DANVILLE — For many young people, prom is rite of passage. But for some, buying a fancy dress is out of reach.
That's why the Danville Public Library is hosting its first "Say Yes to the Prom Dress" event — to provide local students with a dress at no cost.
"Prom dresses are expensive," said Assistant Director Jennifer Hess, who got the idea for the event from other libraries. "I love the idea of everyone being able to dress like a princess for prom, if they choose to do so. And recycling is always a good thing."
The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. March 30 in the first-floor conference room at the library, 319 N. Vermilion St.
It's open to all Danville-area high school students. Students must bring their school ID, and there's a limit of one dress per person.
Students are also asked to pre-register by 5 p.m. March 25. They can do so at the library's Teen Zone or by visiting its Facebook page at facebook.com/danvillepubliclibrary.
"We're asking the girls to pre-register so we have an idea of the sizes and quantity of dresses we'll need," Hess said, adding a variety of sizes and styles will be available.
Hess said the library has teamed up with Twisted Sisters antique and secondhand clothing and home-furnishings shop in Rossville to provide the formal wear.
Local pageant coach Amy Lockwood-Thompson will be on hand for styling consultations.
"She has a lot of expertise," Hess said, adding that Lockwood-Thompson will also be bringing some dresses to the event.
Hess said the conference room will be made up to look like a formal-wear showroom. Clothing racks and mirrors will be provided by DLO Musical Theatre.
Sherry Decker, owner of Twisted Sisters, said she was thrilled to be part of the event. The Rossville woman estimates she's given away some 3,600 dresses since retiring from Blue Cross Blue Shield as senior vice president and opening the business in 2010.
"We started getting donations of prom dresses and wedding dresses, so we decided we should give them away," said Decker, one of 10 siblings, nine of whom are sisters.
"I give away dresses probably every week," Decker said, adding people come in at all times of the year looking for outfits to wear to weddings, military balls, dances and other formal events.
"We will give anyone a dress who needs one," she continued, adding that many of the outfits are donated or she buys them. "Some people bring them back after they wear them. We wash them — you never want to dry clean a prom dress — and then they go back on the rack. If we have jewelry or shoes, we try to fix them up."
Decker estimates she currently has about 300 dresses in "all sizes and styles," from contemporary gowns with beading and cutouts to "the older taffeta styles, which some girls like because they cover them better."
Decker remembers a father and daughter who came into her shop. She said the man lit up when his daughter, after searching the racks, came out of the dressing room in "a fairy-tale ball gown."
"Then he looked down and said, 'How much is this going to cost?'" she said. "I said, 'It's free," and he started crying. Then I started crying ... That's why we do this. It's just as rewarding for me as it is for them."