Life is Like Prom. But Less Fun.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl in possession of a high school ID, must be in want of a prom dress.
(Oh, crap. I promised myself that I'd never bastardize that Austin line, just because half of the oh-so-clever-and-precious writing world, including 98% of the NYT Style section, already has. But this is a blog, so lower standards apply.)
In case you missed my first Prom Dress blog entry, here's a quick recap: I love the Prom. Many girls feel similarly. Some of those girls don't have enough $$ to buy dresses. Other girls want to relive prom forever. The latter girls decided to band together to help the former girls, thus: Prom Dress Charities.
Wow, I should always write in staccato sentences like that. Sort of empowering.
Anyway, below is the article I wrote for New York magazine on the subject. Click on the photo to enlarge, if you so choose.
The longer, unedited version is after the jump, and I highly recommend reading that. Okay, okay, only if you really have nothing else to do. But it just goes to show how much editors, well ... edit. And it will certainly bring back memories. Unless you never got a chance to, say, bury your alcohol under the school-sanctioned after-party tents in the football field. (Because it's not really prom without some good dirt smeared alcohol.)
THE AFTERLIFE OF A PROM GOWN
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
MAY 15, 2006
BY JULIA ALLISON
Prom season is upon us, and a gown-donation service struggles to match girls to dresses previously worn for only one enchanted evening.
Years beyond high school, low on New York closet space, the women in these photos were ready to admit they’d never wear their cherished (if, in hindsight, tacky) pink toile prom gown again, but not quite ready to stuff it in a plastic bag and head down to the local Salvation Army.
Instead, they volunteered their dresses (and their time) to Operation Fairy Dust, a nascent charity which donates gowns to underprivileged New York girls for the paramount social event of their adolescence: The Prom.
“All girls should be able to attend their prom and look fabulous – regardless of cost,” says Chairwoman Megan Kerrigan, who has been involved in the organization since its start in 2002.
The charity doesn’t judge what constitutes financial need – their one-day Dress Giveaway is open to all girls in the five boroughs with a class of 2006 high school ID. “Depending on each girls situation, the economic impact of buying a prom dress may vary,” says Kerrigan, who works with the NYC Department of Education to get the word out. “But we would rather see these girls studying for the SATs then working a part time job to pay for their prom dress.”
Run solely by volunteers, more than 30 members make up the Planning Committee, and 50 more attend the actual Prom Dress Giveaway.
While they’ve had no trouble convincing space-desperate Manhattanites to give up their old gowns, Operation Fairy Dust has struggled financially since its inception, relying on money from founder Raisha Bell and chairwoman Kerrigan’s own pockets to pay for the cost of renting the space and storing the excess gowns.
Last year they were only able to outfit 300 girls, despite a surfeit of a thousand dresses. “There are only so many girls we can dress at a time – we don’t want it to be an assembly line,” says Kerrigan. The girls are ushered through the dress-choosing process with volunteer “Fairy Godmothers” as their guides – a process that takes a not-insignificant amount of time, as any teen girl who’s ever tried on formal wear knows.
This year Operation Fairy Dust had an inventory in excess of 2,500 gowns (in addition to purses, shoes, and cosmetics). According to Kerrigan, they planned to dress more than 1,000 girls at the annual dress giveaway last Saturday, May 6th at the Prince George Ballroom. “We would like to extend the event to a bigger space or increase the number of dates,” says Kerrigan, “but every fundraising event we’ve had this year has completely fallen through.”
“Still,” she adds, “we’ll keep trying, because it’s a night many girls anticipate as much as their wedding. We want to make ‘Oprah-style’ dreams come true,” says Kerrigan.
For more information visit www.operationfairydust.org
OPERATION FAIRY DUST VOLUNTEER Q & A
Name: Megan Kerrigan
Occupation: Chairwoman and Director of PR, Operation Fairy Dust
Attended Prom: 1997 at Bishop Kearney High School in Brooklyn
1. Describe your prom dress. I’m wearing it in this photo - I had my strapless, navy blue satin gown and custom made by a dressmaker underneath the F train on McDonald Avenue in Bensonhurst. It cost about $300. My mom let me get a strapless dress on the condition that I would wear this detachable satin “top” that went over it. She’s still wondering why there are no actual pictures of me wearing the top.
2. Can you still fit into it? Yes, I actually try it on every couple of months just to make sure – old prom dresses fittings are great benchmarks of weight loss success!
3. How was your prom? I started the Prom countdown in the beginning of my Sophomore year, so I had looked forward to that night for a long, long time. It was everything I wanted it to be.
4. Do you still speak to your prom date? No, he was very annoying – he vomited. I remember trying to throw him in an in-ground pool that didn’t have water in it – right after I threw him out of my hotel room!
5. Did you get drunk that night? Actually, I was the designated ice bucket holder in my limo (my friends threw up in it).
6. Why did you decide to donate your dress today? Because my prom was a special experience I would like to share with another girl – and also because I’ve given up hope that I will ever be invited to a red carpet awards show.
7. If you could go to Prom again, what would you do differently? I would probably take at least one picture wearing that detachable top for my mom.
Name: Kate Lutkus
Occupation: Development Associate
Lives: Upper East Side
Attended Prom: 2000 at Penn High School Prom in Mishawaka, Indiana
1. Describe your prom dress. It had a purple satin top with a huge purple and pink tulle skirt. I got it at the mall for around $120, but I made my Mom take me to the mall in the next town over just to make sure no other girl at the prom would be wearing the same dress. Mom wasn’t crazy about the backless part but ended up letting me get it because she liked the big, puffy skirt. Looking back on it now it’s a little on the tacky side, but at the time I felt like rebellious princess in it.
2. How many times did you wear it? Just once! This dress does not belong anywhere else besides the high school prom.
3. How was your prom? I was so sure that the prom was going to be the best night of my life, so I was really stressed out, obsessing over the dress, the date, the flowers, and the dinner plans. It was nothing like I expected – and I didn’t fall in love like I hoped I would. But it ended up being a more fitting end to high school than actual graduation. The whole class made a big circle on the dance circle when Vitamin C's ‘Graduation Song’ came on and everybody started crying.
4. Did you get drunk at prom? Nope! My mom was a chaperone and I was too scared of her catching me to even try.
5. Did you make the phrase “off like a Prom Dress” ring true? Not even close. I couldn't even get my date to kiss me (even though he was 2 inches shorter)
6. Any advice for girls going to prom this year? Wear comfy shoes!
Name: Keisha Simpson
Occupation: Public Relations
Lives: Mount Vernon, New York
Attended Prom: 1993 Port Chester High School, New York
1. Describe your prom dress. A multi-spaghetti strap, red fitted dress with a split in the front, with rhinestone clips on the straps. It cost a little under $200.00. I loved the dress because it was fitted and I was so thin and I knew I looked sexy. Since prom, my dress has been living in a huge Tupperware container with other items that I can’t fit into.
2. How was your prom? I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember the horse and carriage ride afterwards. And the easy access my dress provided. Of course, my date wasn’t a dancer so he had to make up for it somehow.
3. Do you still speak to your date? My date was my high school boyfriend, who was a cheating liar. We don’t speak, but I do have a great little package to remember him by everyday. The package (my son) is 10 years old.
4. Why did you decide to donate your dress today? I love the cause and I think that it’s timeless dress (minus the rhinestone clips).
5. If you could go to Prom again, what would you do differently? I would not have worn that red lipstick.
Name: Kerri Kuchta
Occupation: Assistant at Props for Today
Lives: Sunnyside, New York
Attended Prom: 2001 Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia
1. Describe your prom dress. It was like Cinderella on Crack – a huge pink poofy strapless two-piece. The top was pink sequins that were so rough that by the end of the evening my armpits were cut and bleeding. I looked like a pink Christmas tree.
2. Where has your dress been living since prom? I threw that bitch out! It had bloodstains on it from where it tried to kill me. I only wore it once and if someone tried to pay me to wear it again, I would tell them to f--k off.
3. What do you remember most about that night? Prom was my ‘first time’ getting arrested.
4. For drinking? You could say that. We took a limo to prom, Gatorade bottles filled with cheap vodka shoved in between our legs; we chased our Jager shots with screwdrivers. As we were sitting at a red light, someone opened the door to puke. Then there were blue lights, DC police, and backup cars. The cops put us in handcuffs, prom dresses and all, and took us downtown. Of course, the girls did an extremely good job of begging and pleading – one even offered the cops blowjobs to let us go. It would have been the best action they had gotten in awhile, but when they realized how long it would take them to charge each of us they re-thought their decision. Without having to provide sexual favors, we were let go.
5. So did you make it to the dance? Fashionably late – and only after we went to McDonalds.
Name: Sharon Newman
Occupation: Event planner
Attended Prom: 1999 Edward R Murrow High School in Brooklyn
1. Describe your prom dress. It was a Jessica McClintock ivory corset top with puffy bottom. I loved Princess Diana and I always wanted to dance in elegant ballroom gowns like the scene from Cinderella. That’s how I felt in the dress, like I was royalty!
2. Can you still fit into it? I wish I could say I hit puberty late and my chest is now a size double D, but I can’t. So yes, my dress still fits. Which is great because I didn’t gain the freshmen fifteen. Still, a size D chest would have been nice.
3. How was your prom? A lot of us went to the same college so we weren’t saying goodbye, but it was the last time we were in pretty dresses together until this past November, when we were bridesmaids at a wedding. We took an identical photo with the bride and the bridesmaids lined up the same way we were at the pre-prom party.
4. What do you remember most about your Prom? The song that kept playing in the limo. I don’t remember the name but every time I hear these lyrics: “Beep beep. Who’s got the keys to my jeep? Vroom!” I think of the prom.
5. Why did you decide to donate your Prom dress? I felt so special in my dress that I wanted someone else to feel that way. I will never wear it again, and if I have a daughter I’m sure she wouldn’t want to wear her mother’s prom dress!
6. Who do you hope gets this dress? A girl who wouldn’t be able to go to the prom otherwise, I mean, I don’t think Lindsay Lohan would be going to Operation Fairy Dust but you never know.
Name: Lara Minch-Klass
Occupation: PR Coordinator
Lives: Upper East Side
Attended Prom: 2000 Freehold High School, Freehold NJ
1. Describe your prom dress. Pink and sparkly, with a strapless, tight gauzy bodice then flared out – very virginal. I was going through a time in my life where I needed to feel special, and that dress did it for me. I bought it with my mom and my aunt, who have been there for every major girly purchase since my first bra.
2. Can you still fit into it? It would be a tight squeeze, but I think I could manage through sheer willpower.
3. What do you remember most about your Prom? Dancing with a teacher that I had a MAJOR crush on – I think it was the happiest moment of my life at that point!
4. Did you get laid? Unfortunately, no. But I did get a backrub from the captain of the football team!
5. How did you feel about donating your dress? I couldn’t be happier – I want someone to feel as special as I did when it was my turn. I hope the girl who gets it will pass it on when she’s done.
Name: Lauren Savage
Occupation: Fashion designer / online boutique owner
Attended Prom: 1997 Longmeadow High School in Longmeadow, Massachusetts
1. Describe your prom dress. It was a strapless pink Jessica McClintock, featured on the cover of Seventeen magazine that month. It had little rosettes hanging from the bottom. I actually made a necklace from grosgrain ribbon and vintage pearls to match the rosettes. I'm wearing the necklace in the picture you see here.
2. How was your prom? I remember a lot of couples making out on the dance floor, but I wasn’t one of those couples. My boyfriend was too embarrassed to make out in front of all his classmates. Lucky me. At least I didn't get any nasty hickeys – I laughed my ass off when I saw the most popular girl in school trying to cover one up in the bathroom. I guess she didn't realize what would happen when a guy sucks on your neck for all 8 minutes of “November Rain!”
3. What do you remember most about your Prom? The after party! Our school sponsored this event called “Tent City.” The whole class pitched tents on the football field before the prom and “slept over” after the prom ended. The idea was to make sure we didn't drink and drive. The irony is, people actually went to great lengths to bury their liquor underground under their tents so they wouldn't get caught on the way in by the chaperones!
4. Did you get drunk? Nope, I was a total prude. My boyfriend was too. He never drank in high school although I’m told he drinks a lot now.
5. Any advice for the next girl to wear your dress? Beware of hickeys. They don’t look pretty with strapless prom dresses.