At LA's Prom Closet's annual giveaway event in Los Angeles, 200 high school girls who couldn't afford prom dresses received them for free. They scoured through racks bursting with colorful tulle and taffeta to choose their dream dress. Long, elegant gowns, some embellished with sparkly stones and sequins, others simply silky to the touch, found new, overjoyed owners. A short gray cocktail dress printed with butterflies hung conspicuously at the end of one rack, but all day, it didn't catch the eye of any petite prom princess.
On the event's last hour, however, a girl picked up this dress, tried it on and fell in love. Natalie Torres, President of LA's Prom Closet, asked her, "Is this your prom dress?" She smiled and said, "Yes, this is 'the one.' I'm so excited!" Natalie then told her one very important detail about the dress, and no, it's not to remember to Dry Clean Only. "I just wanted to let you to know," Natalie said, "that this prom dress was donated by Fergie." In the words of a teenager, OMG.
LA's Prom Closet is one of over 100 members of DonateMyDress.org, the national campaign encouraging women to donate dresses that they'll never wear again to high school girls who need them for prom. Thousands of dresses are donated annually -- LA's Prom Closet alone received 1,800 dresses in 2010 -- and of course, very few donations come from rock stars. But when one does, you can't miss the impact.
At DonateMyDress.org headquarters, we host an annual celebrity dress auction to fundraise for the Purple Dress Awards, which are grants we give to the best 501c3-certified dress drives in our national network. In 2009 and 2010, we raised $2,000 by auctioning off dresses from Taylor Swift, Ashley Greene, Miley Cyrus, Jordin Sparks and Leona Lewis, among others.
As a recipient of a Purple Dress Award last year, LA's Prom Closet knows how meaningful even $500 can be to an all-volunteer run organization. Natalie used the grant money to print flyers about the dress giveaway that social workers could distribute to students, to pay for alterations and mending of dresses, and to build extra fitting rooms, all of which increase the number of girls the organization is able to serve during prom season.
Making sure a girl looks and feels beautiful at prom is only scratching the surface of what dress donation organizations actually accomplish. The best organizations in the DonateMyDress.org network understand that girls who come to them in financial need of a prom dress oftentimes lack stability or inspiration for post-high school plans. That's why girls who come to LA's Prom Closet also enjoy dream-building workshops where they create vision boards, as well as fun health workshops that teach them healthy eating by highlighting the beauty benefits.
As you look at the bigger picture of what dress donation achieves, you see that when a celebrity donates a dress, whether to an unsuspecting teenage girl or an auction that will fund local dress distribution, it's more than a PR blitz. In fact, what I love most is that disadvantaged girls are not only given a Cinderella moment, but fortunate girls are also inspired to give back.
Last year, I received an email from Emily, a teenage girl who heard that Ashley Greene, the actress who plays Alice Cullen in theTwilight movies, was our DonateMyDress.org spokesperson. Since 2009, Ashley has donated several of her own dresses to girls in need and been a wonderful advocate for the cause. Inspired by Ashley's involvement, Emily wrote, "My cousin, a couple of her friends, and I donated 14 dresses to Abby's Closet in Oregon. We collected them from our moms and sisters and I bought three with my birthday money. I felt so good helping people find a dress for prom."
Emily's donated dresses won't elicit the same OMG reaction of the girl wearing Fergie's dress, but in spirit, they've got the same star-studded sparkle. Whoever fell in love with Emily's donations on the rack will feel just as radiant on prom night. Though you have to admit, when everyone will be rocking out to "I Gotta Feeling" on the prom dance floor, it's pretty awesome to know that one deserving girl in Los Angeles will be feeling just a little more Fergalicious than most.
If you'd like to donate a dress, go to DonateMyDress.org to find a dress drive in your area.