The Princess Project: Giving Out Free Prom Dresses and Priceless Self-Confidence.

The Princess Project promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. 

Ten years ago, a young girl mentioned to Laney Whitcanack that she was not going to her high school prom. Laney thought the girl, who was part of a non-profit program she was running, was not going to the prom because she didn’t have a date, or because she didn’t have the resources to pay for the ticket. The fact was that she didn’t have a dress.

“I sent and email to about 25 friends saying hey, does anyone have a dress that this young woman can borrow for her prom. I ended up getting over 500 emails overnight.” And The Princess Project was born. They served over 200 girls in their first year back in 2002. This year, they’ll serve 6,000 girls across California.

Founders Laney Whitcanack and Kristi Smith Knutson created a mission statement, and started recruiting volunteers. They found out that communities are excited about supporting young women to celebrate with confidence and style. The Princess Project is made possible through invaluable volunteer, donor and community support. They rely on donations of gently-used dresses from women in the community, and new dresses from corporate donations. Corporate sponsors like Macy’s and Swarskski crystals take part, even start-ups like Modcloth get involved.

“One of the things that we’re really committed to is making sure that every girl has a choice of dresses when they come. Be they size zero or size 30.” The Princess Project has over 20,000 dresses on hand at their several locations across the state.

The Princess Project distributes the dresses, and accessories—everything a girl might need for a prom, at pop-stores. They gather up all of the dresses they’ve collected throughout the year, and create a retail experience for the girls. There’s only one difference between shopping at a Princess Project shop and a regular retail store—no money is being exchanged.

Girl-serving organizations that work with teenage or pregnant mothers, even the LGBT community can make private appointments to shop at the pop-up; as do high schools who bring bus-loads of girls to the Princess Project. Individuals can also make appointment times. “It’s very much a dignified shopping experience.”

The girls fill out what is called a “Princess Pass” with some data about them, then going shopping from station to station. They try to have five dresses for every girl they serve. Each girl leaves with a dress, an accessory, and a gift item from one of the corporate sponsor. But most of all, they leave with a sense of self-beauty and confidence. 

The dress drive for this year ends today, with each of those 6,000 girls dreaming of the night of their prom coming up over the next few months—dreaming with self-confidence and pride at how they will look, and feel, the night of that special night.

Once the prom is over, the girls are encouraged to donate the dress back to The Princess Project—for that next girl to find her own sense of individual beauty.

Every year, The Princess Project seeks and receives thousands of beautiful new or nearly new dresses and accessories from individual donors and corporate partners. Go to their website to learn how you can get involved.

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