2022 is the second year in a row that the Cinderella Project has been scaled down because of the COVID pandemic. During this time, we have not been able to provide girls with the full Cinderella experience, but our dedicated ReFresh team has found creative solutions for girls to still receive the prom gowns of their dreams. We have thousands of dresses in stock from prom seasons that were cancelled during the pandemic, and we are currently not accepting formal gown donations. We look forward to resuming the full event and receiving your generous donations next year. Thank you for your support.
Every young lady deserves to feel like Cinderella at her prom! The Cinderella Project was started in 2015 with the mission to provide prom dresses for girls in St. Louis who could not afford it otherwise. Over the years, the project has outfitted hundreds of girls with their dream gowns and accessories to look and feel fabulous for their special prom night.
The Cinderella Project has become much more than giving free prom dresses to girls impacted by foster care. It’s an experience! Our community truly shows up to make this special event possible. Whether folks donate dresses, volunteer as a personal shopper to help teens choose the perfect dress, pick up dresses at donation locations, or volunteer as a seamstress, they all come together with one purpose: to make every girl feel like real VIPs – Very Important Princesses.
2022 is the second year in a row that this much-awaited event has been scaled-back as a result of the COVID pandemic. During this time, we have not been able to provide girls with the full Cinderella experience (sigh!). But the project didn’t completely stop. Our dedicated ReFresh team found a creative solution to continue to provide girls with the prom gowns of their dreams: virtual shopping tours.
Virtual shopping tours have been wildly successful. Over 30 girls have found their perfect dress through virtual shopping appointments! While this is far from the full Cinderella experience, young ladies still enjoy the process and love choosing and receiving their dresses.
Being able to continue providing dresses for the girls has been a bright spot amidst our limited work during the pandemic, so we wanted to share the joy with you. Now, who better to tell us all about it than Tammy Hayes, ReFresh Volunteer Manager, who has been the lead for this project, devoting her time, cheerfulness, and fashion expertise to make the virtual shopping experience all the more special. Here is what we learned from her:
YC: How did the virtual shopping tour idea come about?
TH: During 2021, we received a lot of calls from case managers and parents inquiring about prom dresses. Although most proms had been canceled because of Covid-19, girls still wanted to get glammed up for taking photos. We were so sad that we couldn’t meet this need to the same level as previous years, but we knew there had to be something we could do to help. So our ReFresh manager at the time came up with this idea – we could take the girls through the store virtually and safely deliver the dresses to their homes. We were delighted to be able to offer a solution instead of turning away prom dress inquiries!
YC: How do the girls pick their dress?
TH: The goal is for the girls to pick 5 dress options. When we receive an inquiry about a girl who needs a dress, the first thing we do is go through a few questions to help figure out how to best help them. We ask things like size, length, color, and style preferences. We know that most of the time they have a specific ‘dress goal’ in mind and we do our best to achieve that! At the end of the initial phone call, we set up an appointment for the video call.
Before the virtual tour, I pick out dresses based on the preference they expressed – on the video call, we go through my choices first. If the girl doesn’t like any of my picks, we go through all the racks in their preferred size and color. I encourage them to choose as many options as they’d like for this round – this really increases the chances of finding the perfect dress!
Once we’ve gone through all the dresses available, I take all the choices and hang them up nicely, in a room with plenty of light. I once again show each dress through video with great detail. We walk through each one of the finalists until we narrow it down to 5 dresses.
YC: What happens after they make their choices?
TH: I make sure to set up the delivery with plenty of time ahead of the date they need the dress for. I deliver their five dress choices to their home or case manager. The girls try the dresses on and take some time to think about their options. Within three to five days, I pick up the remaining four dresses they didn’t choose.
We’ve had great success with this process. Only a couple of times we’ve had to re-do the virtual shopping tour, and in those two instances, we successfully found the perfect dress the second time around.
YC: What is your favorite aspect of the Cinderella Virtual Shopping experience?
TH: It’s bittersweet! When we are with the girls in person you can see their excited faces! They feel and look so beautiful, they feel like princesses… I miss that!
My favorite part of virtual shopping though is the girls, parents, and case managers’ overwhelming gratefulness for this process. It takes a lot of patience from all of us to deal with the virtual appointments, drop-offs, pick-ups… It’s sure is a lot easier and more enjoyable to do it in person. However, the girls’ excitement for their dress is still there, and it makes it all worth it!
We miss the Cinderella Project experience! We miss our wonderful volunteers and sharing this exciting time with the young ladies we serve. We cannot wait to bring it back.
As mentioned above, the 2022 Cinderella Project has been canceled. Additionally, we are currently not accepting formal gown donations. Because the pandemic hit in early March 2020 and our ReFresh boutique has not been open since then, we still have thousands of dresses from that prom season. We’ve also received 500+ brand new gown donations since then. Our Cinderella storage area is very full and we can’t fit any additional dresses into it until we can safely have volunteer groups come in to help sort the dresses. We look forward to resuming the event and receiving all your wonderful donations next year!
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts to each one of you who has made the Cinderella Project possible over the years! We appreciate your passion to continue this wonderful work. We are also grateful for your patience as you’ve hung in there with us, while we navigated the uncertainties of this time.