, Newburyport, MA


April 4, 2014

Fashioning a solution

Salvation Army's Prom Spectacular offers free dresses, advice

The Salvation Army in Newburyport has announced an initiative to help relieve the cost of attending prom.

Partnering with seafood restaurant Michael’s Harborside, The Salvation Army is accepting used prom dresses, jewelry and accessories in advance of its May 4 Prom Spectacular.

The event will consist of local teenage girls choosing dresses, shoes and accessories from the donated collection. The Salvation Army has enlisted local hairdressers, nail technicians and merchants to help the girls complete their prom look, dispensing fashion advice and setting up appointments for the big day, according to Salvation Army Lt. Meghan Brunelle.

“We want it to be that the girls get the ‘Bloomingdale’s shopping experience’: up-to-date dress, up-to-date hairstyle, fashion, experience and advice,” Brunelle said. “Prom has always been a great time for me and many other girls, so I wouldn’t want them to lose out because they couldn’t afford to go.”

Though prom is normally a time of celebration for high school girls and boys, it can be expensive to prepare for, Brunelle said.

While boys are traditionally expected to foot the bill for a rented tuxedo, a corsage and sometimes a limo, girls often require entire new outfits, along with the costs of fancy hairstyles and lacquered nails. And that’s after paying for tickets, which can often run upward of $50 on their own.

Much of that investment becomes unusable afterward, with even gently used dresses being permanently stored away. Brunelle has made it her mission for seven years to bring those good-as-new dresses back into circulation, this time in service of girls who can’t afford to buy an outfit for just one night.

“How many people wear the same dress over and over again?” she said. “Nobody. They all go out and buy new ones. I had a million of them in my closet that were going to waste. Rather than throw them away or donate them to a store, at least you can donate them to a place that will help out another generation of girls who are going to the prom.”

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