• ellencdonker

RECYCLING YOUR CLOTHES CAN MAKE YOU A FAIRY GODMOTHER (or Father) by Adrianna Donat

Welcome to the CHS Pop Up Prom Shop


According to a 2015 survey by Visa, the average amount of money spent on prom is $919. That’s a huge chunk of change for a high school student. Especially when you add in the other miscellaneous costs associated with graduation, including a yearbook, the cap and gown, and maybe a senior portrait.

To help defray the costs as students get to the end of their senior year, SOMA Justice, SOMA Action, the Parenting Center, and the CHS Home and School Association worked together to create the Pop Up Prom Shop. It provides free clothes and accessories to kids headed to prom or just a band concert, and both male and female students are flocking in to see what it offers.


You can hear squeals of joy before you walk into Pop Up Prom Shop. It’s ninth period, and kids who don’t have class are gathering in a dedicated room to look at the gorgeous clothes, shoes and jewelry community members have donated. Everything in the Pop Up Prom Shop is free (many of the items still have tags), giving these beautiful clothes and accessories a second chance at life.


A student with an eye for fashion looks through the racks of clothing. Choosing a long red dress with a chiffon skirt, she takes it into the changing area and it looks gorgeous on her. Her emotions well up as she sees herself in the mirror.


“I love this so much, I’m going to cry,” she says.

“Are there shoes here you like?” asks Pop Up Prom shop volunteer and co-creator Jane Perry. She points the student to a rack of shoes – there are 20 or more pairs to choose from – and asks for her size. “What do you like? Sparkly? Silver? Strappy?”


In 10 minutes, the student is fully outfitted. There is only one problem. The dress is a little tight at the top of the bodice.


Perry springs into action. “I’ll call our seamstress,” she says as she picks up her cell phone. After sending a photo Perry reports that the seamstress should be able to let it out. The student is delighted.


The Pop Up Prom Shop has been serving the CHS community for three years now. Perry, Amy Forman, Heidi Davis, Jill Abramson, and Susan Bergin, along with an army of volunteers, were all instrumental in making it happen.


“It started out very casual,” says Forman. “Ms. Aaron began accepting gently worn dresses and suits. People would put clothing donations in the CHS lobby, and someone would always be excited to take them.”

Last year they were able to bring the operation up a notch. “We divided into three groups. One gathered donations [from the community], another became our ‘fashionista’ arm. They looked for donations from manufacturers. The third group worked on creating this beautiful boutique.”


“Prom is so expensive,” says Perry, clearly charmed by a student as she twirls in front of the mirror. “We want every student at CHS to be able to go, have a good time, and feel good about themselves. Pop Up Prom Shop gives people a chance to clear their closets, and do something good for the planet, too.”


Last year the Pop Up Prom Shop gave away over 130 dresses. Students can find dresses sized 0-20 (they are working to find larger sizes) in designer names from J Crew to Tadashi to Jones New York.


Pop Up Prom Shop has received donations from many local donors, including some small businesses such as Julie Esgun Designs, Perch Home, Retail Therapy, No. 165, and Leslie’s Finds. Although most of the kids are looking for gowns, the shop also has many suits and a few tuxedos thanks to Coleman’s Tuxedo, which donated more than 100 suits to the cause.


“There tends to be a rush on suits closer to prom,” explains Forman. Last year, Pop Up Prom Shop gave away more than 30 tuxedos and suits. These suits are also available for occasions like band concerts, job interviews, and other events that might require CHS students to dress more formally.


“So many people have dresses and suits sitting in their closets they are never going to wear again,” says Perry. “Those clothes get a second chance at life and can give a student a chance to participate in a fundamental high school experience.”


“When a gown works, it’s just magical,” says Perry as she sees another student searching for a dress. It’s clear how much Perry enjoys her role with Pop Up Prom Shop. She hands the student a dress, much like a fairy godmother, and tells her, “You are going to look perfect at prom.”


L-R: Pop Up Prom shop volunteers Lisa Stamm, Kim Collins, Kat Lozynsky, Holland Grumieaux, Jane Perry and Amy Forman. Photo by Jamie Meier.

Although Pop Up Prom Shop is no longer accepting donations for this year, monetary donations are still needed. Please feel free to donate at columbiahsa.com/cougar-cares/. If you’d like to save your donations for next year, please know they must be in good condition. That means no stains and no damage. All sizes and accessories are accepted.


Adrianna Donat is a Maplewood-based freelance writer who was delighted to witness the magic of Pop Up Prom Shop.