BELDING — When Cinderella wanted to go to the ball, her fairy godmother appeared and helped with the proper attire, from a hair ribbon to a dress to jewelry and shoes.
In reality, we don’t have fairy godmothers to do that. Instead we have Elizabeth Johnson.
Johnson of Belding is the owner of Belding Beauties and Bros, a business that started in 2020, right before the pandemic. The business started in a rental property, was closed for 16 weeks doing pop-up events and less than a month ago, relocated to the Covered Village Mall in Belding with a start day of Oct. 1 of being operational.
“My goal is to donate, free of charge, formal attire, from everything to the formal dresses to semi-formals, to heels, and jewelry,” Johnson said. “For the men, I have dress shirts, suits, ties, pants and dress shoes.”
If it is a young teen looking for a dress for homecoming, or a young woman looking for a bridal gown, a man prepping for a job interview or a senior woman looking for a special dress to wear as a wedding guest, Johnson hopes to help.
“I try to help find what will be the most flattering for their body type, what they will be the most comfortable wearing, but mostly my role is to help them feel beautiful,” said Johnson, who along with being a business owner, is also a wife and mother of two.
Johnson will be outside her store, located at 410 Covered Village Mall during Labor Day weekend from 2 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 3 and 4 for anyone who would like to donate items they no longer need.
“My staff and I will be collecting items, those dresses you have in your closet that you no longer need, any formal attire,” she said. “We don’t deal with kids clothing, but if any are dropped off, I will pass them on to organizations like Center St. Church that does accept them.”
Items should be clean and in good condition.
After completing a military career, Johnson did not plan to go into the formal wear business.
“I remember the huge line of military spouses waiting outside a shop, trying to get a dress to wear to a military ball. It was horrid. I never planned to go into this business, it kind of dropped into my lap,” Johnson said.
She began with 15 formals that were donated to her. She called around and found people who needed them. Then others began to call her, with more items to donate.
“That is when I knew there is a need,” she said. “People wouldn’t keep calling if there wasn’t.”
And then a bridal shop was throwing out their out-of-season gowns, and Johnson added wedding dresses to her stock.
“I want the parent that feels like they can’t afford to buy a dress or a suit coat for their child to come in,” she said. “I don’t want a parent to feel bad that their child missed an event because they couldn’t afford to buy a dress. I want everyone to know that they are worthy of looking beautiful.”
Her current stock is 400 to 500 formal dresses and 100 wedding dresses, along with items for men as well. The items are free to anyone who can use them.
“I am not out to make money. I do have rent, and people are welcome to make a donation to help cover rent,” said Johnson. “But I don’t want people to feel like they have to make a donation if they get a dress. And you don’t have to get a dress to make a donation.
“I’m here because I want this to be a safe place, and we will try our best to help find what you need.”
She does not do alterations on items, but can give recommendations of those who do alterations.
“It doesn’t matter if you can afford to buy a dress or can’t afford to buy one, I’m just here,” Johnson said. “What is most fulfilling for me is helping you feel special for that special event.”