Prom closets lets teens play dress up — at no cost
As prom season approaches, volunteers throughout South Florida are making teens look like a million bucks without paying a penny.
Prom closets give away gorgeous dresses, shoes, jewelry, purses and other necessities for the big night. Guys can sometimes find a suit aswell.
Most proms are in April this year and the expenses can add up: Tickets can cost more than $100 per person. Then there’s the clothing, accessories, corsages, haircuts and make-up, as well as pre-prom and post-prom parties that can also require admission fees.
As these costs have mounted, some adults have decided to assist.
Becca’s Closet, based in Pompano Beach, offers more than 2,000 dresses, size 0 to34, at its home at the Festival Flea Market, 2900 W. Sample Road. Volunteers will be on site each Sunday through
May. Visitors must make an appointment for a try-on.
The closet was begun by Rebecca Kirtman, a student at Nova High School in Davie, who was killed in a car accident in 2003. She had collected 250 dresses as a community project before she died. Now her dad, Jay, is president of the non-profit closet, which has expanded to 26 chapters across the country.
Becca’s Closet gets donations fromlocal families and designers, including Betsey Johnson and Steve Madden, and has also arranged contributions from department stores such as Macy’s.
Jay Kirtman said the closet wants students to have a shopping experience similar to a fancy department store.
“Girls are treated like they have a personal shopper,” he said. “They have their own dressing room and an adult volunteer and a couple of students to assist them.”
Kirtman said Becca’s Closet helps about 18,000 prom-going girls across the country. Donations come from residents of each community as well as designers, including Alfred Angelo, BCBG and Jason Woo. Sizes on the extreme ends, 0 to 4 and 16-plus, are especially needed, he said.
Lynda Walsh was a courtappointed advocate for children in the foster care system when she noticed some of their clothing was in poor shape. So she asked friends and family to donate items, and about three years ago, set up a storefront off Federal Highway in Delray Beach.
The Cool Clothes Closet has 175 used formal dresses, as well as accessories and casual wear for girls and boys, in sizes 0 to 26, Walsh said.
Moesha Johnson, 19, a senior at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, said she had been trolling the internet forweeks in search of the perfect prom dress but had trouble finding styles she liked. Then she visited the Cool Clothes Closet and found a flowing, bright-red, sleeveless gown, worn only once before. She called it a little sexy but not too revealing.
“I wanted a style in front that showed a little skin but not too much skin,” Johnson said. “I found a dress here last year, too.”
The closet offers an annual prom gown try-on in a central location, where girls can sample fancy outfits and accessories that they can keep.
Walsh will bring her dresses, all donated by local residents, as well as shoes and purses, to Catherine Strong Park, 1500 SW Sixth St., Delray Beach, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 10; and from12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on March11. No appointment is needed, but students must show school identification.
Everyone comes away with a dress,” Walsh said.
Prom shopping is not only for girls.
Young men can get assistance from Suits For Seniors, a Delray Beach-based closet with about 50 donated suits, sizes 38 to 44.
Jervonte Edmonds, a real estate agent and state legislative assistant, opened the closet in November 2015 to help young men with “job interviews and life,” he said.
Edmonds, 25, bought his first suit at a thrift store three years ago to wear to a fundraising ball. He said he immediately felt transformed.
“It made me feel professional, like I couldhangwith the elite,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to talk to people. Iwanted to give that same feeling to young men.”
He started a GoFundMe campaign to provide suits as well as motivational speakers for the students. He had a $6,000 goal but has raised more than $7,800 through the site.
He nowstores the suits in his living room and brings them to events at schools, where he is typically invited by administrators. He usually takes students through an eight-week course on financial literacy and college applications, but welcomes calls from men who need promgear.
“I want young men to have a different appearance these days,” he said. “I want them to wear clothing they canwear anywhere and be a respected member of the community.”
Valencia Holcomb, left, tries on dresses at Becca’s Closet. The closet, inside the Festival Flea Market Mall in Pompano Beach, gives away hundreds of dresses every year to high school students going to homecoming, prom or a military ball.
Chrisnick Vesseau, right, shows off a dress she tried on at Becca’s Closet.