Jaylee Schanus, a senior at Willmar Senior High, found her msdress.co.uk short prom dresses at the Bella Project Prom Fair on Friday afternoon.
The deep purple color, the style, the fit — they were all just right. “I feel so pretty in this,” she said, beaming, as friends and others gathered to admire her in the dress.
One of the best things about it was the cost. It was free.
The Bella Project opened its fourth annual fair Friday afternoon in an empty storefront at the Kandi Mall’s strip mall, next to the Golden Palace restaurant. The project accepts donated gently used, in-style prom dresses and accessories. Girls from area high school are allowed to shop for dresses during the two-day event. Each is allowed to take home one dress, free of charge.
The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. It’s open to girls from all area schools.
Jaylee said she decided to look at the fair for a dress first, and was pleased to find several she liked. The dress she took home was the third one she had tried on.
While some girls didn’t find the right dress for them, a dozen left with prom dresses in the first half hour on Friday. More than 250 dresses were donated this year, in sizes from 0 to 24.
Three large round racks were stuffed with dresses in black, white, jewel tones and pastels. The storefront had four dressing rooms, and the girls sometimes shared.
Jaylee said she had liked the deep purple color and the style of the dress. She will be wearing it to events, she said, and “I’ll probably just wear it randomly in college, just because it’s so pretty.”
Katy McMahon, a senior at Willmar Senior High, found a dress she loved, and a purse, necklace and gloves to go with it. She was shopping with friend Heidi Redepenning, who was sending texts to Katy’s mom.
Katy said she’s excited to wear the purple dress with a flouncy skirt to the Arc prom in Willmar and to dinner before the dance.
One mom waiting for her daughter to try on dresses praised the program. “Prom has gotten so expensive,” she said. “I think that this service is a wonderful thing for a lot of people.”
Organizers Sheila Johannes and Deb Kleven from the Willmar Schools and Desiree Weinandt, the mall’s marketing director, were there to help girls who needed it and to package their purchases.
They said they enjoy watching the girls and get excited for them when they find just the right dress. “It’s good for the girls, and it’s really nice for the parents’ checkbook,” Weinandt said.
The fair is a lot of work, Johannes said. “But it’s worth it,” she added. “It is so much fun and so rewarding.”
The fair has grown every year. It started at Willmar Senior High, but it eventually moved to a mall storefront and was opened to girls from any school. This year, a girl from Melrose came to look for a dress.
The organizers said many businesses and individuals have supported the fair. Girls received gift bags of beauty supplies and registered for prizes.
And each received a card with a saying about beauty: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others. For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness. And for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”