Cinderella Project Helps In Time for Prom

By Elisabeth Condon

Last year, the Cinderella project collected over 1500 dresses in all sizes, colors, and styles (photo submitted).

Her nails don’t have to be painted, and prom will still be okay. Her hair can just be straightened, and that will be enough. She will probably take her shoes off anyway, so why bother with fancy ones? Powder and mascara are just additions to her natural beauty, but without a dress, attending prom is another dream that will remain a dream. For some girls, finding the perfect prom dress is perfectly achievable, but for others in the Metro St. Louis area, prom is yet another event they can’t attend because they can’t afford the proper dress.

“One of our staff persons, their daughter, had a friend that couldn’t afford a prom dress,” Executive Director of the Community Council of St. Charles County Mary Hutchison said. “So among all their friends, they pooled their prom dresses to find one for a friend and that was the birth of the idea. It kind of sparked the idea that this was a worthwhile project. A lot of girls have dresses that they’re done using so we gave it a try for the first year. In the first year we collected over 600 dresses and by word of mouth, we got girls that were struggling to buy a dress to come and we were able to give them dresses, then we held a sale. So, the idea grew from that.”

Since then, the Cinderella Project has joined, sponsored by the Hearst Teen Network which uses their partners Seventeen magazine, CosmoGirl magazine, Teen Mag, and MisQuinceMag to encourage girls nationwide to donate their special occasion dresses for those in need. In 2010, the Cinderella Project received the Purple Dress award from the Hearst Teen Network and was awarded a grant to fund the Cinderella Project.

Area counselors and social services agencies refer girls who can’t afford their own prom dresses to the Cinderella Project. This year, 220 girls were referred to the Cinderella Project from 43 area high schools. From Feb. 20 to Feb. 25, the Very Important Prom-goers or VIPs are the only ones with access to the dresses the Cinderella Project has collected. When the VIP steps through the curtained entrance to the Cinderella boutique, a volunteer greets her and asks what kind of dress she is looking for and what size. Then, the volunteer takes the VIP through the racks of dresses sorted by size, then color. The girl tries on the dresses in a dressing room made from PVC pipe and pink and black shower curtains. Once she chooses her dress, a volunteer seamstress looks for alterations that need to be made. The girl leaves with a follow-up alterations appointment, a donated hair appointment from one of several area salons, and her choice of gifted jewelry.

“Volunteering was great because I got to help someone and pick out pretty dresses,” senior Addison Eaker said. “It was like playing Barbie, but with real people.”

On March 1, the Cinderella Project holds their Pink Saturday Event from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. which kicks off the opening of the boutique to the public. Short dresses are sold for $29 and long dresses are sold for $39. The boutique is open to the public from March 1 to March 10.

The Cinderella Project relies on volunteers and partnerships. CBL Malls ensure that the dresses donated at the customer service desk at the Chesterfield Mall, West County Mall, and South County Mall and JCPenney provides the racks the hundreds dresses are displayed on.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” junior Caitlyn Chandler said. “I may not have enough money to spend on a $400 dress, but the Cinderella Project allowed me to pick a dress that, to me, makes me feel like I’m wearing a $400 dress. It’s super nice.”

For more information, as well as hours of operation, please visit