Going into its fourth year stronger than ever, the Prom Dress Exchange is ready to offer an affordable alternative for the usually pricey prom season. Laura Bauer took over as president of the non-profit in 2011 and has brought in thousands of outfit options for anyone looking for evening apparel for the biggest night of high school. This year's one-day prom shop, on Saturday, March 15, has a new home at 5771 Logan Street in Denver, plenty of new-to-you inventory and other giveaways designed to help make prom the night it was meant to be.
"This year we have a new corporate partner, Tebo Store Fixtures, and it's a really great fit because their business is store fixtures, so we're able to use a lot of their merchandise to display our goods and we don't have to move a lot of things," says Bauer. This partnership is providing host space for the massive ball gown pop-up shop, which collects apparel and accessories year-round but only opens to the public once a year. Goodwill is a client of Tebo, too, and will have a donation bin on hand for any dresses that are donated and don't quite fit the needs of Prom Dress Exchange, Bauer notes.
Donations from local businesses across the state will amp up the giveaways throughout the day; the prizes include gift certificates from restaurants like El Jardin in Commerce City and Jay's Grille and Bar in Denver. Baskets of beauty products plus manicure and waxing-service gift certificates from local salons and a Mary Kay representative are included in the donations, and the organization has been collecting smaller items for swag bags.
Bauer's ultimate goal is to see a major corporate sponsor donate the money to fund an entire school's prom night, but she knows that's a hefty request. Still, the mother who devotes her free time to this non-profit is extremely pleased with how much Prom Dress Exchange has grown since she's been running the operation. "In four years we've gone from 18 participants the first year to 358 participants last year," says Bauer. "My hope is that this will be an event that becomes the event to attend from year to year, something kids hear about and really look forward to."
On a sad note, Prom Dress Exchange was not able to offer menswear this year. Suits and dress clothes were a new addition to last year's event, but Bauer says there weren't enough donations to make it workable. She is still collecting men's apparel in hopes that the event can include clothing for boys next year.
For girls, though, Prom Dress Exchange has more than enough. With more drop-off locations than ever, the non-profit has amassed close to 2,000 dresses, plus shoes, purses and more. "We have a really have a beautiful, high-end inventory and a nice selection to pick from," Bauer says. "What we're doing this year is going back to our roots and offering one long dress and one short dress for the same suggested donation of $10. The other option is two short dresses, because I have a very nice selection of the short ones."
Dresses come in all year long, but the time right before prom season is the non-profit's busiest. In addition to the remote drop-off locations, the Colorado branch of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) plays a major role in not only dress collection but fundraising. "LUPEC members are a huge sponsor and supporter of ours and do so much to not only collect dresses but provide fiscal sponsorship and that's great," says Bauer. The group threw a prom of its own this past January to gather dresses and funds to give to Prom Dress Exchange.
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The Prom Dress Exchange's annual event goes down this Saturday, March 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Tebo Store Fixtures, 5771 Logan Street in Denver. Each participant is asked to donate $10 for apparel, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds. More than 100 volunteers help make the Exchange possible each year, including seamstresses, who will be doing expert on-site alterations throughout the day. To learn more about the Prom Dress Exchange or to donate dresses or funds, visit the organization's website.