For Cinderella, it was a royal ball, but for modern girls, the prom is often the event of a lifetime. For both, the problem is not having a suitable dress for the event, and no money to buy one. Cinderella gave up on attending the ball because of it, and many young ladies today must do the same.
In the fairy tale, a fairy godmother stepped into Cinderella’s life and saved the evening by providing a gorgeous gown and spectacular glass slippers so she could attend the ball and dazzle the prince. Now some modern day “godmothers” are helping high school girls in much the same way. They aren’t creating the gowns with magic, but they are donating their time and talents to provide free dresses and accessories for the girls in their town.
Our Cinderella’s Closet
Many families in our area, like those in towns across the country, have been hard hit by job loss and lower incomes during the past few years. They have little money left for “extras” like prom gowns, which sell for upwards of $100. In our town, a program named Cinderella’s Closet was created in response to the need, and it has proven to be very successful.
Our local group has been offering the service for several years, with the help of donations from area families and businesses. The group collects new and gently used dresses across the county from both residents and stores. Then they contact local businesses to find a location for their “showroom.” The starry-eyed girls make an appointment, and a “fairy godmother” helps them choose the perfect dress for their dream evening. Total cost to the student? Nothing.
One of the First Cinderella’s Closets
Similar programs have been organized across the country, run by the schools themselves, local civic organizations and even churches. The oldest and largest organized Cinderella’s Closet I found is located in Edmonton, Canada. Officially named “The Cinderella’s Closet Foundation,” this group has a catchy slogan: “…sometimes you just need something to wear from people who care.” They also have a formal Mission Statement: “It is our mission to provide graduation attire for those students who require financial assistance.” They have operated as a registered Canadian charity for over 7 years, and have no salaried employees.
As their website states: “Everything collected, both monetary and in kind, goes directly to benefit the Graduates in our program, at no cost to the student.” They have a large group of volunteers, dubbed “Fairy Godmothers,” who give their time, friendship and support to keep the Closet functioning each year.
A Cinderella’s Closet in Kentucky, started in 2007, had a more fairy tale like beginning. The founding woman was shopping at a consignment store when she overheard a teenaged girl ask the clerk if a gown on display could be put on hold while she figured out how to pay for it.
The girl asked her foster mother for the money, but the price of a prom dress was beyond their budget. Seeing the girl’s disappointment, the kind stranger bought the dress for her. Tears flooded the girl’s eyes as she thanked the woman, saying, “I’ll look just like Cinderella!”
Shortly afterwards, Cinderella’s Closet formally began as a ministry of Immanuel United Methodist Church. Since then almost 1,500 girls have found the dress of their dreams there.
Four years ago Hazen Union School’s student council offered a Cinderella’s Closet. Racks of donated dresses were offered for $25 or less, with the proceeds benefitting the student council and its programs. Their Closet was set up in the high school cafeteria. Wood shop students built dress racks and a platform in front of a wall mirror so the young princesses could better decide on the perfect gown.
In this case, a local bridal and formal store donated many of their discontinued dresses to the event. The store also donated certificates for the Hazen boys to get $20 off a tuxedo rental.
What It Means to You
If you have a daughter who needs a prom dress, check local papers or the school office to determine if there is a Cinderella’s Closet near you. Churches are another good place to look, as many of them have taken up the challenge of helping the young women in their community.
If you don’t find one in your community, why not consider starting one? There are probably many other families in need with “godmothers” who would be willing to give their time. Local stores are always looking for positive publicity. I’m sure many of the organizations listed in my reference section would be happy to tell how to get started. You might be surprised at the response of your neighbors if they know there is a need!