Prom may be a rite of passage for most high school students but often poses a large financial burden. Ann Arbor resident Jan Wery, along with several other volunteers, founded the Prom Dress Project — an organization that collects donated prom dresses and sells them for $25 or less — to address this issue.
According to Wery, donations for the prom dress sale continue to grow every year, and this year, the project has once again achieved a new record of donations. Now in its sixth year, this year’s annual sale will be the biggest yet. The event will feature 500 long prom dresses and 100 shorter dresses, all between $10 and $25 and including sizes 0 to 20.
Volunteers have helped to build dressing rooms for the event, which will take place March 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Plymouth Road. Volunteers will also be available to help students pick out and try on dresses.
“It’s gotten so much bigger and so many donations,” Wery said in an interview with MLive. “The community is so generous. The dresses that come in are just really beautiful.”
In prior years, Wery stored the project’s donations in the basement of her home, but this year’s donations have outgrown that space, so Wery rented storage to accommodate the increased amount.
According to Wery, she first conceived the idea when she was working in an Ann Arbor thrift shop. Wery was disappointed students didn’t shop for prom dresses in the thrift shop, despite the store having beautiful dresses available.
“Girls weren’t coming to shop for a prom dress at the thrift shop. … But there were some very pretty dresses,” Wery said. “That’s when I decided we’ve got to have a special place and a special day for girls to come for prom dresses.”
Wery also noticed how the prom dresses the thrift shop received were in great condition because most students wore their dresses for only one night. While most dresses donated to the project are in excellent condition, Wery cleans all of the dresses and makes small repairs when necessary to make sure every dress is stunning.
Wery said her favorite moment is when a girl finds a dress.
“It’s just so much fun when they get the dress that is meant for them,” Wery said. “They put it on and the smiles are just unbelievable.”
The group welcomes any student in the Washtenaw County area to come to the event and look for a prom dress. Wery emphasized the group accepts donations year-round. To donate a dress, send an email to A2promdressproject@comcast.net.