Whatever shall I wear? Prom gown charity takes a hit in bad economy

The Cinderella Project, a Los Angeles charity that supplies prom gowns to needy girls, is having a tough time meeting demand due to fewer donations this year. Fashion companies normally supply most of the prom gowns and shoes, but many have cut back on giving as they struggle to stay afloat in this economy.

The Cinderella Project, which supplied more than 300 dresses to girls in South Central and Compton last year, said it anticipates the number of girls looking for help will rise 20% this year. The group is just one of many charitable organizations that are having a tough time finding enough donors.

Some would argue that getting a prom gown is a low priority when so many people are getting laid off, losing their homes, having a tough time getting enough food or going without medical care, among other problems. But for many teens, prom is a right of passage that can impact their self-esteem.

"One night like this can literally change the way a girl sees herself socially. You cannot imagine how many of these girls have never worn a pair of heels or a beautiful dress, Gloria Baume, fashion director of Teen Vogue, told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

One solution to buying a new gown is to hit up consignment shops and thrift stores to find gently worn dresses. Teens can also trade gowns with friends and family members to find something "new" to wear.

I also wonder if some schools that know they have a lot of students who can't afford expensive gowns should just change the dress code to something less formal this year. Even though a lot of charities like the Cinderella Project probably started with the intent to help low-income girls afford dresses, more middle-class families will likely find it tough to afford prom night this year due to the economy.


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