Kimberly Guthrie stepped out of the dressing room wearing a silky champagne-colored dress.
Looking at herself in a full-length mirror, Guthrie began to cry.
“This is so pretty,” said Guthrie, 16, a sophomore at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth. “I never imagined I would wear something so beautiful.”
Guthrie was among the high school students who shopped Saturday at a prom dress giveaway sponsored by the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women’s Clubs.
Students browsed racks of dresses in every color, shape and style, and tables of high heels, handbags and even sparkly jewelry.
The tab for shoppers: free.
“We saw a need in our community, so we stepped up,” said Sandra Russell, chairwoman of the prom giveaway, in its third year. “We want these girls to have a night to remember, and we want to help them look their best.”
Prom costs have surged in recent years. A survey by Visa last year found that the average family expected to spend $1,139 on prom, including attire, transportation and dinner.
For many families, that is simply out of reach.
Miriam Reyna, 17, a senior at Polytechnic High School, knew she wanted to wear a long red dress to prom. She also knew that buying a full-price dress would be unlikely if not impossible.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to go to prom if I had to buy a dress myself,” Reyna said. “That’s a lot of money.”
On Saturday, Reyna spotted the perfect red dress after trying on three others. She accessorized with gold shoes and a gold handbag.
“Red is bold, and I’m a social butterfly,” she said. “I like to stand out.”
Students came mostly from Fort Worth and Arlington to browse through the dresses, which were donated by the public and members of the Fort Worth association. Next year, Russell said, the association is considering adding tuxedos to the list of items.
Shoppers must meet only two criteria: They must show a high school student ID, and they try on the dress.
Graciela Mireles, 18, a senior at Trimble Tech High School, tried on three dresses before choosing a long silver gown with sequined flowers on the top.
Prom is more than just a dance, Mireles said.
“This is a celebration that we made it,” she said. “We’re high school graduates, and we’re moving on.”
Guthrie, the student at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, said she rarely wears dresses or shops for fancy clothes.
“I usually wear a school uniform or jeans and a T-shirt,” she said. “This feels special. I’m shaking right now.”