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.