Cinderella’s Closet

The fairy tale became a reality for many local teens who visited Assistance League of Bend’s Cinderella’s Closet in anticipation of their high school proms.  The girls were able to select a dress, shoes, and jewelry to borrow for their special night.  Thanks to a  tremendous response from the community the students had over 700 gowns to choose from and a large assortment of  fashionable accessories as well.  It was wonderful to see the beautiful smiles and know these girls did not have to miss out on  this quintessential high school experience simply because they could not afford a dress.

Read more about Cinderella’s Closet in the Bend Bulletin article below:

Hundreds of Central Oregon teens are in the midst of preparing for their prom nights. The date. The dress. The ask. The evening brings careful planning of a ride, dinner reservations and the perfect attire.

“I think that prom is kind of something a lot of kids romanticize about when they’re young,” said Carley Epple, a senior at Summit High School in Bend.

Teen girls are excited for the opportunity to dress in a formal gown accented by bedazzled shoes or 6-inch heels. The day of the dance is filled with primping — hair, make-up and nails.

The price tag for prom can quickly add up. Tickets, a dress and a trip to the salon can reach hundreds of dollars. For many families, that’s not affordable.

“Whether you’re a guy or girl, once you’ve got what you’re wearing on top of tickets and dinner and a corsage, all that stuff can be expensive,” Epple said. “I think this is a really good way to get people more involved and not feel like, well, I don’t want to spend the money or I don’t have the money to spend.”

In an effort to help more teen girls experience prom, nonprofit organizations nationwide have created programs to provide trendy dresses and accessories to wear to the formal event. One such program in Central Oregon is Cinderella’s Closet, a project of Assistance League of Bend in its first year. The nonprofit is providing in-need girls with fashionable dresses, shoes and accessories free of charge for one week to wear to the prom. The Assistance League not only understands the financial constraints of going to prom, but also the need for the dress and its accouterments to match the current fashions.

“I think it’s a coming-out for them,” said Peggy Cook, co-chairwoman of Cinderella’s Closet and a volunteer with Assistance League of Bend. “When you’re dressed well and look good, you feel good about yourself.”

All dolled up

Assistance League of Bend has been collecting prom dresses, shoes and accessories during the past month.

“I think we can all relate to proms, and when we were young girls and how important it was not to miss your special day just because you don’t have a dress that you like,” said Patti Stewart, the chairwoman for the philanthropic programs for Assistance League of Bend. “And it has to be one that you feel special in.”

The closet is now filled with at least 300 dresses for young women to try on and borrow for the special occasion. Many of the dresses have been donated by families with daughters who attended prom in recent years and are unlikely to wear the dress again.

Others are brand-new dresses that were purchased by community members.

“Do you know, that lady that I just picked up dresses from, she purchased five brand-new dresses at Macy’s because she missed her prom, and she didn’t want five girls here missing their prom,” Cook said.

Teens in Bend-La Pine and Redmond school districts are eligible to borrow a dress. Arrangements can be made directly with Cinderella’s Closet or through a girl’s high school.

They can keep the dress for one week before returning it to Assistance League of Bend.

Cathy’s Cleaners has volunteered to dry clean all of the dresses afterward so they can be reused the following year.

A vogue affair

Prom dress styles change every year depending on the latest trends, but a classic, strapless gown is timeless.

Beaded navy gowns, short cherry red dresses and fitted patterned dresses fill the juniors section in Macy’s department store in Bend.

“You know you’ll always have that handful of people that want a short dress and then you’ll always have the seniors that want to wear a long, formal dress,” said ­Kathleen Evans, owner of Bend Wedding and Formal.

The biggest trends Evans has seen this season are the illusion high neckline and dresses with rhinestones or beading around the bodice.

Prom preparations

Walking into Cinderella’s Closet feels like a scene out of “The Princess Diaries” or “The Devil Wears Prada.” The large, newly renovated closet is filled with dresses of different lengths in shades of blue, pink, green and black. Some are beaded, some have vibrant patterns and others are simple and classic.

The adjacent wall is filled with shoes, flats and high heels in a variety of colors.

Next in line is the jewelry. There are dozens of earrings, bracelet and necklace pairings to choose from, some of which look like vintage pieces. Colors, styles and sizes of the dresses vary drastically, and it’s likely any girl could find one that fits her personality and style.

“That’s probably one of the most favorite parts aside from the actual dance,” Epple said. “Looking for a dress and getting ready is part of the fun.”

Assistance League of Bend is also planning to have beauty school students attend pre-prom preparations to offer free hair and makeup services to girls. The volunteers are working hard to make the night magical for all Central Oregon young women.

“‘Cinderella’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ these gals have grown up with that,” Stewart said. “We all have the fairytale ending that’s somewhere in us.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0351,