Every year in March, young girls gather around churches and local centers in the hopes of attaining THE dress. For a lot of girls, that dress is one of the few opportunities they have to handpick something to make high school prom a night to remember.
“Many girls would not be able to go to the prom if they didn’t have an opportunity like this,” said Brenda Bradley, a Girl Scout troop leader at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston who routinely brings girls to Cinderella day events.
“Just kudos to those ladies that make it happen every year,” she said.
Cinderella days and projects have become a staple in a lot of communities, and the Lowcountry has it's fair share. The events are a culmination of local community members and businesses coming together to donate prom outfit for local girls to pick out a dress of their choosing at no cost.
Earlier this month, The North Charleston Dream Center hosted its annual Cinderella Day where girls were partnered with a personal shopper. Jacquayle Dailey, one of those personal shoppers, said she always looks forward to events like this.
“It’s just wonderful to see their faces and how excited they are,” she said.
But the Cinderella Day at the Dream Center isn’t the only opportunity residents will have this year.
Later this month, the South Carolina Bar Association is hosting a Charleston boutique as part of its official statewide Cinderella Project. The boutique will be at John Wesley United Methodist Church and all girls are welcome.
“You don’t know anybody’s story,” said Alissa Lietzow, a local lawyer who has helped organize the dress donation events for The Cinderella Project for years. “It’s a magical day.”
The events go by the honor system and no one checks financials for eligibility. The point is that if they are in need of a dress, even if it’s not necessarily for prom, they can come and get it.
Part of the goal with these events, Dailey explained, is to give the girls an opportunity to feel beautiful, happy and deserving in a time where society may not allow them do so. That’s why one of the things the Dream Center tried to emphasize with its Cinderella Day event was to make sure that every girl that walked in got the same experience.
If a girl could only come later toward the end of the day, then the expectation was that she would be met with the same enthusiasm as the first girl who walked in, Dailey said.
One of the challenges with events like this is always the setup, Dailey explained. It’s not because it’s complicated but it’s because they simply always have a lot of dresses to put on display.
For the upcoming event, Lietzow said they expect to have more than 1,000 dresses for the girls to choose from. She said they plan to not only offer dress options but shoes, accessories and a runway for the girls to walk down.
There will even be door prizes and make-up tutorials.
“The whole point of the project is to give these young ladies an experience they otherwise would not have,” Lietzow said.
Local businesses such as Bridals by Jodi and Bella Bridesmaids routinely donate dresses to Lietzow and her colleagues, so the ratio between new dresses and used dresses is around 50/50, she said.
For both the Dream Center event and the South Carolina Bar Association event, even though they see hundreds of girls, the hope is that in the future they can bring in more since they always have plenty of dresses available.
They also know that the need is there.
“It saddens me knowing that a child will not be able to go to a prom because they won’t be able to afford the cost of a gown,” Bradley said. “I think that these events are so important.”