Cinderella’s Closet Network offers free and low-cost formal dress rentals.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” said 17-year-old Kayla Washburn of Lacey as she browsed for something to wear to Timberline High School’s prom. “You’re not always going to have a place to wear a prom dress.”
For $25 to $40 – the cost of dry cleaning service – a teen can choose a dress and an accessory such as a wrap, fancy high-heeled shoes, the perfect purse or matching costume jewelry for her event.
Scholarships are available for girls who can’t afford the dry cleaning fee.
All 900 or so new and gently used dresses in stock were donated by stores and individuals, said co-founder Mary Ann Detzler, who also claims the title “fairy godmother.”
“I found this is the most generous community,” she said. “This is community donated, for community use.”
Originally known as Cinderella’s Attic and located in Tumwater, the nonprofit was established by Detzler and her daughter Renata Hanson in October 2009.
Cinderella’s Closet Network was a way Hanson could continue working with young people and find a use for the 20 formal dresses that her daughters had left over from proms and other special events, Detzler said.
“My daughter was going through empty nest,” she said.
Although it’s especially busy right now because of prom season, the shop is open year-round, and its dresses – ranging from children’s 5 to women’s 28 – are available to any girl or woman who needs one.
Last year, the organization rented about 150 dresses and lent for free about 70. Its dresses have been worn to weddings, military balls, homecoming dances, fashion shows and other special events. One recently took center stage at the Mrs. Washington pageant, Detzler said.
The shop is operated by Detzler and other volunteers, including several high school girls who are earning their community service hours to meet graduation requirements.
As fairy godmother, a big part of Detzler’s job is to help give girls and women the courage to try on dresses and have fun pulling together a Hollywood red carpet look.
“We’re very much into self-esteem and making sure people feel good when they come in here,” Detzler said.
On a recent afternoon, Rhonda Phillips of Lacey sat in a rocking chair while Washburn, her daughter, tried on about a dozen long dresses.
“I want the ‘wow’ factor,” Phillips said. “We’ve never done prom before.”
After nearly an hour of trying on dresses, and some friendly debate, the mom and daughter agreed on a stunning, floor-length, royal blue dress with a silver halter-style strap, matching wrap and clutch purse.
One of the perks of renting is that since it wasn’t brand new from a retail store, it would probably be the only one of its kind, Phillips said.
“I love it,” Washburn added. “I love the material and how long it is, and the design of it.”
Meantime, Ashley McIntosh, 17, a junior at Avanti High School in Olympia, picked up a long black dress with an embroidered design and a lace-up back, a pair of shoes and some jewelry.
McIntosh estimated that it would have cost more than $200 to buy a dress like the one she found at Cinderella’s Closet Network.
“It’s totally perfect,” she said, grinning. “It doesn’t even look like it’s ever been worn.”
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org
If you shop: Cinderellas Closet Network is at 719 Sleater-Kinney Road S.W. in South Sound Center in Lacey, behind Kohls. Hours during the school year are 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Since the organization is a registered charity, donations of cash or slightly used and new formal gowns, shoes, purses and other accessories are tax deductible. For more information, call 360-790-3264