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Teens Say 'Yes' to Free Prom Dress Giveaway

Sun April 7, 2013

See the original story from DNAinfo.com here.


NEAR WEST SIDE  — Saturday morning, hundreds of Chicago teens said yes to the dress — or two, or three — at a free prom gown giveaway at Malcolm X College.


The event, sponsored by USAgain, recycled 1,500 second-hand dresses offered at no charge to high school students.


Well before before the gym doors opened at 10 a.m., a line of more than 100 girls, boyfriends and parents stretched down a Malcolm X hallway.


"We got here at 7 a.m.," said Alysha Alvarez, whose prom at Wells Academy High School is set for May 24. "I want something short, but not long. I want some cleavage."


Even with the event set to last through the day, there were enough dresses for each girl to take home two or three. USAgain aimed to have all the garb end up on dance floors instead of in landfills.


"Five percent of every garbage truck going down the road is old clothing," said Butch Davenport, USAgain COO.


The girls browsed racks bulging with every color of tulle and sequin.


"I don't want to look like too much," said Sharrell Hale, who found two blue dresses. "I just want to look like a pretty prom girl."


Hale hasn't decided whether she'll go solo or accept any of the date offers she's received for Fenger Academy's prom June 1 — she's just happy she's going.


"At first I thought, 'I'm not going to go to prom,' that I couldn't find a dress that fit me. But I found this one," she said, grabbing the skirt of her royal blue dress and sashaying back and forth. "I'm so excited that now I can go to prom."


City Treasurer Stephanie Neely, who attended the giveaway, said she supported the event as a financially responsible way to attend prom, a night that can quickly become expensive.


"Prom is something that's a right of passage we all remember," Neely said. "Not everyone can spend thousands and thousands on a dress."


Terrence Ashford helped his niece Marquetta Patton search for dresses for a luncheon and two upcoming prom dances, her boyfriend's and her own at Collins Academy.


He stood off to the side of the gym, outside the locker room doubling as a dressing room, holding a brown halter-top dress, "like a mannequin."


"That's pretty," Neely said laughing. "I don't know how that's going to look on you, though. It's a little short."


"It might match my eyes," Ashford said.


Ashford said he liked the free event after scouring boutiques like Peaches over the last few weeks.


"It pays off," he said. "It's practice. My daughter has her prom next year."


"I haven't found it yet," Marquetta said after leaving the dressing room, adding that she didn't know what she was exactly looking for, but that she liked purple.


A USAgain worker held up a dress with some tiny purple trim.


"Do you like it?" she asked.


But the dress received a "No."


"She's picky," Ashford said.


The two disappeared into the racks, Marquetta pulling at dresses, still in search of the perfect dress that deserved a yes.