Prom Gown Resale For Good Cause

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - January 31, 2007
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Prom is for teenage girls what the Super Bowl is for football fans. And although just one gets to be prom queen, every girl wants to look like a princess.

Which brings us to the all-important dress. The prom dress has to be beautiful. It has to be elegant. It has to be perfect. And that, too often, means it will be expensive. A dress can run anywhere from $100 to $500, an amount not every family can afford to pay.

But the reality is, they do. They pay because they remember their own proms, and they know how important it is for their daughter to look and feel radiant on a special night.

But now - hooray - there’s an alternative to budget-breaking dresses. Enter the teenage duo of Emily Fukunaga and Alexa Untermann. These Punahou juniors are teaming up once again to tackle not one, but two problems: pricey prom dresses and domestic abuse.

The project is a dress sale called Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

Saoirse McCaig, fund development coordinator for the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline, says the concept evolved around the notion that girls only use their prom dresses once, “so we take gently used prom dresses and resell them. Young women get the word out and the proceeds go to the Domestic Violence Clearing-house.”

And the dresses are quite a bargain. McCaig says, “It can help someone who can’t afford a $300 dress, but can certainly afford a $50 dress.” That’s right. The dresses, some with their original price tags still hanging, are priced around $50, some more, some less, depending on the brand.

Who can resist a sale like this? Emily and Alexa headed the project for the first time last year and made $3,400 for the Clearinghouse. That is the beauty of it. While soliciting girls to donate their dresses, they’re also becoming ambassadors for a cause. “It’s a way to help girls,” Alexa says, “and contribute a little bit to the community.”

One of the things they’ve learned and that they’ve been able to pass on to their student body is that abuse comes in many forms, not just the physical, and that teen dating violence is not at all rare.

“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” Emily says. Some of her girlfriends have been involved with guys who controlled their every move, “but I never thought it was abuse.”

Now she knows better, and she’s not afraid to speak up if she thinks something’s wrong.

Alexa learned that domestic abuse is a hidden problem.

“It’s confidential, so we don’t hear about it a lot. I guess I wasn’t really aware of it, but I’ve learned. My mom had a boyfriend who kind of abused her. I’ve heard stories from her. It really opened my eyes to what’s out there and what can happen.”

That’s what makes this particular fundraiser so effective. Emily wants her peers to understand what’s going on in their relationships, because if they do, “I think girls would stand up for themselves more.”

The project takes up a huge amount of time for these two over-achieving teens.

“Junior year is a little bit more stressful,” Alexa says. “My parents actually asked me, ‘Do you have time for this?’ But you can always make time.”

Emily does it for the dresses, for the looks on the girls’ faces when they try them on, “and we’re helping the Domestic Clearinghouse raise all this money.

Alexa agrees. “I’m really glad we have a clearinghouse.”

Dress drives have taken place at most of the private high schools on Oahu. This year’s prom dress sale is Feb. 10 at La Pietra School. Girls will come for the sale, but they’ll also have the opportunity to win gift certificates to get their hair and makeup done professionally on the big day. They’ll also have the chance to shop for accessories to go along with their great new dresses.

And I’d like to put in a plug here. The high schools participating are all private - so far the word hasn’t gone out to public schools. If you’re a public high school student who’d like to know more about this year’s dress sale, or you’d like to learn how to organize a dress drive at your own school, call Saoirse (pronounced SER-SHA) McCaig at the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse at 534-0040.

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