Krystal Pike remembers what it felt like to worry about getting a prom dress.
As the daughter of a single mom, there was rarely extra money left over for things like a ballgown or salon day.
“I felt like those kinds of things wouldn’t be for me,” she said.
But Pike also remembers friends who lent her dresses to make sure she could attend dances when she went to Warrenton High School.
“It was a feeling of acceptance ... the feeling of being included,” she said. “They didn’t want me to miss out on something like that. We still wanted to do things together, but if you didn’t have a dress you couldn’t go — just like Cinderella. I just remember feeling like somebody cared enough.”
So on Saturday, it was especially meaningful for Pike, a stylist for Allure Salon, to be able to help girls getting ready for Warrenton and Seaside proms through Cinderella’s Closet. The program, run by the Assistance League of the Columbia Pacific, lends prom and homecoming dresses to students who may not otherwise be able to afford the attire.
About 30 students on the North Coast took advantage this year of the stockpile of shoes, accessories and more than 600 donated dresses.
The hope is to make everyone “feel like a princess” at prom, said Seana Fields, the program’s newly named chairwoman.
“Going to dances is expensive. This is about giving girls the opportunity to level the playing field,” she said.
This year, the program worked with four local salons to give students a free hair and makeup session.
“We thought, ‘How could we make it more special?’” Fields said.
When Pike heard about the opportunity, she knew she had to get involved.
“I just wanted to give back to a young girl like myself who couldn’t drive to Portland and try on a bunch of dresses,” she said.
Adding a free salon day is part of Fields’ overall goal to expand Cinderella’s Closet and revitalize its image. For several years, the Assistance League has seen participation lag.
In the past, the league has struggled to get the word out through schools, as well as battled the perception the donated dresses are too out of style or only for girls with single-digit dress sizes.
Fields hopes to change that by doing a fundraiser so the program can have its own money and flexibility to buy a variety of dresses each year.
Fields joked that she has already started studying by scrolling through everyone’s prom photos on Facebook.
She also wants to include boys by accepting donations for items like dress slacks and shirts.
“Yes, (dances) are frivolous and fun. But it’s another layer of what it’s like to be in high school,” Fields said. “I want to see people feeling comfortable and happy, and I think it’s important to give people the opportunity if it’s there. These things aren’t necessities, so it’s nice to not add additional burden to families.”
For Janessa Bork, a freshman at Warrenton High School, the idea of getting all dolled up in makeup and a fancy dress for prom made her a little nervous.
“I wasn’t sure how I’d like it on me,” she said.
Buying an expensive dress for one night seemed financially unrealistic for her family. Her initial local shopping trip to find a dress in her budget wasunfruitful.
So when Bork saw a flyer for Cinderella’s Closet, she decided to give it a try.
“I think it’s great,” June Bork, her mother, said while watching her daughter’s hair get curled. “Dresses are expensive, and we couldn’t find anything here. Her friends would have been doing her hair instead if it weren’t for this.”
Now she has a red, strapless ballgown to look forward to on prom night. About halfway through her hair appointment, it was clear Janessa Bork’s nervousness had faded.
“I’m getting more excited about it,” she said, smiling into the salon mirror.