Marissa Broome has created Valley Belle out of Deep River, offering free gown rentals to women looking for something to wear at a formal event. With over 75 dresses in multiple sizes, those needing formal wear are sure find one that pleases. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

Free formal gowns available for loan through Valley Belle

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2019

Every woman deserves to feel beautiful during the special occasions in her life, but not everybody can afford the cost of a one-time-use formal gown.

Marissa Broome, the creator of Valley Belle, has opened up her home and closet to those needing formal wear. Those looking for a dress or formal shoes can contact her, and she will do her best to provide a gown that will make the wearer feel spectacular.

“Honestly, it’s kind of fun to dress people up,” said Broome, noting not everyone can afford to spend several hundred dollars on an outfit they’ll wear once.

The process to borrow a dress is simple. Once an individual contacts her, she takes out a stack of gowns in their size and invites them to try them on. Once one is chosen, it is loaned out for the event for free. It must be returned clean or Broome charges a $10 dry-cleaning fee. There are evening gowns, cocktails dresses, prom dresses, a handful of wedding dresses and a small collection of fancy shoes.

Though Broome’s collection of donated, purchased and repurposed dresses is large and has sizes up to 24, it isn’t nearly as big as it once was when she was in charge of the now-defunct Valley Cinderella Project.

Her mother Patti Stack was the one who inspired her to return to her roots. Before handing over Valley Cinderella Project a few years ago, Broome had donated several of the dresses to Maison des Jeunes de Rapides-des-Joachims in Quebec where her mother worked. Many are still sitting there, waiting to be worn again, so at her mother’s suggestion, she started her dress project anew, changing the name to Valley Belle.

She did try to get the original collection of dresses back but they had been sent outside of the area for women in need elsewhere.

To bulk up her current collection, she peruses secondhand stores and purchases what she can, but mostly she relies on the generosity of local fashionistas looking to empty their closets. She operates out of Deep River but has friends collecting dresses in Pembroke and Petawawa.

“It’s basically the same thing as before but now I am starting over,” said Broome. “I haven’t even finished taking in dresses and already people are taking some out, right away. There is definitely a need for it here.”
She isn’t running a business, nor a charity. She does it because she knows how hard it can be to have to attend formal functions and not own a suitable outfit.

“I just happen to have a bigger closet, so come and borrow my things,” said Broome with a smile.
“It’s just a project with a charitable purpose,” she added. “I don’t want to mislead anybody into thinking its a charity or something like that. This is just something I can do.”

To contact Marissa Broome, please call 613-281-2692 or visit the Valley Belle Facebook page: