A dress, shoes, a corsage, hair and makeup, transportation, a ticket – the costs add up.
In 2017, Yahoo Style’s survey of prom costs across the country found that the average teen in the South spent $617 to go to their senior prom when all was said and done.
That’s why on Friday afternoon, Forgotten Coast Athletics was transformed into a once-a-year pop-up prom dress boutique, where gently used outfits, shoes and accessories in a variety of styles and sizes were all offered completely free of cost.
“We started at eight o’clock this morning,” said Lianna Sagins, chair of the Junior Service League of Port St. Joe’s Prom Project, an annual event that aims to make prom affordable to all. “We’ve had several girls come in with their parents and try on dresses.”
“We’ve just been helping the girls as they come in. We help them pick out the dresses and try on different dresses that they might not think are their style.”
Port St. Joe’s Junior Service League has hosted the event, which collects donated dresses from the community year-round, for three years running, and Sagins said that each year support and awareness of the event continues to grow.
“This is our third year doing the Prom Project,” she said. “It takes all year to collect donations… Almost all of the dresses, I’d say 90 percent of the dresses, are donated,” she continued.
“We do have a small budget, so we try to buy sizes that are more in need as well.”
Ruth Mason, Sagin’s co-chair, said many local businesses and organizations offered their assistance with the event as well, donating services or products to be offered as prizes in a raffle.
As each girl came into the pop-up shop, Sagins and Mason had them sign their names on a raffle ticket and place it into a jar on the front table. At the end of the event, they would draw names of the winners.
“We also have businesses here in town that have donated their goods and services,” Mason said. “We have a raffle all the girls are putting their tickets in, and we’ve had people donate nails, spray tans, flowers, all kinds of stuff.”
At around 3 p.m. Sagins remarked that the raffle jar already had several dozen tickets in it, even with hours left until the end of the event.
The women were expecting a big rush to come in any minute, with the school day having just ended, and they went back through their stock to make sure everything was organized and in the correct section and that the pop-up tents, which functioned as dressing rooms, were clean.
“Every girl so far has left with a dress,” Sagins said, pointing out some of her favorites as she combed through the stock. “Some are lightly used. Some are brand new, with tags still on them, but they’re all free.”
Because of the amount of planning required, the Junior Service League only puts on the event for one day every year, but Sagins said they could help students looking for dresses by appointment if they couldn’t make it out last week.
Appointments can be booked by messaging the Junior Service League on Facebook or emailing them at [email protected].