Mystery Swarovski crystal Vinka Lucas dress donated to op-shop

A mystery donor has created a huge buzz at an Auckland Mercy Hospice op-shop.

Helen Brabazon, the manager of the Pt Chevalier shop, was rummaging through a bag of donated clothes when she made the surprise discovery.

"Out came this dress that just came to life," says Ms Brabazon.

She immediately knew the couture gown didn't belong in the bargain bin after recognising the label and realising it was designed by Vinka Lucas.

The pink dress, created in the 1970s, is thought to be custom-made and features Swarovski crystals.

"We put it on one of our few mannequins and had it there in awe. If we had spotlights we would have had them on it, but we didn't," she says.

"And within a few days a woman came along and she had a connection with the museum somehow and she rung them up and said, 'Oh my God, there's a Vinka Lucas dress.'"

Auckland-based Ms Lucas was in the bridal and couture business for 50 years and has helped thousands of Kiwi and international brides shine on their big day. She was forced to stop designing after suffering a stroke around eight years ago.

Her daughter, Anita Turner, has now taken over the bridal business.

Ms Turner says she couldn't believe one of her mother's beautiful gowns from more than 40 years ago turned up at the charity shop.

"Obviously I told Vinka and she was delighted as well. She was a little teary actually.  She was very happy," she says.

"I definitely remember my mother wearing things like this and just looking amazing.  Certainly in the '70s and '80s I remember her in colour and flamboyant. She always had heels and the whole thing."

The team at the Mercy Hospice charity shop gave their find to Auckland Museum so that it could go on display.

"When I took it to the museum it was a beautiful winter's sunny day and the crystals just were alive. And I walked it in the front entrance of the museum because I couldn't handle to go in the back entrance; it just wasn't right. It really felt like this dress had lived," says Ms Brabazon.

Auckland Museum will soon put the dress on display.

"You look at it and it instantly transports you to the 1970s. It's got these gigantic flared sleeves, which are like a full circle of fabric - beautiful, sparkling fabric, Swarovski crystals, which would have been imported from Austria, and fabric, which would have been imported from Europe," says Jane Groufsky, Auckland Museum's human history collection manager.

The museum won't say how much the dress is worth, and it's not known who donated it.