Be a fairy godmother

Prom time is approaching. I never went to mine, because I was a grouchy little contrarian and fancied myself all counterculture, but for a lot of young women they represent an important rite of passage. Not to mention, of course, the chance to get dolled up, and everyone likes that! (Maybe not everyone, but I tend to think that even if you don’t have a femme bone in your body, it’s gratifying to look really sharp.) And if you think it’s important to the average teenager to look great for her prom, just think of what it’s like for someone like our pet teen, who’s struggling every day against an onslaught of messages trying to convince her she doesn’t deserve to be beautiful.

Online retailers like Sydney’s Closet have made it possible for young fat women to have access to beautiful gowns, with more options and more convenience than ever before. Girls aren’t stuck with mother-of-the-bride dresses or home-sewn creations — they can get spangles and cleavage to their hearts’ content. Yes, fat Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

Unless, of course, you don’t have a couple hundred dollars to spare. But Shapeling Artemis has a suggestion for how we can help more young women feel beautiful, regardless of size or finances:

I live in Chicago, and I have this thing I’m doing that I think you and your readers might be interested in. Ever heard of the Glass Slipper Project? It’s a charity event that goes on every spring to give low income Chicago high school students free dresses and accessories for their proms. They take donations of dresses and accessories, then hold “boutiques” at a south side elementary school.

Last year I volunteered as a personal shopper at one of the boutiques, which meant that I was paired up with a student and took her shopping through the donations. The young woman I shopped with was a plus size girl, roughly a size 24/26/28. As you may have guessed, the selection of dresses in those sizes was disappointing to say the least (total crap, to be more blunt). Almost everything was too old and matronly for a teenager, shapeless, and in drab colors. The result was that we didn’t find a dress for my student, because there was simply nothing there that she liked that she could wear. My girl stared longingly at an aqua gown in a size 16, and we only had racks of gray and navy to choose from in her size. It was heartbreaking, really. I did my best to cheer her up, give her ideas of alternatives to dresses to wear, find her some accessories, etc., but she was so clearly disappointed.

So I was wondering if you guys would be willing to rally the Shapelings to help with this organization. To donate their old dresses (or dresses bought new) in plus sizes, so that the plus size girls can have a dream prom (if that’s possible – my own was far from a dream, but it wasn’t the fault of my dress, at least). To volunteer if they are up for that. Maybe Shapelings have their own prom stories they might want to share.

I think this is a damn fine idea! In fact I’ll start. I have a couple of really beautiful short chiffon dresses I got off eBay — they didn’t fit, and they were going to go right back up there when I had the time. Now, I’m going to donate them to my local version of the Glass Slipper Project instead. (It’s a Chicago-based organization, but there are a number of similar programs throughout the U.S. Non-U.S. readers, if there’s not a local equivalent and you want to help, they also accept monetary donations.) There are specifics about donating and volunteering on the Glass Slipper website, and presumably on the websites of the non-Chicago groups as well. (And do please share your stories of prom and shopping for prom… like I said, I never did it, and I’m curious.)

Short on formalwear but swamped with business dress? There are also a number of organizations that help outfit low-income women for interviews and professional jobs. And hey, while you’re at it, take everything else that doesn’t fit to Goodwill. A valuable organization gets some money, and some fat indie kid gets all psyched to score your ratty old sweater for two bucks. Or look for a local charity — there was just a huge fire in my city, so some of my old stuff is going to be re-outfitting people whose personal belongings were destroyed.

To free yourself from a paralyzing fantasy, it’s sufficient to cast off your tiny pants. But why stop there, if you can also help other fat people have a beautiful prom, a successful interview, or even just an exciting trip to the thrift store? Don’t just give up the clothes that don’t fit or don’t suit you or that you’ll never wear again — get them out of your house, and into the hands of someone who needs them.

50 thoughts on “Be a fairy godmother

  1. I had this gorgeous purple silk jacquard cocktail dress that I wore once to a friend’s wedding, back when I was at the lowest size I’ve ever been. I hung on to that dress for nearly ten years, just to remind myself yes, I had actually been a size ten once (for about 6 months). After toting that thing literally 10,000 miles around the continent – packing and moving it 7 times – I finally decided that maybe it should become someone else’s pride and joy. It feels so good knowing that another person might be feeling good about themselves wearing it, rather than keeping it in the back of my closet.

  2. Thanks so much for posting about this! :)

    Well, let’s see, my prom was pretty boring. I went with my then-boyfriend, who took the opportunity to get wasted (I was the designated driver). We had a hotel room for the night, and that wasn’t very exciting with his drunken state, as you can imagine. And I didn’t wear a new dress, but one I’d worn the a dance a year or two before. Bleh – as rites of passage go, it was rather anticlimactic. But I always wish it could be like some lovely movie scene for the girls who come to the Glass Slipper boutiques – and who knows, maybe we can help that fantasy along a little.

    Thanks again. :)

  3. How perfect, especially since the whole idea behind the fairy tale “glass slipper” was that it FIT!

  4. Jeepers. I don’t have any prom dress type things myself (I keep running across them in stores, but talking myself out of buying them for lack of a reason to wear them in the foreseeable – or imaginable – future). This makes me want to adopt someone and take her shopping on my dime. Hmmmmmm….

    Thanks for the tip!

  5. This is an awesome idea. I don’t have nay formals around, but there are a couple of nice business suits taking up space in my closet…

    As far as prom goes…

    My date stood me up nearly the last minute (after I had the dress and tickets bought) — which sucked as you can imagine.

    What didn’t suck was the hawt, hawt, hawt 23-year-old son of a friend of my Mom’s who volunteered (or was possibly drafted by his father, but was totally a good sport about it) to be my date. He was awesome, I had a fantastic time, and I was the talk of the school (in a good way) for weeks after. It was quite the coming out party for the geeky, unpopular girl I was at the time.

    I’m still geeky, but much less unpopular these days.

  6. I wonder if I can un do the alterations to some of my bridesmaid dresses? (They had to be altered so they were about 2 sizes smaller on top.) l will have 3 this summer with no homes. (Though the one is Navy… and gorgeous… and I am sortof loathe to part with it.)

  7. I went to my freshman year Homecoming dance. At the time I wore a size 16 or so. My mom and I shopped and shopped till we were exhausted and I couldn’t find a dress in my size. We finally found a dress at a bridal shop, and had it altered to fit. When I arrived at the dance, my dress was totally wrong. It looked like an 80s era bridesmaid dress – I was a freshman in 1993. I was kind of mortified and I heard comments later that I looked like a giant peach (my dress was pastel pink, so I have no idea where the peach came from). My friends and I boycotted prom both years. The dance had left a sour taste in my mouth but we also thought prom was silly and stupid and preppie. We went out exploring Cincinnati that night and had a much better time.

    Fast forward to 2005, when my sister graduated. She wore a size 20 and found TONS of dresses in her size, particularly at a store the kids all like called Deb. She has at least three formal dresses from her high school days that are all just as pretty as those worn by the thin girls. I’m so glad she didn’t have the shopping experiences I had when I was a kid, but I was also a bit envious, too.

  8. This is a very cool idea. I hope that we can get lots of great-looking dresses in! I went to my junior prom in 1990 with my best (male) friend whom I happened to be in love with (I can’t be the only fat girl with that story). I think I was about a size 18 at the time, and let me tell you, there was jack shit in my size. Sometimes, even now, I’ll go into Torrid and try on a prom dress just because I *can*. My mom ended up taking me to a seamstress to get a dress made, which was really nice of her. I know it probably cost way more than something off the rack.

    Even so, I don’t remember feeling especially pretty in it (how I let the seamstress talk me into a high neckline and dropped waist, I’ll never know, given that I was a hippy, busty thing even back then) and I don’t remember having a particularly great time. The BFF-not-BF and I had tried dating a few months earlier and had had an acrimonious breakup but were still friends and I wanted to be more…… Anyway, not a story for this post!

    As it turned out, the BFF-not-BF and I decided to skip the senior prom and go to a neighboring city and see Les Miserables. That was a much better decision and way more fun than the prom.

  9. For Junior Prom, I wore my older sister’s prom dress from a couple years prior and I haaated it. It was jewel blue and at the time, I was preferring to dress more like Robert Smith from the Cure, but my parents didn’t want to pony up for my very own dress because we already had a perfectly serviceable one. For Senior Prom, I managed to talk them into letting me get a dress that was more my speed. And it was a hunt and a half. I was a 22/24 and there was nothing in any bridal or formal store we went to that I could try on. All I could do was go through the catalog, pick one that I could only *guess* would look okay on me, and order it. Then, hope that it’d a) fit and b) be alterable upon its arrival. It worked out okay, as did Prom itself (even though I had to ask about 90,000 guys before one would actually go with me), more so because I rocked the Robert Smith ratted-up hair. The one moment I remember the clearest was sitting at the table by itself while everyone else was slow-dancing on the dancefloor. In the movies, Duckie would have shown up to swoop me out there for a spotlight dance…instead, I just sat there, miserable.

    I actually went to a grown-up Prom in Jersey this past August to celebrate Kevin Smith’s (the director) birthday, and it was a bazillion times better than either of my high school proms. And my dress ruled.

  10. I was a volunteer for Glass Slipper last year, as an unpacker and dress-organizer, getting the dresses out of the storage boxes and into rooms organized by size range, and I think most of all this charity needs larger women to be sorters and unpackers, because it is the unpackers that decide what ends up in the goodwill box and what goes up to the ‘stores’ that the girls shop from, and in my area, all the very slim women unpacking dresses were Goodwilling anything slinky, sparkly, or pretty-colored in a size larger than 14, on the premise that a fat girl would WANT to hide herself in a big dark sack of a shapeless dress, out of shame for being fat. One set of women was adamant – if the dress had a strapless or haltered bodice, or sleeves shorter than three-quarters, they binned it to goodwill, because of ‘arm fat issues’ and ‘back fat’.

    We had lots of beautiful dresses in 20+ sizes in my unpacking area, including 4 boxes of jewel and pastel-toned haltered long dresses with sparkley stones on the straps, but none of them made it upstairs, because of the attitudes of the women unpacking them, even though we were told to send all plus size dresses upstairs because of the great need for them. These were dresses with store tags attached – obviously, a donation from a retail outlet. Not to my taste, mind you, but very, very PROM! It was very disappointing to me, watching these gorgeous dresses go to the costume donation box or the goodwill box, knowing that there were going to be lots of larger sized girls coming thru hoping for a cinderella moment.

    So if you are a larger than 18 size, please consider volunteering at these events, as a sorter or unpacker, to make sure that the pretty dresses for fat girls end up on the racks for the girls to choose from, instead of banished to goodwill by skinny women projecting their fat-phobias onto the event.

  11. Man, I could have used something like this. There was no way in hell my parents could have afforded to buy a dress from a boutique even though I probably would have fit into a size 16. But they gave me enough money to buy a bit of fabric and a pattern and I sewed a dress, and since trapeze dresses were temporarily in fashion again and I had been convinced that I was humungously fat and should “cover up”, that’s what I made: a trapeze dress in black crepe. I knew I had made a horrible, horrible mistake when I tried the finished dress on and my grandmother (chief proponent of the idea that I should be covering up) said “Yes, that’s very appropriate.”

    I wore it anyway but spent the next year building up the courage to make and wear a dress that didn’t make me look like a big box on legs. And I did and it was great.

    This year I am snapping up all the size 20+ party dresses on sale that aren’t ugly or mother-of-the-bride and saving them up for formal season to donate.

  12. I had a nice dress (being a size 8, there were a million choices; I should shut up now) but I spent the entire prom being pursued by two guys who didn’t ask me because they didn’t have the guts. Mostly because everyone knew I would have said NO. So while the food was nice, the rest of the night was kind of miserable. I just should have skipped it. The dress I wore to a couple dances after that. (We had a conservatory formal event every year, and I organized it for two of them.)

    (One of the yucky guys at prom was wearing a cape and a top hat and OH man, he couldn’t pull it off. Ick.)

  13. thanks for this post. It brought some painful but yet joyful memories for me. I started writing a comment and it was getting too long—so I just did a blog post about it.

    I do want to thank you for spreading the word about the business clothes. I volunteer with some homeless shelters, and safe houses. We have a tough time getting in larger size clothes for our clients to wear on interviews. The ones we do get in have no style whatsoever. It’s makes all the difference in their confidence level to be wearing a spiffy outfit.

  14. La Di Da, that’s a great idea — Torrid prom dresses can get down to peanuts after prom season, and you know they’re not donating them if they don’t sell.

  15. We don’t have prom here, but we have grad (high school graduation) which is similar, but much less of a big deal. I wasn’t fat in high school, but I made my own dress, partly because I like to sew, partly because I didn’t like the big poofy styles that were in then and wanted something sleeker, and partly because I had a rack of doom even at my thinnest, and I wanted a dress I could wear a bra under.

    I do have a suit that doesn’t fit anymore, I should see if there’s a charity in my area that gives business clothes to women and donate it. Although my grandma altered it to fit me, so it’s only going to fit a person with very short arms and legs, heh.

  16. all the very slim women unpacking dresses were Goodwilling anything slinky, sparkly, or pretty-colored in a size larger than 14, on the premise that a fat girl would WANT to hide herself in a big dark sack of a shapeless dress,

    Anonymoose, that’s UNBELIEVABLE. I was thinking of volunteering anyway, but now I’ll definitely apply.

  17. They are desperate for people to work the setup – which is what I did – this Saturday (March 15th). Its pretty loose, organizationally, so if you don’t hear back via their website, you can probably just show up.

    And you know, I don’t think those women meant to be unkind, which is the saddest part. I think they truly believed they were doing a fat teenager a favor by not putting the lovely, skin-revealing, princess-y dresses out. But as a fat adult woman, I felt so bad watching these dresses be binned.

    There are two set up days, March 15 and March 29?, and these girls need us not only to donate beautiful sparkleprincess dresses but to ensure those donations get in front of plus sized girls. Because you would not BELIEVE how much of the donated stuff gets binned, since it is done by individual volunteer taste.

  18. I had my dress made by my grandma from a costume pattern. It was lilac and cream. I loved it because the fabric was really heavy and there was a whole lot of it. My prom date was gay and a very good sport about everything. And yes I knew about his preference before hand, he was a year younger and that was the last year we were having it at navy pier. I’m fairly certain he would have come anyhow though.

    I wasn’t a really dance going person but when I did have friends that wanted people to go as a group I found that I couldn’t find dresses at all. I ended up having to go with old lady dresses (shoulder pads… were and are not currently in fashion) that didn’t look all that great. Having places that have plus sized dressed even if they are online is just amazing to me. I would donate if I could. But other than that one dress I got rid of all my other ugly frocks quite a while ago (and I would never subject anyone to them ever). However there was one that was all red glittery, I enjoyed covering people in tiny little glitter they couldn’t get off well.

  19. For the Canadians this is our [a href=”http://thecinderellaproject.com/about.htm”] Cinderella Project [/a]. That one is for the lower mainland of BC but there are other projects in other provinces.

    I love these types of project because there but for the grace of my Mom’s sewing skillz go I. I grew up both poor and fat so I was only lucky that I had two beautiful dresses made for me, one for when I was Mistress of Ceremonies in Grade 11 and one for my graduation. Both of which got stripped off promptly after the ceremonies so we could go drink on someone’s farm.

    I don’t have any formals to give away, but I did just donate all the results of a recent closet purge to the local women’s shelter, including all the underwear that was fit to give away. I had heard a story about how these women run with absolutely nothing and they often don’t have underwear in the larger sizes to give them. That broke my heart a little, thinking that someone could have to go without something so basic just because of their size.

  20. anonymoose, I had no idea! I wish those dresses had made it down to the boutique last year, because my girl might have been able to actually find something. Thanks for the heads up.

  21. not prom. but it kills me that i have three plus sized business suits and you would think that dress for success would love to have them – but no. and i can only bring them there every third saturday between 11-1. you know what? that’s never going to fucking happen. and i’d freecycle or craigslist them, but i want them to go to an actual fat person who needs business suits, and not to a someone who collects stuff to sell to the thrift stores.

    when katrina happened, i pulled everything plus sized out of my closet that i no longer wore and started sending to shelters. they too desperately needed plus sizes.

    maybe i should take the suits to a women’s shelter.

  22. It’s a great idea. My prom was fifteen years ago and my dress, which was made (my choice, as my grandparents couldn’t afford the pretty teal gown I wanted so much) I sold that summer to a teenager wanting a dress for her homecoming dance that fall.

  23. We recently moved, and as part of the moving/packing process I donated all(*) of the clothes I no longer wore (and weren’t completely ratty) to Goodwill. I hope they all went to good homes, and the burgundy satin bridesmaid dresses (yes, plural) helped some girl have the prom of her dreams.

    (*)All excludes my own prom dress and wedding dress, which I don’t consider part of my wardrobe, but souvenirs.

    My prom was in 1982, and sparkly stuff was definitely NOT what you wanted to wear – Gunne Sax was THE style. Which of course did not come anywhere near my size. I couldn’t even order something unacceptable from the bridal shops because I was shopping less than 6 months before the date. My mother bought fabric and a genuine Gunne Sax pattern and sized it up so it would fit me. While I haven’t always gotten along with my mother, I will always be grateful that she made such an effort so I could have a prom dress like everyone else’s. That’s why I’ll always keep that dress.

    The rest of my prom experience reads like a typical High School soap opera, not worth repeating.

  24. This is almost enough to make me go out and buy a prom dress twelve years late, just so I can donate it. Heh.

  25. I probably have one of the most embarrassing prom stories ever. I didn’t want to go. My mom insisted that I did. You’ll regret it if you don’t , she claimed. (I really don’t think I would have). I didn’t have a boy friend and had about zero interest in acquiring one, even for the very temporary status of “prom date”. I was definitely in a “boys are icky” stage. Mom says, ‘why don’t you ask “John”?” “John” was my sister’s serious boyfriend, then fiance, now husband of fifteen years. Yes, I borrowed my sister’s boyfriend to go to prom. Don’t worry. I gave him back right away, no worse for the wear.

    The dress was easy, so long as I didn’t care what I wore. See, I think the reason my mom was pushing the prom is that she wanted an excuse to make this crazy Betsy Johnson pattern from Vogue and needed an occasion. It was utterly unlike any other dress worn at that prom. Black taffeta with embroidered dots in rainbow colors. It had a bustle. Lined with electric blue satin. All the other girls wore floor length pastels. Now I look back at the dress and think “that was awesome”, but at the time I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. But at least it fit and for once I wasn’t dragged from mall store to mall store in the vain hopes that I would fit their largest size.

    As for donating pretty sparkly dresses, I have none at the moment. By next year I’ll have a bridesmaid dress mouldering in my closet. It’s pink. Very pink. Just like I wanted when I was 18. It sort of resembles this mound of pink meringue. I joke about it and call it the “prom dress I never had”.

  26. Well, despite being in the UK, I did have a prom. I was a UK size 18 at the time and actually found an ankle length,straight cut, round and high-necked, silver and black dress very easily. Add black heels with a silver flower on each toe and a little silver choker necklace.

    Might sound less “glitzy” than a teenage girl would be happy with, but I loved it.

    Plus I went to a highly religious school…low-cut, short skirt and glittery would have resulted in me being sent home even had I wanted to dress like that. (Which I didn’t).

    Now is a whole other kettle of fish….I’m a UK 20-22 and my wardrobe doesn’t do formal/evening wear. If it did, it would no doubt look like the rest of my wardrobe…a sort of mix between the Berkertex catalogue and M&S Classic Collection.

    Admittedly, I’m Brethren, so think plain clothes and headscarves anyway, but…well, I just don’t seem to have inherited the “glitz” gene :o/

  27. I’ve heard about some of these charities that donate these sorts of things, and if I had a good income, you can bet that I would find all the plus size prom dresses that I could find and donate them without question. I wish I could find something like this in Missouri, but alas I haven’t seen anything (typical around these parts).

    I was really torn about going to my prom. (Thankfully my parents were understanding, and when I bought the question up they informed me that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.)
    In a sense, I guess I could say that I wanted to go, but I was all too aware that the odds were already stacked up against me.
    The fact that I’m chubby and TALL was part of the problem. I didn’t have the Internet at the time, and I wasn’t really aware of who (or who didn’t) make plus size dresses; so I was at a loss there.
    It also didn’t help that my parents weren’t exactly swimming in the money, so that pretty much made my opportunities even smaller.
    In the end, I just wanted to stay home. And no, I have no regrets about that either.

    This is a little off subject, but it fits a little…

    I think the only time I only had real dress issues was before I married my husband. I pretty much knew by this time that hardly any of the stores in my area would carry my size, so I decided that I would do a little bit of surfing online and see what I could find.
    I actually stumbled on to a site called ***plussizebridal.com.*** They had all kinds of lovely dresses in all kinds of sizes (they also have some incredibly nice prom dresses on there as well if anyone wants to take a look), and some pretty reasonable prices. This is a one man operation (in North Carolina, I think), and he specializes in plus sizes only. He even has a five day returning fee if you don’t like the dress, and all he asks for his a modest restocking fee.
    Honest to God, I tried to look and see if he carried anything that was your typical “ugly plus size eighties” style queen anne style gown, and thankfully found none.

    So, if you’re looking for a great resource to donate (or buy) prom and/or wedding gowns, look at this site.

  28. We generally don’t have proms in the UK, although they’re becoming more popular. We had a Leavers Ball when I left 6th form college at 18, and my mother made me a beautiful dress. I was a size 18 (US size 14, I believe) then, and we couldn’t find anything cheap enough. My mother is a talented seamstress, though, so we made a skirt and top and it was beautiful.

    She was going to make my wedding dress, but I hit paydirt with that, and found a size-positive shop and a gorgeous dress. My mother added accent beads and sleeves to it for me, and I truly did feel like the most beautiful bride ever. The girl in the shop was completely right – she made me try on a dress with ruching across the stomach, and it suited me amazingly.

  29. Coyote, I don’t know where you’re located, but Dress for Success also accepts donations through local cleaners. In the DC area it’s the Crest Cleaners.

    Just take your donations in, boxed or bagged, make sure they know it’s a donation for Dress for Success and make note of the date. About 2 weeks later, you can call Dress for Success for a receipt, just tell them which Crest location and the date of your donation and they’ll send it to you.

    I just got rid of a bunch of small/large clothing someone gave me this way.

  30. Dress for Success does the same thing in Canada, for business suits. We had a prom gown drop-off at the mall a few times, and it’s wonderful. I’m not sure who organizes it, it’s usually in Feb when they advertise that they want dresses dropped off (and you get a $20 mall gift certificate in return). Then, in April or so, they have a huge event for “less fortunate” teens who cannot afford a new dress, they get to browse the racks and pick out their dress(es).

  31. RoseCampion, I am drooling over your prom dress. Truly. Betsy Johnson yum!

    My junior prom sucked because I spent a month overexercising and starving myself to fit into my black column dress (this was the mid-nineties when prom-looking prom dresses were out). When the night came, I was so hungry and tired that I started a fight with my boyfriend and accidentally ruined my beautiful handmade corsage (by my uncle, a florist) in my fit-throwing.

    Senior year I wised up, bought a loose-fitting dress and got drunk.

  32. The dress shopping for prom was absolute hell. I had one choice after my mother drug me around to about 6 different stores where all of the dresses that fit me were matronly (I was about a 22/24 then). My 15-years-older-than-me half-brother actually took me to my prom because being the fat girl in an affluent school, I couldn’t get a date.

    I must admit that my brother went into it intending to make sure everyone in my group had a good time, and we did. He bought us booze and we got nice and happy in the limo on the way there. He enjoyed the dancing and not only danced with me, but with another girl in our group whose date had a broken leg. In general, he was an all-around good sport eventhough he was 33 at the time.

    Only the friends that I was with knew that my date was my brother so rumors flew like wildfire at school the following Monday. “Did you see her with that older man?! ” None of the friends let on that my date was my brother so I enjoyed quite a bit of a reputation that included some awed respect from the popular click. I enjoyed every minute of it.

  33. My best friend at the time was anorexic and she had as much trouble (if not more) finding a dress as I did. She was so skinny that her hip bones showed through every dress she tried on. I ended up finding the dress of my dreams for under $100 and I looked fabulous!!!

  34. The last time I moved I donated all my old bridesmaid’s dresses to a Fairy Godmother’s organization that did the same thing in Philadelphia.

    They also took donations of accessories and makeup so I sent several pounds of makeup left from free Clinique give-aways.

  35. I feel like I’ve posted about this here before, but I was lucky enough to find awesome prom dresses both years (I went junior and senior year). I’ve thought about donating my senior prom dress, but I want to keep the one I wore for junior prom. It was gorgeous. Like TropicalChrome, it’s a souvenir, and it’s lovely. Plus I had a lot of alterations done on it, so I don’t know how well it would work on another girl. Whereas senior year I didn’t get it hemmed enough, so the dress would be great for someone taller as well.

    Over break I was flipping through my sister’s Seventeen Prom magazine, which is really just an excuse for them to run eight billion ads for prom dresses. There was a thing in there estimating that girls would spend $700 on prom. Seven hundred! I don’t think I spent that for both years combined!

  36. This is such a great idea. I have a formal dress from a wedding I attended a couple years back…I’m going to have to look through my closet and see if I find it!

    I never went to my prom. I was too shy to be anything, but stressed about a big social gathering, and I was convinced that everyone would laugh at me. I thought I was hideous and I certainly didn’t imagine finding anything that looked good on me. And plus I didn’t have a boy to take me and fix everything. So since it was on my grandmother’s birthday, I used that as my excuse not to go when my friends asked me why. On even more of a downer note, she actually ended up dying that year a few weeks before her birthday so…it was not a happy day for any reason.

  37. I would like to make a suggestion for all the girls who were like me (then and now) – horribly uncomfortable in dresses/skirts/hose/heels. My mother forced me to wear dressy clothes that I hated (as in controlled the purse strings and insisted on taking me shopping…and said things like “If you gain another ounce that will not fit.”) If you have dressy pant suits or other outfits that would be suitable donate those too. Maybe include a note on them that perhaps some girls would be more comfortable attending prom in “trousers.” I unfortunately don’t have anything to donate because I have such an aversion to getting dressed up (hard to find things I like in my size and I have the rack of doom and the calves of sequoia.)

  38. Great point, Bean! (Although given Anonymoose’s startling revelation about the unpackers, I wonder whether a swank women’s tuxedo etc. would even make it onto the racks in Chicago. Is there, like, someone we can complain to about that?)

  39. I donated my homecoming and prom dresses a couple of years ago. I was fat in middle school and fat in college, but I rocked a size 12 for most of high school, so I had no problems finding a dress to fit. It was more a problem of finding something that I liked. (And I was a fat bride, but I didn’t do the white-dress thing, so fit wasn’t an issue there either. I get to experience the Fat Girl’s Formal Dress Search as a bridesmaid this year.)

    I loved my senior prom dress. It was smooth lilac satin with spaghetti straps and a poofy skirt, with a matching-color mesh wrap, matching-color satin platform sandals with sequins and an ankle strap (1999 represent!), and I wore white satin gloves and purple rosettes in my hair. For me, prom represented my emergence from geekdom, and in a lot of ways it was like the Fantasy of Being Thin having come true — lost weight, got contacts, looked hot in trendy clothes, had acres of friends, had a hot boyfriend who drove in from another state to take me to prom and threaten my virginity in the rented hot tub after — and indeed I did win Most Changed. Prom was a shining moment of blissful mainstream normalcy. In fact, I spent a lot of time in later years wishing I were still that person.

    I finally gave away the dress, and the jeans I wore constantly in late high school and early college, and favorite bitty shirts that didn’t fit anymore (and were, incidentally, no longer in fashion). I kept the shoes and the pictures.

    I don’t recommend changing yourself so drastically to fit the popular image of What Prom Should Be. I think it would have been better for my long-term mental health to have attended as a fat girl rather than a temporarily thin girl — more navel-gazing about which I may post later on LJ.

    In any case I am totally in favor of fat girls going to prom in sparkleprincess dresses. Everyone deserves to get all sparkly a couple of times in their lives!

  40. Artemis, awesome! I’m hopeful that they’ll look into it… I know they’ve got the best of intentions and wouldn’t want anybody to be deliberately disenfranchised.

  41. I went to prom three times… my HS boyfriend’s Junior and Senior prom (he went to a diff school) and my own senior prom.

    I was a solid size 8 in High school, and though I didn’t know it then I had a body that could wear almost anything (I was so mad that I didn’t have boobs, oh you ignorant fool) so finding a dress was no problem.

    Junior year I wore a sparkly gold lacey thing, very 40′s movie star-esque, I thin kI stll have the shoes somewhere but I don’t know what happened to the dress.

    Senior year I bought a SUPER HUGE PINK CUPCAKE dress from good old J McClintock. I knew it was huge and tacky at the time but I didn’t care because it looked like pink frosting and I loved it. I also made (or assisted my mom in making) a burgundy column dress for my own prom. I also don’t know what happened to these dresses.

    My parents moved out of state the year I went to college and then back in state the year I left, a lot of things were purged in those two moves.

    The experiences were not horrible but not awesome, my favorite part all three dances was going out to dinner beforehand :)

  42. First, can I just say this is such a fabulous idea?

    We didn’t do prom in the UK in my day, and in a way, I’m glad – I know darn well it would have led to arguments. At every formal event I ever attended, including my 18th birthday, I recall being badgered into wearing black velvet ‘because it makes you look so much slimmer’ (I was a UK size 14 in those years). Because I was a social dork with an odd penchant for attracting older, predatory men, I can’t think of black velvet these days without it bringing back fairly bad memories. The nearest thing we had to a prom, I suppose, was a three-school joint after-exam party at a local fairly posh venue, at which I spent most of the evening getting drunk and plotting world domination with two girlfriends. And, yes, I was wearing black velvet then as well.

    Given a prom to attend, money to spend, and left to my own devices, I would have bought something in a deep jewel color with a big floaty skirt, which is exactly what I had made for my second wedding. (I know my mother would have preferred me to wear a nice unobtrusive suit, which is exactly why I kept her well out of it.) Unfortunately I goofed on telling the dressmaker how much boning to put in, so my rack of doom didn’t get quite the support I’d wanted. In consolation, I’ve promised myself a suitably Rasputina-like frock if I ever get to the stage of actually getting up and doing a ‘cello recital in public. It’s a good incentive.

  43. I don’t remember my prom much, but I do remember one that I went to with a friend of mine. I was already out of school by one year, but it was a much bigger school then mine was and I didn’t know anyone there but my friend.

    I do remember having problems finding a dress, even though I wore a size 13 I had no chest to speak of and a 38″ rear end. The ultimate pear! It was peach, spaghetti straps, semi-backless and yes, I still have it. I tried to get my daughter to wear it a few years ago, with her coloring it would have been perfect. I didn’t look as good it in, only having bought it because it fit over my rear. Needless to say, the daughter passed on it. If for not other reason then the little ‘darling’ was about a size 4. lol Her fathers DNA at work again.

    I’d love to donate something, but at the present time, I don’t even have anything nice of my own. I wore a black cotton skirt to my wedding, which was fine, we were having a very low-key casual back yard wedding. I would have gone barefoot, except for the stickers growing out there. It’s one of my favorite skirts, plus it drove his mother crazy. *wink*

  44. Coming to this late, I know …

    Glass Slipper project can always use volunteers, be they personal shoppers, sorters, etc., of any size. I’ve done it myself (before I had a kid and thus don’t want to think about her prom 17 years hence), and it’s fun.

    And, if you don’t have dresses (or shoes, or jewelry, or accessories), I think you can also give a cash donation. Or, if you’d like to send something tangible but don’t have time to go dress shopping, pantyhose, new makeup, etc. is (are?) always welcome. Actually, large size hose would be a great idea.

  45. For my junior prom I followed all my mom’s advice, and looked very pretty – hair up and curly, professional makeup, black and white satin dress with ruching – but not at all like me. My senior prom (after I turned 18) I did things my way and looked pretty in a very different way – platinum hair with pink tips, electric blue eyeliner, clear plastic platforms, whalebone corset from a vintage store, tulle skirt with swirls of purple, blue, and green. And both times I went with dates, and had fun. But in no way was prom a “rite of passage” for me.

  46. I’ve never commented before but I wanted to say that this post inspired me to volunteer at Abby’s Closet, a similar organization in Oregon. I’ll be helping girls pick out dresses at the start of April. Anyone else living in Oregon or maybe Washington should come and help, it’s being held at the Oregon Convention Center and you can sign up at the Abby’s Closet website.

  47. This makes me wish I had attended my prom all those years ago.
    For formal occasions, I usually wear a sari, but I’d love to find a floor-length formal dress just in case I ever get invited anywhere that requires/expects one. (Note: It’s unlikely that this will happen. Ever. But, whatever.) But almost all of the dresses I’ve seen on sites like Torrid are strapless/sleeveless, and that’s not for me (I have prominent stretch marks running from my neck down over my shoulders, to below my elbows). The ‘modest dresses’ sites/sections I’ve found don’t carry dresses up to my size, either (about 26/4x). I think I’m going to have to learn to both design and sew!

  48. I’m with Vidya — I’ve almost entirely moved to wearing saris for formal events. They’re so easy, elegant, and if I gain or lose weight, the only part I ever have to get altered is the blouse (which a tailor at a sari shop in the Indian neighborhood will generally do for $10-$20). The rest of the outfit is one-size-fits-all. :-)

    Plus, wearing a sari automatically makes you one of the best dressed women in the room. It really assuages a lot of my fashion anxieties. And they’re not just for South Asians — I’ve seen some white women look lovely in saris. You just need to ask the store folk to show you how to drape it properly — and take a friend along, because draping a sari is a two-person job until you get very experienced with it.

  49. I donated my grad dress and all my bridesmaid dresses to this project. However for anyone contemplating this I would warn them that you will have a moment of regret. I do love that someone else will make use of my dresses as honestly all they did was hang in my closet. However I would have loved to have shown my daughter these dresses as they held memories, oh well pictures will have to suffice but they won’t do justice to the fabric and details as pictures don’t catch all of that!

    My mom bought me a lovely velvet black off the shoulder dress the off the shoulder part was satin with black beading, the dress had a heart cut at the front showing a bit of cleavage and was long but didnt have such a wide skirt it was more tapered. I was a size 12 at the time and with high heels I looked gorgeous and tall I thought. A very elegant and timeless dress, although it was a bit hot.

    One of my favorite bridesmaids dresses that I wore to my best friends two weddings one in Canada, on in the US as she married an American was blue satin and I have a gorgeous picture of myself with it on though so I don’t miss it so much.

    I do wish I had kept my grad dress though as it cost over $400 and was my first official grown up dress. I periodically go through sloughing off my stuff periods though and next time I will just keep things for a month or two before making the final decision to part with it.

    I hope whichever Cinderella project girl (thats what the Glass slipper project is called in Vancouver) got my dresses had a ball though. Would have been awesome to have seen a picture of the girl wearing my outfit!

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