Yep, it’s spring time, which means that prom season is fast approaching for the high schoolers. You’ll find proof of that in the malls, including the Windsor location in Madison’s East Towne Mall, where I snapped this photo on a day off from work last week.
Notice a lot of pastel colors in this photo? The shades of tan, gold, and seafoam green suggest the color of a warm, sunny beach. Or perhaps the colors of colored Easter eggs, ironic since this photo was taken a day after Easter Sunday. But more than the color, you notice the flowing fabrics, accents of glittering beads, and the silver of the accessories. Overall, these are rather understated dresses, unlike a couple of dresses I spotlighted in this post from last May.
I noted these were found at Windsor, and I want to draw your attention to that small sign in the window. The sign trumpets “FREE PROM DRESSES” from Windsor. How’s that? According to the page on Windsor’s website for their “Cinderella Project,” all you have to do is start shopping at a Windsor location during March and April and one of their “fairies” (their word) will surprise a customer with a free dress, no entry or whatnot required. Of course, there’s a catch in the fine print: The chosen customer must consent to being videotaped and photographed during that lucky moment.
That candid camera moment would rule out yours truly, naturally. I mean, would a middle-aged man browsing through the dress section consent to being gifted a free dress? (Don’t answer that!) In all likelihood, Windsor has a pick-and-choose method to their free dress madness, in that they’re probably looking for someone in their target audience of teen girls and very young adults for their promotion… or their way of giving back, as the Cinderella Project website notes.
Of course, formal dresses can cost a lot of money, and not every teen girl and young adult can afford one, let alone have the time to camp out at the nearest Windsor and wait for some Fairy Godmother to drop a free dress in their shopping basket. That’s where more charitable organizations come in. One such organization I came across while writing this is an effort that also share the same shorthand-for-lucky-girl-at-the-dance name: Cinderella’s Closet, which originated ten years ago in Kentucky. The founder, one Erin Peterson, came across a young teen shopping for dresses at a consignment store. Peterson overheard the girl if a gently-used dress she adored and wanted to buy could be reserved while she tried to figure out a way to pay for it. Disappointed when her foster mother wasn’t able to afford the purchase, the girl found a savior in Peterson, who bought the dress for her.
Providing the girl with an inspiring moment also inspired Peterson, who would later launch Cinderella’s Closet through Immanuel United Methodist Church in Melbourne, Kentucky. It’s not just a Kentucky operation, however, as several other churches within Kentucky and across the country have established their own Cinderella’s Closet chapters, accepting donations and making other girls’ dreams come true. And while it’s a faith-based organization, it appears that proselytizing is just a side light; the main goal is to make the day of young girls unable to pay for a dress on their own for whatever reason.
Of course, Windsor and Cinderella’s Closet are not the only outlets for obtaining a formal dress for that elegant occasion gratis. Just look online or whatever search avenue you prefer for organizations in your area that will be able to give or lend a formal dress. Before you know it, you’ll have a grand ol’ time at your prom, dance, or whatever your to-do is, turning heads and stealing the show in a dress you never thought you’d be able to wear.