It's a rite of passage for teenage girls: Attending the high school prom. However, in these tough economic times, the costs of buying the perfect dress, shoes and accessories can put a prom out of reach.
That’s where the Fair Oaks Prom Dress Shop comes in. Tucked into a quiet corner of the Fair Oaks Mall, a dozen high school marketing students are turning an empty, windowless store into a boutique for glamorous gowns. Each dress is donated; some still even have the store tags on them. All are free to any needy high school student who can’t afford to go to the prom. In addition to prom dresses, there are also donated shoes, jewelry and handbags.
“It’s really important for girls to look and feel good,” said Grace Chung, a Centreville High School senior who is going to the prom. “This prom dress shop, it gives them a prom experience they can actually enjoy.”
The shop is the brainchild of Centreville High School marketing teacher Miranda Schick, who said she wanted to give her Fair Oaks Classroom on the Mall students a taste of community service, along with their passion for fashion. The shop is now in its fifth year.
“I thought, Why not open a shop where they can use their merchandising skills that they are learning in the classroom then offer dresses for girls who may not be able to afford expensive prom dresses that are out there that are $200 or $300?” Schick said.
The Fair Oaks Prom Shop will be open on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., then Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is staffed by adult volunteers so that needy students won’t encounter their peers and can remain anonymous.
“We don’t want to put students in an awkward position when they come in to get a dress and they see one of their classmates,” Schick said. “We also keep the door closed so there is more privacy.”
The gowns are collected year round at Centreville High. To get a free gown, all a student needs is a valid student identification card, Schick said. Last year, students traveled from as far as Prince George’s County, Md., to get a free dress.