Across Marin County, elegant dresses, stylish shoes and sharp tuxedos will be ready for high school proms this spring — all for free.
The formalwear, both new or lightly used, is being assembled to level the playing field for students.
“We felt it was important that every student gets the opportunity to attend the prom,” said Liv Villanova, a Redwood High School student who is organizing the school’s new “Prom Boutique” at the Village at Corte Madera. “Money should not be a reason they can’t attend.”
The shop, which is opposite the Apple Store at the mall, will be open Saturday and Sunday for students to try on and choose outfits. Donations of clothes or shoes can be contributed by dropping them off at the Redwood High School office or by calling the mall at 415-924-8588.
“Redwood has not had this kind of program before,” said Villanova, a junior who came up with the boutique idea after attending last year’s prom as a guest. “I just kind of realized how expensive it is, with clothes, transportation and tickets — it can cost as much as $300.”
At Tamalpais High School, longtime parent organizer Stephanie Young said a team of students, families and merchants have collected closets full of beautiful formalwear, now being stored at Young’s home in Mill Valley.
“It’s a community builder,” said Young, who founded the prom clothes donation drive more than five years ago. “Kids get all excited about the prom, and they can pick out what they like.”
“People from the community get involved,” she said. “We have many community partners who want to support the kids.”
The team is seeking donations for what it has renamed the “Tam High Pop-Up Prom Shop.” Donations may be dropped off at the school office at 700 Miller Ave.; the Mill Valley Community Center at 180 Camino Alto; Bloom Marin at 1557 Fourth St. in San Rafael; the Store at 68 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley; and French Laundry and Cleaners at 228 E. Blithedale Ave. in Mill Valley.
In addition, students on the team are taking drive-up donations from parents on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for two weeks during the morning carpool lineup at the school. The donation deadline is March 25.
Young and others will assemble the donations of new or gently used clothing and shoes in the Tam High gym for students to make their picks on March 30 and 31.
“I’m a big believer in sustainable fashion, green fashion,” said student organizer Sophia Weinberg, 16, a junior. “I think it’s really important that we’re reusing formalwear and not being wasteful — and giving equal access to everybody.”
Ava Nevolo, 17, a senior, said she is on the Tam High prom donations team for the second year in a row.
“Seeing last year how many people really enjoyed the event, it was far more successful than I ever imagined,” Nevolo said of the donation drive. “Especially with guys, there’s a big interest in getting formalwear.”
Tickets for the prom can go as high as $150 each, she said.
“I just know that with the prom ticket price being so high, a lot of the issue is: Do I want to get a prom ticket or do I find a nice dress?”
At the Novato Unified School District, San Marin and Novato high schools are joining forces on the prom outfits collection drive, said student organizer Lisa Ferrigno.
Donations may be made at the Novato and San Marin High School offices. The dropoff deadline is March 17. Pickups will be made upon request. The contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Benjamin, district spokesperson, said the prom attire shopping event will be held for both schools on March 17, 18 and 19 in the old gym at Novato High School at 625 Arthur St.
“It is open to all NUSD seniors,” Benjamin said. “On the last day, it will be open to juniors and sophomores. All items are free.”
In addition to prom or bridesmaid dresses, the schools are collecting suits, dress shirts, shoes, purses and jewelry, Benjamin said.
Details are still being worked out at San Rafael City Schools, where formalwear donation drives are planned for students at San Rafael and Terra Linda high schools, said Christina Perrino, district spokesperson.
After prom cancellations in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, and some schools having COVID-19 outbreaks after the 2022 proms, organizers this year are hoping for a post-pandemic fresh start.
“Before and after COVID, people were isolated from everyone,” Weinberg said.
“The prom is a good opportunity for people to reconnect with each other and not be so isolated,” she said. “Which is why we want to encourage everyone to go to the prom and have that experience.”