Abington student making prom dreams come true
Around the same time Hannah Abel, 16, was preparing for the Abington Junior High School 2012 freshmen formal, she learned a few of her friends from another local high school wouldn’t be going to their prom because they couldn’t afford prom dresses.
“I wouldn’t want to miss out on my prom,” Hannah said during an interview March 5. “I knew I wanted to do something to change that.”
After brainstorming ideas with her mom, Rebecca, last summer, Hannah said they dreamed up Dress it Forward — an opportunity for local students to obtain free formal attire for special events like the prom.
“Hannah and I have talked a lot about how ridiculous and costly prom dresses are, when we’ve gone shopping,” Rebecca said. “Prom is such a rite of passage. It was very painful for both of us to learn those girls wouldn’t be going to their prom.”
In April 2012, CBS New York.com reported that the typical price for a dress was around $231, shoes $45 and a handbag $23.
In addition, Hannah estimated that prom tickets could be $30 to $200 based on how much student bodies fundraise for their prom.
In 2012 it was estimated that families would spend an average of $1,078 each on the prom. This is a 33.6 percent boost from the average $807 spent on proms in 2011, according to data collected for a 2012 Visa Inc. telephone survey.
“It’s a lot of money,” she said. “My mission is to make someone feel special in a pretty prom dress and jewelry. I want everyone to experience this rite of passage, because it’s something you always remember. It’s important.”
To get this initiative off the ground, Hannah asked her classmates and friends to donate formal wear to her cause. She also set up clothing drop-off sites at Bunn’s Natural Foods in Southampton and Linda’s Loft in Jenkintown. Some local businesses also allowed her to hang posters in their stores to help get the word out. “We have close to 100 dresses,” Rebecca said. “We also have three suits and three tuxes,” Hannah said. “I wasn’t expecting this many donations.”
Some of the donations she received were designer clothes, such as a velvet Ralph Lauren dress and a Hugo Boss suit. “There were quite a number of dresses that still had tags on them,” she said.
To launch Dress it Forward, Hannah held a special preview event Feb. 23 in the newly renovated building located at 224 Old York Road, across from the Drake Tavern in Jenkintown, in preparation for a March 9 shopping event.
“My best friend’s dad, Jeff Lustig, does a lot of building renovations in Jenkintown and he was nice enough to let me use the space rent free for the last couple of weeks,” she said.
During the preview, live music was played and guests enjoyed donated refreshments and raffle items from business like Rosnov Jewelers.
“Everyone has been really generous and really open to helping me put it all together,” she said.
Last weekend, Hannah hosted the shopping day, which she described as “fabulous.”
With the show of their school IDs, students could choose from a selection of dresses in a variety of styles and sizes, as well as a selection of free jewelry and complimentary lip gloss donated by Burlington Coat Factory.
“I got the chance to dress four prom queens,” she said Feb.11. “One girl got a beautiful aquamarine dress and paired it with a sparkly gold purse and gold bangles. Another girl got an orange mermaid styled JRZQ ZLWK ZKLWH VHTXLQV LQ WKH VKDSH RI flRZHrV. $ gold dress with matching jewelry and a one shoulder rHG GrHVV ZLWK flRZHrV DORQJ WKH VWrDS ZHrH FKRVHQ Ey two other girls.”
Prom goers were not the only ones in search of “the perfect dress.” Hannah said she gave a wedding dress to a bride-to-be.
“The woman tried on a white gown with a beaded neckline and knew it was the one for her special day,” she said. “I was really only expecting maybe one girl to come, however, when everyone came in, I couldn’t believe it. Their happiness made me so excited and accomplished.”
In the weeks to come Hannah hopes to attract more people to 224 York Road. Thanks to the generosity of the landlord, she said she will keep Dress it Forward open for the remainder of month on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Hannah has always been very thoughtful and good about doing for others,” Rebecca said. “I am proud of her wanting to do something for someone else. She just wants everyone to have a good prom experience.”
Hannah Abel displays some of the dresses and accessories available at Dress It Forward at 224 Old York Road in Jenkintown.