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Prom on a Budget
Published Friday, May 12, 2017

Left: girls wait in line to try on dresses at SNHU's Girls Night Out. Courtesy photo.

To stave off embarrassments at proms, formal wear shops won’t sell the same dress to more than one student from the same high school. That limits selection, says Memorial High senior Lindsay Vlangas of Manchester, whose tight budget already restricts her.

Vlangas drapes several billowy gowns over her left arm as she waits for the makeshift dressing rooms in the gymnasium at Southern NH University (SNHU) in Manchester, where faculty and students assembled 450 donated dresses.

SNHU volunteers, along with other colleges and high schools around the state, collect gently worn apparel for interviews and formal occasions.

The SNHU student volunteers who planned and facilitated the event. Courtesy photo.

On the evening of April 11, buses from SNHU transported a few hundred students for a “Girls Night Out” to give teens in low-income communities a place to find black-tie attire at no cost.

It is at this event that Vlangas hopes to find her prom dress.

She shrugs off any pejorative connotations associated with “used” clothing, noting these dresses have only been worn once. “And they’re clean,” she adds.    

Kay Young, the mother of Memorial High senior Rachel Young, also attended the SNHU event. She says she and her daughter often hunt for treasure through used goods.

Her friend loaned her daughter money to get an inexpensive dress on Amazon. When it arrived, it looked nothing like the photo. After the SNHU event, “we’re returning it,” she says.

“Prom is important,” says Rachel Young. And with fiscal cuts at the high school, “this is the one thing they can’t take away from us.” But she’ll forgo the limo and salon appointments.

For students like Young, economizing is its own fashion statement.

More prom stories:
Prom Pressure

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