Cinderella Closet helps area girls get all dressed up

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published March 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 29, 2013 at 9:28 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Tawny Wire runs the Cinderella Closet from her home in Bald Knob, with more than 300 dresses donated and available for girls in 11 school districts in White and Cleburne counties who might otherwise not be able to afford a prom dress.

— Tawny Wire has so many dresses in her bedroom closet that they’ve overflowed into the living room.

There are nearly 400 crammed onto wobbly clothing racks, so tall they knocked out the light on Wire’s ceiling fan. The dresses take up so much room that Wire, 24, couldn’t even put up a Christmas tree this year.

The mounds of dresses aren’t the result of an untreated shopping addiction or a calendar cluttered with galas. Instead, the dresses in Wire’s home in Bald Knob are all donated as part of her Cinderella Closet project.

Starting in February 2012, Wire has been gathering donated, gently used prom dresses to loan, free of charge, to area girls who might not otherwise be able to afford a dress.

“I started the program because I had a dress in my closet for seven years and didn’t want to sell it,” Wire said. “Used promwear is really difficult to sell.”

The dress Wire had on hand was from a pageant she competed in when she was a sophomore in high school. But prom season hadn’t been so easy for Wire when she was growing up.

“It was awful,” Wire said. “I’m a plus-size girl, and it’s so much more difficult to find dresses that aren’t upward of $500.”

Wire’s mother raised her on her own, and money was tight. But Wire still felt the pressure that many girls do today to have a nice dress for prom.

“There is a ton of pressure to keep up with the latest trends or have something designer,” Wire said.

When she started her program last year, it was just two months before prom season. Wire had 50 dresses donated and ended up sending 20 girls to prom. Now, the Closet has close to 400 dresses from which girls can choose.

The Closet is run from Wire’s small home in Bald Knob. She currently provide dresses to girls from Heber Springs, Pangburn, Searcy, Judsonia, Beebe, Des Arc, Bald Knob, Bradford, Pleasant Plains, Concord, Rosebud and Quitman.

Although the dresses are free for girls to borrow, a contract must be signed that says the dresses must be returned without alterations, rips or stains; otherwise, a fee will be charged. Each girl gets to have the dress for two weeks.

“When girls come [to shop], I’ll do a round of pulls of designer dresses, and then everything else in their size range,” Wire said. In addition to prom dresses, she offers a small selection of shoes and a few bridal gowns. She has provided dresses for three weddings so far.

After each dress is worn, Wire pays to have the dress cleaned. It’s an expense that has cost more than $700 so far, but Wire doesn’t seem to mind funding the program with money from her own pocket.

“I love to get to help all these girls that are in the same situation I was in growing up,” Wire said.

Many of the dresses Wire has were newly purchased in the past few years. Older dresses — styles from the ’80s and ’90s — are given to Nana’s New 2 U consignment shop in Searcy to raise funds for the Closet.

Wire now has more donated dresses than she’s able to keep up with and is looking only for donated dresses in sizes 20 and up. Wedding dresses in sizes 14-24 are also needed.

Those interested in learning more about the Cinderella Closet program can contact Wire at (501) 283-2130.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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