For years, most girls dream about the excitement and adventure that will await them on their high school prom night. Unfortunately, the high costs of dresses, hair styling and other accessories can quickly turn the dream into a nightmare.
To alleviate having to spend a fortune just for one night, the Riverside-Brookfield High School Parent Teacher Organization hosted the RB Boutique, a one-day, pop-up fashion shop featuring gently used dresses, shoes and accessories all priced at $20 or less.
On March 21, the PTO transformed the Hollywood House in Brookfield into a dazzling space featuring organized racks of dresses in all sizes, fancy tables donning sparkling jewelry and hair salons and makeup artists offering free demos and advice for girls and their moms looking to score great deals and styles for the big day.
The RB Boutique derived from the Glass Slipper Project, a program for low-income girls in Chicago schools to pick out prom wear from donated items collected from the city and surrounding suburbs.
While RBHS and its Student Association have collected and donated items to the Glass Slipper Project for years, LaGrange Park resident and PTO Vice President of Philanthropy Kathi Parisi decided it was time to provide a similar program for the RBHS community itself.
“Because prom is so expensive, we wanted to give every girl in the area an opportunity to shop and feel beautiful for their prom day,” Parisi said.
After meeting last summer to discuss the idea, the PTO decided to go ahead and offer local girls the chance to shop for designer dresses without having to spend designer dollars. The PTO and Student Association collected dresses and other accessories all year long in preparation for the sale.
Parisi, who has one daughter who is an RBHS graduate and two sons who are students there this year, believes that despite a girl’s financial situation, she should not need to feel the pressure of having to spend a fortune on attire for one evening.
“We wanted to do a pop up boutique [for] the girls to come and shop and not feel like it was a resale shop,” she said. “We wanted to make them feel like they’re in an actual boutique.”
The PTO spread the word about the boutique through posting fliers in the community, creating Facebook and Twitter pages and, of course, word of mouth. Parisi said the goal was to make the event inclusive for any area girl and said mothers and daughters came to the boutique from high schools including Lyons Township, Nazareth Academy and Hinsdale Central.
Mary Sloan, an independent consultant with Mary Kay cosmetics, heard about the event from friends and volunteered to provide makeup tips, because she believed in the mission and wished the boutique was around a few years ago when her own daughter was getting ready for RB’s prom.
“This is fabulous,” Sloan said. “I’m a single mom [and] I have some specials just for the girls, because I know how expensive it is to go to prom. Everything that I did today was a ‘dash out the door’ and I gave [girls] every day looks with some pointers on how to make it into a nighttime look.”
Coupons and prizes were also available at the boutique, including gift certificates from local flower shops, restaurants, photo studios and hair salons.
Vilia Walz, owner of Symmetry Hair Salon in LaGrange Park, volunteered at the event because she felt it was an important program for the community. With one son at RBHS and a daughter in eighth grade, she understands how expensive school events can become.
“I thought it was a great idea for the kids,” she said. “We own a hair salon and I thought we’d offer a raffle to donate prom hairdos.”
RBHS senior Alicja Sacha helped spread the word about the boutique at the high school and enjoyed the atmosphere of the day.
“Everyone is friendly, and I like that they’re helping out people that wouldn’t have enough money to buy such extravagant dresses,” she said. “Even if you don’t have enough money, you can still have a beautiful dress on a beautiful day.”
Caitlin Brennan, a Westchester resident and sophomore at Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst, came to the event after hearing about it from a family friend.
“All of the dresses and the presentation are really cool,” she said, holding a sparkling purple ball gown she was ready to purchase. “It’s like a mini store in here!”
All proceeds made at the RB Boutique will go towards students through the PTO. The group hopes to hold the event again next year based on the boutique’s positive feedback and popularity.