Franklin Park Library gives away prom dresses
Amanda Tragarz, (right) a Leyden student-teacher and volunteer for the Once Upon a Prom event, helps East Leyden junior Alexandra Gutierrez, pick out a prom dress. Dresses, shoesand& acessories were donated and female students from the area were allowed t
Updated: June 4, 2012 8:05AM
Fifteen teenage girls lined up outside the Franklin Park Public Library doors last week to get a deal on prom dresses.
Girls with their dads. Girls with their moms and grandmoms. Girls with their girlfriends. All waiting to try on dress after dress at the Once Upon A Prom day, a giveaway of prom dresses sponsored by the library, West Leyden High School Fashion Club and the community.
Parents, teachers, and high school and library staffs all contributed dresses.
“My strategy was to come early,” said Alexander Gutierrez, a junior at East Leyden High School, who wanted to get there before the best dresses were taken.
Gutierrez doesn’t have a date yet but she’s going, and in a long red dress.
More than 150 dresses and assorted shoes, jewelry and other accessories were on racks and tables in the library’s Community Room. A makeshift dressing room was set up in the back of the room with a partition. Girls moved back and forth to shoulder-high mirrors leaned against the wall.
Dance music played and some girls danced a bit as they looked through the racks. Some laughed as they saw their friends try on a dress.
“This one doesn’t look good on me but it’s your color,” one says.
Her friend tries it on, but it’s one of about a dozen she’ll try on during the day. There are so many dresses.
“All my friends said they were going so I said, ‘I will too,’” said Satierhia Washington of Northlake, a senior at West Leyden High School.
Washington was there with five girlfriends, each trying on multiple dresses.
Gabrielle Smith of Northlake, a senior at West Leyden, said she tried on “20 dresses” before coming to Once Upon A Prom and it “was pretty tough.”
But she found a blue gown with sequins she liked.
“This dress fits perfectly,” Smith laughed. “It’s got a corset in the back. It shows off the curves.”
However, for some the selection of dresses made it hard to make a decision.
“We went to the mall and she liked a lot of them, but it wasn’t in the budget,” Leanie Cabebe said of the selection process for her two girls, Leanie, a senior at West Leyden, and Lorraine, a junior at West Leyden.
“I found what I like, but she doesn’t like it,” said Lorraine, pointing at her mother.
Loraine eventually got her favorite red gown, despite mom’s reservations.
The lightly used gowns hung on six racks, in shades of silver, red, powder blue, black and white. They were long and short, traditional and flowery.
Within the first hour, 10 dresses were out the door with happy teens.
Although West Leyden held a similar event last year, it joined forces with the Franklin Park Library after a librarian spotted a girl reading a book about prom dresses and finances earlier this year.
Joyce Arellano saw a teenager leafing through a book, “Will Work for Prom Dress,” by Aimee Ferris.
The girl told Arellano she probably wouldn’t be able to go to her prom because she couldn’t afford it and then acted as if it was no big deal.
The short encounter in January sparked an idea. Arellano began researching the idea of prom-dress giveaways.
On the Internet, Arellano found that the average girl can spend $807 on prom, according to a 2011 survey by Visa. She also saw West Leyden had a dress giveaway. She even called the San Diego County Public Library, which also has a prom giveaway, for advice.
“We just wanted to let girls who may not be as fortunate get dresses,” said Arellano, adding she did her best to spread the word about the giveaway.
Bob Schenke of Franklin Park was there with his daughter, Marisa, a junior at East Leyden High School.
“We went out and looked, but there wasn’t as good of a selection,” Bob Schenke said. “I’m a library patron. I read about it and thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’”
Laurie Dempsey teaches fashion, culinary basics and child care classes at West Leyden and brought many of her students to help with the dresses.
Dempsey helped girls with their dresses, at one point asking if the dress was good for dancing.
“Can you do this in it?” Dempsey asked as she gave a quick dance demonstration.
Kids came from East and West Leyden, Guerin Prep High School in River Grove and Fenton High School in Bensenville.
On Monday, Arellano said, a total of 26 dresses, four pairs of shoes and 14 accessories, from purses to jewelry, were given away. Forty-eight students made their way through their doors.
However, Arellano did not see the girl who inspired her to have the event.
“Too bad, because it would have made a really great story,” Arellano said, “but it was still a great day.”