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Women’s group wants every girl to shine at the prom

Sandra Russell sorts dresses in preparation for the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women's Clubs prom dress giveaway in Fort Worth.
Sandra Russell sorts dresses in preparation for the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women's Clubs prom dress giveaway in Fort Worth. Star-Telegram

It’s all about that Cinderella moment, Sandra Russell says; that magical one when a high school girl steps in front of a mirror to see herself in the prom dress of her dreams.

“It’s great fun when you really enjoy what you’re doing and you see the girls’ faces, how elated they are,” said Russell, who prepares all year for this weekend as the project coordinator for the the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women’s Clubs’ annual prom dress giveaway.

At the event there will be hundreds of dresses available — short and long — in a fashionable array of styles and colors. Some of the dresses are gently used, others are brand new. The dresses are also available in sizes from petites to plus so everyone can look great for the big night.

Hours are 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the club’s home at 1051 Evans Ave., Fort Worth. This is the fourth time the group has held the event. Last year the group gave away about 160 dresses with accessories, including 49 to a girls’ school in Sierra Leone in West Africa.

Many Fort Worth-area girls want the latest styles, others appreciate a vintage look, Russell said. “Some want simplistic design, and we have some that are just ‘Oh my god.’”

Robyn Sims, a student at Texas Woman’s University, picked out a “really, really pretty” long and strapless gown in purple, pink and “a teal-ish color” in 2012 for her senior prom at Paschal High School.

“I wore it with silver shoes and a silver bracelet with rhinestones,” she said. “The ladies are so nice. They dress you up and take pictures so you can find the perfect dress.”

Kimberly Guthrie, a junior at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth, will be choosing a new prom dress on Saturday.

Last year, she picked out “a beautiful champagne dress, really long and glamorous,” she said. “It looked like something from the ’30s, very sophisticated. I love stuff like that.”

Timing is different for the dress giveaway this year, and Russell hopes that doesn’t cut into the numbers of girls who come seeking glam.

“This is the first time we’ve had it during spring break, and that’s our biggest fear right now,” Russell said. “We’ve had all the bad weather, and now we’re afraid the girls aren’t going to remember to come get their dresses this weekend.”

Nothing has to be returned because the giveaway is intended to help students who might not be able to afford the hefty cost of a complete prom outfit which can easily hit $500. The only requirements are that they bring their school IDs and be present to choose and try on the dresses.

“It’s like a unique customized experience for them,” Russell said. “We ask them to sign in, their parents have to sit down outside the dressing area, and we have the girls select three or four dresses.”

Each girl has a personal assistant to help her try on and choose the dress, accessorize with shoes, jewelry, handbags, hairpieces, gloves and other items. The goal is to have the complete ensemble put together, even if it requires a search for the right accessory.

“Say they need silver shoes size 9,” Russell said, “we will follow through and try to get that for them.”

The effort survives because of the willingness of many members and volunteers to pitch in and provide for the girls.

One woman has donated more than 40 dresses, and another spends her own money throughout the year to buy fashion jewelry on sale, sometimes donating more than a hundred items.

This year, for the first time, there will be makeup available at the giveaway, along with someone to show the girls how to apply it for nighttime glamor. If they need someone to style their hair when the time comes, Russell has resources.

Anyone with suitable items to donate for the giveaway may contact Russell at 817-308-5872 to coordinate pickup or drop-off. Any questions about the giveaway should be directed to her, too.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @shirljinkins

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