ELYRIA — Andrea Oliver has every prom and bridesmaid dress she has ever worn crammed into a closet at her mother’s house.
Every formal, frilly and sequined dress her three sisters have ever donned is there, too. The dresses have been waiting for that one time Oliver would want to wear them again.
The Spanish teacher at Elyria High School knows that it is unlikely to happen, so she, along with fellow Spanish teacher Chrysty Rusch, who similarly has a stash of formal dresses, wants to make the dresses available to high school girls for prom.
“You always want to hold on to the dress because you think you’re going to wear it again, but it will just sit in your closet,” Rusch said. “We can supply those dresses to a student who wouldn’t be able to afford one so they can have a once-in-a-lifetime night.”
Oliver and Rusch are starting a Cinderella’s Closet — a collection of donated dresses girls can have for free to turn their prom dreams into a reality.
“I went to prom, and it was such a fun experience,” Oliver said. “You feel so pretty that day, and it always starts with the dress. It’s not just an ordinary dress. Every woman remembers the dress they wore to prom.”
In recent years, Oliver and Rusch have chaperoned the prom and have heard a story or two about a student who would love to go to the end-of-the-year dance but couldn’t afford the dress, shoes, accessories plus hair and makeup services that drive up the cost of the event.
“There are probably a lot of girls who just can’t afford it,” Rusch said. “But every girl should have the opportunity to go to prom without it being a financial burden.”
The cost of prom is on the rise and not just in Elyria. According to a national retail survey published in 2013, the average family spent $1,139 on the evening for everything from custom-made dresses to car rentals.
The teachers said they are hoping the public would like to contribute to this venture with the donation of gently used dresses. Shoes, purses and accessories in good condition also will be accepted.
They are also looking for a dry cleaner who would be willing to donate cleaning services to each girl once they select a dress. Rusch said she will store the dresses at her home and will find an outside storage facility if the inventory grows too large.
Dresses of all sizes and styles will be accepted.
“We literally have girls of every shape and size in this building, so the more dresses we have, the better,” Oliver said.