By Lindsay Gifford
Photography by John Arthur Mattson
Most women can remember the moment well. As girls, we stood in a dressing room, surrounded by dresses in a rainbow of colors. Some with sparkles, crystals or maybe beading. Others had full skirts that rustled when we touched them. We picked one off its hanger and stepped into it, shimmying it into place. We asked our mom to come in and zip it up. Then, we turned around and faced the mirror.
It was perfect. We had found our prom dress.
The Junior Service League of Beaufort wants every girl in Beaufort and Jasper counties to be able to experience that moment. So, for the fourth year, the league will hold its Prom Boutique, allowing high school students to shop for free prom dresses, jewelry and other accessories.
“I think for a lot of girls, it’s the first time that they get to experience a grown-up, Cinderella feeling,” said Courtney Dukes, co-chairwoman of the event. “It’s a right of passage for girls. They’re coming into womanhood, and part of that is learning what it’s like to dress up in a formal gown.”
Dukes remembers never wanting to take her prom dress off when she tried on the lilac ball gown. She was living overseas at the time, so she ordered the dress online.
“I couldn’t take it off the whole night,” she said. “I twirled in it and danced in it. My mom was begging me not to get anything on it. I couldn’t wait for prom to wear it again.”
She and co-chairwoman Ashley Rhodes said all attendees will be able to leave Prom Boutique that happy and excited for their big night. The boutique will be from 1 to 5 p.m. on March 7 at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence, at 80 Lowcountry Drive, at the intersection of S.C. 462 and S.C. 170.
While there, shoppers will be able to browse on their own or enlist the help of Junior Service League of Beaufort members, who act as personal stylists. The members can help shoppers select the perfect dress and accessories from those that have been donated, which includes a wide variety of formal dresses—both short and long— and dresses from bridal designer Jenny Yoo.
JSLB members said helping the girls is one of their favorite parts of being in the league. Rhodes said when she helped last year, one girl hugged and kissed her after finding her dress.
“She said she loved me,” Rhodes said. “She never imagined that she would be able to go to prom in a beautiful gown. I think she—like all the girls we helped—just got such a sense of confidence from finding a dress that made her feel pretty.”
Girls are welcome to bring friends or family members to help them shop and will be able to take as much time as they need to find the perfect dress.
This year, the boutique will offer a glamorous red-carpet experience to all shoppers and will include a special VIP hour, from noon to 1 p.m., for girls who pre-register for the event. Those girls will have first pick from the new and gently used dresses and accessories and will enjoy a shopping experience that includes even more personalized attention, sparkling grape juice and light hor d’oeuvres.
Any student in Beaufort and Jasper counties is invited to attend the boutique. Shoppers must show their student ID or have a letter on school letterhead from their guidance counselor, teacher or school administrator.
Those who would like to pre-register for the VIP experience can do so on the league’s website, www.juniorserviceleagueofbeaufort.org.
Calling all dresses
You can help by donating dresses to the boutique. JSLB is accepting new or gently- used long and short dresses in all sizes and accessories, such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, shawls and handbags. Dresses must be clean and have no visible tears or stains.
Donations can be dropped off at the following locations:
> SugarBelle, 905 Boundary St., Beaufort
> Celadon Sales Office, Lady’s Island
> Amazing Event Rentals, 35 Parris Island Gateway, Beaufort or 352 Argent Blvd., Hardeeville
> Pink Magazine, 37 New Orleans Road, Suite M, Hilton Head Island
Spread the word
Know a young woman who would be interested in JSLB’s Prom Boutique? Don’t hesitate to spread the word! Let her know the event will be from noon to 5 p.m. on March 7 at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence at 80 Lowcountry Drive, at the intersection of S.C. 462 and S.C. 170. She must bring a student ID or a letter on school letterhead from her guidance counselor, teacher or school administrator. Shoppers are welcome to bring a friend or family member to help in their search for the perfect dress.