Donating Your Prom Dress

By Sharon Naylor

March 5, 2010 5 min read

Your prom dress can make another girl's dream come true. Instead of stashing that pretty prom dress in the back of your closet, you can donate it to an organization that will give it to an underprivileged girl so she can wear it to her own prom. For these underprivileged girls -- whose families may be experiencing unthinkably tough times -- the chance to wear a pretty new dress to prom is truly a magical experience.

And if you're like most girls, you have several dressy dresses and gowns from other formals you attended taking up space in your closet, so you can donate those, as well. Call all of your friends, and ask them to donate their dresses; you will make many girls' dreams come true! And you'll be in great company; Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Ashley Greene recently donated their own prom dresses to charities, as well.

How do you make that leap from wanting to donate your dress to actually doing it? Just check out DonateMyDress.org, where you'll find a directory of local prom dress donation drives organized by state, as well as links to national gown donation organizations that will accept your dress in person or through the mail. When you visit this Web site, you'll find regional organization names, links and e-mail addresses for the group leaders in case you'd like to ask questions before you bring in your dress.

Tammy Tibbetts -- editor of DonateMyDress.org, which was started in April 2008 by the Hearst Teen Network in partnership with Seventeen.com -- says that each local group has its own rules, standards and requests about which kinds of dresses they welcome. "There are lots of beautiful vintage dresses out there, but most groups prefer dresses from the past five years, especially dresses in extra-small and extra-large sizes, both short dresses and long gowns."

Tibbetts says the demand for different lengths of dresses depends on where you live. "On the East Coast, for instance, shorter prom gowns are more in demand, whereas girls in the South prefer long gowns."

Color is also something to consider. For example, many Latinas visit these gown donation stores to pick up dresses for their quincea?era celebrations, and Tibbetts says that dresses in white, light pink and blue have been the most popular choices by these girls.

Bridesmaid dresses also are welcomed donations at these gown drives. Your junior bridesmaid or bridesmaid dress, the pink strapless dress you wore to your sister's wedding and the elegant chocolate-brown gown you wore to your cousin's wedding are ideal for donation. If your elder sister or cousin has lots of bridesmaid dresses in her closet, it's a great idea to call her and ask whether she'd like to give new life to those dresses, as well. The gowns worn to spring and winter formals are also on the radar, as are gowns worn for debutante balls and bat mitzvahs.

For any dress you'd like to donate, it's best if you have it dry-cleaned before you bring or send it in, and don't worry if there's a little part of the hem that has fallen. "Most chapters have seamstresses on hand to do minor mending of dresses that come in," Tibbetts says. "But dresses do need to be in very good condition to be accepted." With dresses cleaned by you and mended and pressed by volunteers at your local chapter, the girls you're helping get to choose from modern, stylish and sophisticated dresses that look like new.

Many shops and organizations accept gown donations through regionally focused sites -- such as http://www.GlassSlipperProject.org (Chicago and surrounding areas), http://FairyGodmotherProject.com (Houston) and http://www.PricelessGownProject.org (Baltimore) -- so explore these sites to find the gown drives planned near you. And at DonateMyDress.org, you'll find step-by-step instructions on how to organize a dress drive with your friends, in your hometown, as an ultra-rewarding project.

Speaking of rewards, some donors wonder whether their gown donations qualify them for tax write-offs in the charitable deductions category. Tibbetts says, "If a group is specified as a nonprofit organization, like Becca's Closet or The Princess Project, it is able to provide you with documentation granting you tax credit for your donation."

As more large organizations join forces with DonateMyDress.org, you'll see a big proliferation of prom gown drives coming to your area. Start looking through your closet to pull out the dresses that will make deserving girls smile, twirl in front of the mirror and look fabulous on such a big, memorable and important night as the prom ... thanks to you.

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