Preparing for the ball on a budget
By Bethany Gibbons
High school girls brought their passion for fashion to Mashpee Commons Sunday, but they skirted the Gap and Banana Republic and headed instead to Cinderella’s Night at the Prom Dress Swap. While the fairy tale lass relied on enchanted creatures to whip together a gown, these girls traded in their old gowns for new, but there was still plenty of magic afoot.
The fairy godmother
Dorothy Schrumf was the fairy godmother of this benefit for the Mashpee After-Prom party. Girls in half-closed, too-long dresses kept the seamstress hopping as she pinned garments to be altered free-of-charge at her shop, Common Threads, and talked shop about foundation garments, paneled dress-backs, loops, lacing, straps and fit. Mothers, volunteers and friends threw in their advice and everyone eyed fresh dresses coming through the door.
Gorgeous gowns for a steal
Girls with dresses to barter were charged $1 admission and walked away with a free dress if they found one that made the grade. Those arriving without something to swap were charged $10 a dress.
Donations came in before the swap, mostly from parents whose children grew up, moved out and left their dresses behind. Schrumf stressed the spirit of giving that infused the event, the first of its kind for Mashpee.
The community comes together
“The community has to stick together and everyone has to help each other out. It’s hard times for everyone, but it’s one of the good things about the bad economy - people have to be more supportive and more helpful. It’s going back to old values.” To complete the circle of generosity, Schrumf will donate all leftover dresses to Sandwich’s Before the Stroke of Midnight, a program that connects gowns and accessories with students in need.
Though the seamstresses Schrumf’s business employs would not work for free performing alterations, former After-Prom honcho Vicki Kelly stepped in to volunteer her services. Having worked for Schrumf in the past, she will assist in getting the dresses ready for their big day. Kelly recognized the need for the event. “With all the expenses, who has the money for a dress like that?” she asked. “There’s college coming up, and all the other costs… who wants to spend hundreds on a dress?”
Recycling, a perfect fit for this economy
If the idea of spending that kind of money on a prom dress seems incredible, a recent visit to promgirl.net, which lists nationally advertised gowns, revealed dresses in the $300 range. Common sense might make that kind of purchase out-of-the-question, but tight budgets can make any dress purchase impossible. Still, Kelly says, “Some kids are more comfortable with buying a used gown than others.” The hope is that by continuing to offer this ‘recycling’ of seldom worn garments in the coming years, more families will catch on to its genius.
The young women on the hunt at the former Sorbus store, donated by Commons management, seemed unfazed by second-hand shopping. They brought mothers, grandmothers, fathers and friends, who held potential buys while they tried on others. Demonstrating their fashion savvy, the girls were quick to voice alteration ideas to seamstress Schrumf. One wanted lacing across the back while another vied for rhinestone straps and someone suggested a severe hemming. Accessory ideas were tossed around and shoes were brought in to finish the look.
Girls gather from near and far
The event was open to any high-school student in need of a dress, not only those attending Mashpee High School. Nicole Fishkind of Sandwich is a senior at Sturgis Charter School, looking to jet off to college next year and study writing. She rocked a floor-length blue strapless gown and her mother approved. Sara Buscemi and her mother made the drive from Arlington to take advantage of the deals, and her grandmother Priscilla from Cotuit waited and watched as she modeled one gorgeous dress after another.
Vendors were invited to rent table space to advertise their services and wares. The money collected also went to After-Prom. The Nail Diva manicurist Lee Ann Earls took advantage of the chance to get the word out about her new location at USA Fitness Centers, 502 Main Street in Mashpee. As the event kicked off she was busy making appointments for all the volunteers at the store.