VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Kristin Hosack tucked in the thin straps and gazed down at the wedding dress she was trying on.
Could she add a glittery layer under the lacy dress? And remove the straps?
Sure, a helpful stylist told her. They could do whatever she wanted.
Then she'd take it, she replied.
Hosack, a fifth-grade teacher at Grassfield Elementary in Chesapeake, Va., flashed a smile.
But finding the one wasn't the only reason she was smiling. Her dress would be free.
For the second year in a row, the dress shop on Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach made plans to offer 50 lucky engaged teachers a free wedding dress of their choice.
Alex Fleear, the owner of Ava Clara Couture Bridal, created Tulle for Teachers, a nonprofit organization to support schoolteachers. She wanted teachers to get more recognition, the way members of the military do.
"I felt our teachers should be represented a little more," she said.
Last year, she gave away 30, but this year she upped her game to 50 dresses. About half are from her shop and half are donations from designers.
The ladies sent in applications and found out a few days before the event if they were selected. Then, early Monday morning, they lined up to get inside the shop. Six were let in at a time and given 30 minutes each to select their dress.
Hosack got there at 5:15 a.m. She was too excited to get any more sleep, she said.
When word got out about the dress giveaway, seven co-workers tagged her on Facebook about it. She was thrilled to get the good news.
"It's just really exciting and a huge burden off my shoulders," she said.
Waiting in line was fun, too. She and the other teachers there swapped stories and became fast friends.
"It's just nice that someone wants to help," she said.
Before showing up Monday, she did her homework figuring out which dress styles she liked and which ones she didn't. It made the short window she had with the free dresses more productive.
Elizabeth Bell, a math teacher from Richmond, Va., was one of the first to walk away with her free dress. She said the gesture made her feel valued and appreciated as a teacher.
Kiana Wister was one of three engaged teachers from Phoebus High School to win one of the dresses. The biology teacher said it was fun to see a different side of her co-workers.
She vowed to keep an open mind and tried on six or seven dresses before picking the one she'd take home.
"You know when you put it on," she said. For her July wedding, she wanted something lacy and summery, and that's exactly what she found.
She got there at 7 a.m. and there was already a crowd, she said.
LaTonia Kelley, who also drove drown from Richmond, used to teach at An Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News, Va., before moving to Richmond to teach math.
She had a strategy. She wasn't in the first group of brides, but she could peek through the large windows at the front of the store to see the process. With the other women, she gave them feedback, excitedly smiling and cheering through the window.
She even dressed for the occasion, donning a T-shirt that had the word "girlfriend" scratched out and the word "fianceé" underneath it.
For her dress, she wanted something glamorous but not too glamorous, and it had to have straps for support. When she found it, she knew because it fit perfectly.
"It zipped," she said with a smile and a laugh.
High Profile on 12/01/2019
Print Headline: Schoolteachers lauded with free wedding dresses