Fairy Tale Fashions
Nobody wants to show up to the prom in a pumpkin and a plain dress. Since fairy godmothers are fictitious, a San Diego nonprofit has stepped in to wave the wand instead. Cinderella’s Attic makes sure every girl gets to be the belle of the ball.
“After-school activities have gotten so expensive,” says founder and president Kerry Spark, who is also a full-time teacher in Poway. “I feel strongly that prom is something that everyone should experience, and the most expensive part is often the dress.”
Once a year, Cinderella’s Attic hosts the Prom Boutique at the Mission Valley Hilton. “I want the girls to feel like they’re shopping like every other girl,” says Spark. “It could be a boutique in La Jolla.”
A giant print of glamorous Marilyn Monroe presides over the hotel’s grand ballroom during the one-day event, which takes place this year on April 14. There’s music and dressing rooms and endless racks of princess-for-a-night formalwear, sorted by size. And, although shoppers probably won’t find any glass slippers, they are invited to pick out coordinating shoes, jewelry, shawls, and clutches.
“Each girl is invited to bring one guest, and they get hooked up with one of our volunteers, who serve as personal shoppers,” explains Spark. “The volunteers go through all the dresses beforehand, so they know what’s in stock. They give the girls oodles of compliments while still being honest so that they can find the perfect dress together.”
And there are dresses aplenty. Spark started Cinderella’s Attic out of her garage in 2005. Now, donations come in all year from across the country. Nicole Miller is a big supporter — Stefanie Lyon, owner of Nicole Miller in The Forum Carlsbad, serves on the organization’s board of directors, and says, “I believe so strongly in their mission. What confidence the gift of a beautiful prom dress can provide for these young women!” And the San Diego community lends its philanthropic backing, as well, from financial and dress donations to volunteering.
Shoppers don’t need to prove they’re low-income to attend the Prom Boutique. “If someone is coming to the event, then it must be beneficial in some way. Maybe it leaves them enough money for a corsage or dinner plans. Money is tight for everyone. If they’re willing to wait it out at the event, I know they need it.”
And the girls couldn’t be more appreciative. In one recent testimonial, a high school student named Desiree explains that her mother, a senior citizen with low income, had recently lost her job. Desiree didn’t know how she’d afford a dress. Then she heard about Cinderella’s Attic. “It was a godsend,” she writes. “I felt proud to be escorted to my senior prom in my beautiful, vintage dress.”
As for Spark, who recently doubled her board to six members, freeing her to be hands-on with the shoppers, there’s a moment for every girl that’s pure magic.
“They’ll try dresses on and nothing is quite right,” she says. “Then they’ll come out of the dressing room and everyone will shed a tear. They just know that this is the dress. That’s my favorite moment.” (www.cinderellasattic.org) ANNAMARIA STEPHENS