So the dress video completely blew up and I did not expect it to get this big," she said in a second TikTok. When asked which Goodwill location she found the Galia Lahav wedding dress, Emmali replied: “It’s in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Green Springs area.”

However, the TikToker noted that her local Goodwill had “nothing but the dress” in its store. “I had gone in just to look at some picture frames for a gallery wall,” she explained. “I had already checked out and was about to leave, and I saw a section that we hadn’t hit. We went over there and then, boom. It was beautiful and it was there.”

Emmali added that she “had no idea” the dress was designed by the couture Israeli brand until after she had already bought it.

Another common question she received was why she purchased the wedding dress when she’s not even engaged. "Even if I never planned on getting married, I probably would have still bought that dress just because of the value," she replied. "I could have resold it if I wanted to for such an amazing price."

While Emmali admitted that she’s received many direct messages on Instagram from people looking to take the designer gown off her hands, she revealed that she has no plans to sell the wedding dress. “I do not plan on selling it,” she said. “I do plan on wearing it on my wedding day whenever that time comes. Hopefully I’ll still be able to fit in it by then.”

Many TikTokers were also concerned why the $6,200 gown was donated in the first place, and suggested that the dress might have bad energy, considering the previous bride had given it away. “Will I clean it with sage to get the bad juju out? I will not. I don’t really believe in superstitions like that,” Emmali said. “I think beautiful things can come from bad situations and I do think that this dress might have actually been God’s plan or fate.”

She would later learn that the dress did not have any bad juju as Carter and Sims revealed themselves as the donors.

At the end of her viral video, Emmali took the moment to express how grateful she was to come across the couture Galia Lahav dress at her local Goodwill.

"I really don’t know how I got so lucky. I would like to say thank you to the girl who donated it to Goodwill because it made my whole entire year," Emmali said. “And little Emmali, who has loved weddings since she was probably five, is kicking and screaming right now because she’s so excited.”

As for what she hopes people take away from viewing her viral TikTok videos, Emmali told The Independent that her biggest takeaway from her thrift store discovery is that good things can happen when you least expect it.

“Good things can happen from really random situations, or even bad ones,” she said. Although the dress was donated to Goodwill by Carter and Sims, Emmali noted that even if the dress came from a not-so-happy ending, she would still be grateful. “I'm so thankful for it, she added. “I just think that a lot of beautiful things can come from unfortunate situations.”

In her TikTok video, Emmali teased: “Maybe in a few years I’ll make a video actually wearing the dress. Who knows?”

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