Story by NICOLE COOKE , Copy Editor—
Instead of the usual boring tables and chairs, the Union Ballroom was transformed into a fashion runway. Rooms across the hall were filled with formal dresses of every size, color, length and style. Makeshift dressing rooms were created to make the rooms seem more like a department store than empty space on a college campus.
During the Cinderella Dress Exchange Thursday, March 7, 150 middle school and high school girls roamed the halls with dresses draped over their arms as they searched for the perfect one.
The third annual event, sponsored by Delta Zeta Sorority, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Fashion Business Association, gave local girls the chance to find a dress for a special occasion at a price they could afford.
The price for a dress? Five canned goods or $15. The food was donated to the local food pantry and the money supports a scholarship for Warrensburg High School seniors attending UCM.
“This event helps a lot of girls who usually couldn’t afford a dress and now they can walk away with a really amazing prom dress,” said Sarah Malott, a member of Delta Zeta who was one of the main coordinators of the event. “They’re happy to be able to find a dress, and one of a good quality.”
Some girls braved the dressing rooms on their own, while others brought along their moms, sisters or friends. There were also consultants from each of the organizations to assist the girls. Each time someone came out of the dressing room with a new dress on, a group of friends and consultants surrounded them, showering them with advice.
“It’s awesome to see girls find a dress they love and it’s one that I picked out,” said Katie Hamill, a member of Delta Zeta. “I helped one girl find a purple dress that she loved and took home. It felt good to know I helped her find that.”
People cheered and clapped each time a girl chose a final dress. Of the 150 girls in attendance, all of them went home with a dress.
The fashion show featured dresses that were modeled by students from Warrensburg High School. Each model had her hair and makeup professionally done and was escorted by young men in tuxedoes down the runway.
Haleigh Brewer was searching through the racks after the show with Bethany Marnholtz to help their friend, Jillian Samson, find a dress for prom. The girls, all sophomores at WHS, were models in the fashion show. They got involved after their FACS teacher told them about the opportunity to model and get an affordable dress. All three said it was a fun experience, but it was also a little nerve-wracking.
“It was fine during the rehearsals, but then I got nervous right before I had to go on stage tonight,” Brewer said. “I was breathing really heavy before I walked out, but once I was out there it was a lot of fun.”
Anastasia Chaky was another WHS student looking for a prom dress. She, along with her sisters Caroline and Catherine, who attend Warrensburg Middle School, had a successful night at the dress exchange. Each sister headed home with a dress in their hand and a smile on their face.
“It was so hard to choose which dress to get,” Catherine said. “But the consultants were really helpful, so they made it easier to pick.”
Caroline agreed that the consultants made the experience a good one as she looked for a dress for her National Junior Honor Society induction.
“You told them your favorite color, your size and what length and they helped you find the right dress,” she said as she held a brown and pink polka dot dress. “They found me this one and I fell in love with it right away.”
While Caroline and Catherine had fun trying on dresses, Anastasia recognized the value of UCM hosting this event.
“This event gives me the opportunity to get a nice dress that I normally would have to pay $100 for,” Anastasia said. “And if I had gotten an expensive dress, it would have to be handed down to my sisters instead of them getting a new one. Coming here lets us all get a dress.”
More than 600 dresses, sizes 0-24, were collected for the event, surpassing last year’s total of more than 400 dresses. Malott said that any dresses that were worn down or weren’t the best quality were donated to the Salvation Army so they could sell the fabric.
For more information about the Cinderella Dress Exchange, visit Facebook.com/UCMDressExchange.