Janetta Mackay: Beauty with a cause

By Janetta Mackay

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Marie-Ann Billens, Chairperson of Look Good Feel Better, speaking at the Dream Ball on Saturday night.
Marie-Ann Billens, Chairperson of Look Good Feel Better, speaking at the Dream Ball on Saturday night.

Dressing well shows a generosity of spirit, a friend of mine told me years ago. At the time I wasn't quite sure what she meant, but she explained that as a casual dresser she thought the world was made a better, brighter place by those who gave her such visual pleasure.

This was brought home to me on Saturday night at the Look Good Feel Better ball, which was both a rare chance to see New Zealand women dressed to the nines, but more importantly an opportunity to reflect on how appearance really can matter. The ball raises a fair whack of money for the charity which runs workshops for women undergoing cancer treatment. Each year more than 3000 women at 196 workshops in 24 location across the country are provided with free advice from trained volunteers, with the beauty industry chipping in with products.

Having seen my own mother have her confidence eroded by the harsh progression of breast cancer - back in the days when treatment was sadly much less successful - the "look good, feel better" message resonates.

But the workshops aren't just about teaching women to brighten themselves up with a little lippy, or even how to draw on eyebrows lost to chemotherapy, but rather about getting them together to gain confidence and strength in facing an uncertain future. Chairwoman Marie-Ann Billens said a future focus would be how to keep women connected.

At the ball, held in the glittering mirrored Grand Room of The Langham, plenty of connections were made and renewed, with corporate schmoozing part of the territory at these sorts of events. Money-making, though, is the primary purpose and around the eating and entertainment, the auctioneers worked hard to drum up sales. An early tally indicates more than $100,000 from the live and silent auctions and from ticket sales and donations.

The evening, of course, inevitably involved much discussion about dresses and hairstyles. Billens swept her hair up in a glamorous new do and three of four of us Viva attendees, including editor Amanda Linnell in TK Store, chose full-length navy gowns. Navy proved to be a popular colour choice this season, among the perennially popular black and splashes of sequins. Fashion features and digital editor Zoe Walker looked fresh in dove grey Kate Sylvester. DFS Galleria Customhouse general manager Azra Kujovic was resplendent in purple and told me that as a relative newcomer to Auckland and from a more dress-up culture, it was a delight for her to be among a crowd who cared.

This reminded me of my friend's comment about dressing up. Feminine frippery perhaps, but also a real morale booster. To the brave souls who entered into the evening's Rio theme, bravo. We all deserve the chance to be bold, to be beautiful and to be our best selves.

For more information on the Look Good Feel Better charity, go to lookgoodfeelbetter.co.nz.

* Look out for Viva beauty editor Janetta Mackay's weekly report every Tuesday.

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