A Cinderella moment for prom night
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News March 10, 2013 3:08PM
Shelby Bruno, a junior at Sycamore High School, looks for earings to go with her dress she picked out for prom. Bruno was one of several hundred high school students who shopped at the YWCA in Elgin Saturday afternoon during the Cinderella's Closet event which featured nearly 7,000 dresses and accessories that were gently used donations; The event afforded area students the ability to shop for a prom dress for a small donation. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 12, 2013 6:19AM
ELGIN — Amari Harris doesn’t have her prom date yet, but the Larkin High School senior has her dress all ready to go — a purple-ish red iridescent ball gown and a tiara to match.
Allison Murphy of Yorkville got her purple prom dress, purse and jewelry for prom at the YWCA Elgin, too — a dress she probably could not otherwise afford, Murphy said.
More than 300 area high schoolers were expected Saturday at Cinderella’s Closet, where area teens have been invited to shop for a dress, shoes and accessories for their prom — either at low or no cost. The YWCA has hosted the event for the past four years,
Next Saturday, some of those same girls and more are invited to come back to the YWCA. For the first time, the YWCA is offering underserved senior girls in the community the opportunity to get senior portraits done, at no cost to them.
The very first prom dress event in Elgin began as a joint project between the YWCA and the Elgin Junior Service Board, said Deirdre White, event coordinator at the YWCA and a Junior Service Board member. About 75 girls attended that first year and had about 100 dresses from which to choose.
Then, the Naperville area Junior League offered its successful Cinderella’s Closet event to the Elgin organizations, as well as the thousands of dresses it had in stock.
Now, girls come from all over the Chicago suburbs for the event, and an estimated 5,000 dresses — mostly long prom dresses but many short dresses and even some bridal gowns — are stored in the YW’s old unused pool.
On Friday, volunteers from Westminster Christian School moved those dresses from the pool to the gym in preparation for the event.
This time of year — with proms coming up in April and May — the YW can have anywhere from 50 to 100 dresses come in the door every 10 days, White said.
Many have been worn once, or not at all, and come with the tags still attached.
To help the high school students find what they are looking for, 120 volunteer “fairy godmothers” help the teens shop and sort through the dresses, which are organized by color and size.
Murphy said she tried on about eight dresses before she found the one she was taking home.
“I was thinking red, pink or blue, but then I tried this on and I fell in love with it,” Murphy said.
This was the first time the 16-year-old had attended, or heard about, Cinderella’s Closet. “I was scared that there wouldn’t be a lot of choice, or that I wouldn’t find what I wanted,” Murphy said.
The organizers have learned over the years how to improve the shopping experience, said Sherry Kinser, chair of the annual event. They even have a table of seamstresses who can fix broken zippers or snaps, and even cut and hem a dress at the event.
A couple of dress shops also have donated to the event, she said, sending sample dresses they haven’t sold to the YW, Kinser said.
Two fashion jewelry stores — Charming Charlie and Claire’s — donate purses and jewelry the girls also are allowed to choose from, picking up a bracelet, necklace, earrings and a purse, all at no additional charge.
If girls happen to find more than one dress — or if they can’t make up their minds — they are allowed to purchase a second dress for $25.
There is a suggested donation of $5 for the first dress and ensemble, too, and many may donate more, Kinser said.
The photography services offered on Saturday are also by donation, White said.
Sabina Cavalli of Naperville heard about the event and offered her photography services for the girls who could not otherwise afford to get traditional senior portraits done.
The photo sessions are appointment only and come with hairdressers and makeup artists who will get the girls ready. They are invited to either bring their new dresses or one outfit for their pictures.
More information about the portrait session is available at 847-363-0968. There are spots available for up to 75 people, White said.