By Bev Jordan
OLIVIA ABEY is a thoughtful and caring 17-year-old who is balancing a growing home business with her HSC studies.
The teenager whose anxiety stopped her going to her own Year 10 formal is now providing a “safe haven’ for teenagers, keen to get to their own formal but worried about their own body image and what to wear.
She has about 1000 new dresses of all shapes and sizes at her family’s home and sees her role not so much as selling fashion but listening to the concerns of the people who visit and finding a style and dress they feel comfortable in.
“It’s not really about the dress to me it’s more about making sure girls feel confident in their formal dress and feel beautiful because I can totally relate… I didn’t feel beautiful when I was looking for my formal dress and so many girls don’t,” said Olivia. “I was having such a horrible time leading up to my Year 10 Formal (trying to find a dress).”
Her last resort was a garage at a home in Riverstone where the owner had been selling formal dresses for about five years.
“I found a dress but then I ended up getting way too anxious to go to my formal so I didn’t even end up going,” said Olivia. She said when she and her mum heard the business was closing down last year, her mum suggested they buy it.
“The idea of doing something to help girls who felt the same way as me, was something I felt passionately about,” said Olivia. She says there is a lot of pressure on teenagers.
“A lot of the time the fun of formal is taken out of it and it becomes this stressful thing … you need to go and find a dress, and look perfect. I put music on and we have a laugh and I will pull out dress after dress until they find the one.”
Her mission is to enable girls to look great and also feel great.
The fact that she’s willing to spend time with customers during a one-to-one appointment has given her Formal Fashion House a large and loyal following.
The dresses are good quality and affordable. And it’s not just teenagers … young and more mature women looking for dresses for special occasions are also repeat customers, with dresses varying in price from $75 to $150.
“So many people who come here have low selfesteem,” says Olivia. “The anxiety of finding a dress that you feel good in can be overwhelming, whether you are a size 4 or 24.”
You can follow Formal Fashion House on Facebook and Instagram or call 0413 012 334 to make an appointment