Dressing up without dollars
The gowns hung on a rack in the back of the smartly decorated Feather Skin & Body Studio in Eagle River, shimmering with possibilities.
There was a delicate pale blue dress and deep maroon dress, a sophisticated white and black dress and a short pink dress with a flirty, flared skirt.
And then there was the prize: An intricately sequined yellow gown worn by a Miss Alaska Teen titleholder in her national pageant.
“This one is so pretty,” studio owner and operator Wendy Wiltfong said as she held it out in front of her, the skirt billowing down around carpet. “It’s exquisite. It’s like the mermaid of gowns.”
The gowns aren’t for sale. Instead, they’re offered for free through Project Prom Alaska.
The program collects gently used prom and bridesmaid gowns and redistributes them among students unable to afford a prom dress.
Project Prom began in 2013 when co-founders Jamie Johnson and June Gardner realized that the program could solve two problems: What to do with those prom and bridesmaid dresses most women will never wear again and how to help out young women who might not be able to attend their high school proms due to financial constrictions.
The program has quickly expanded to include accessories, shoes, hair and makeup services and men’s formal clothing such as tuxedos and shoes.
The average student spends over $1,000 on her high school prom, Wiltfong said.
This includes not only the price of the dress but necessary extras such as shoes, tanning, hair, makeup and accessories.
“They really go all out,” Wiltfong said.
The Feather Studio staff has been accepting dresses for two weeks. So far they’ve received about 20.
“We’ve collected quite a lot this year,” Wiltfong said. “Last year we only collected four.”
Dresses are typically donated by mothers after their daughters go off to college.
“They say that they don’t want to take them to Goodwill,” Wiltfong said. “They’re glad to get them out of their closets.
The studio is accepting gowns throughout the month, along with shoes, hair accessories, men’s formal wear and restaurant gift certificates, so that young men might treat their dates to a nice dinner before the prom.
“The more we collect, the more variety we can offer,” Wiltfong said. “We want to make them look like princesses. We want them to feel special.”
The Chugiak-Eagle River prom is April 26.
Students in need of a prom gown or accessories are invited to schedule an appointment through Project Prom Alaska at www.projectpromak.org.
Women can donate gently used prom and bridesmaid dresses at Feather Skin & Body Studio, 16941 N. Eagle River Loop Rd., 696-8200 or at the following locations:
The Beehive Beauty Shop
E. Palmer/Wasilla Highway
One Hour Fireweed Dry Cleaning
500 E. Fireweed Lane
The Loft Hair Design
9220 Lake Otis Parkway
337 W. Fifth Ave.
510 W. Tudor Rd.
Men’s donations such as tuxedos and shoes are also accepted.