Prom dresses hit runway at Tiverton High fashion show


TIVERTON — The announcement of a school shutdown the next day due to an approaching blizzard had already been made, but that didn't stop a crowd of about 200 from attending a prom dress fashion show at Tiverton High School on Thursday, Feb. 7.

The event was the real thing. For about 90 minutes, 13 high school girls — accompanied by 10 high school boys who volunteered to be their escorts — paraded along the runway in the Tiverton High School Auditorium, to the accompaniment of upbeat music (e.g. "Dancing Queen," "Fireworks") and a light show. All the dresses modeled were donated for the occasion.

The event was the senior project of Kristen Morrissette, who last summer conceived of a fashion show as a way to stimulate interest in the donation of prom dresses to  Becca's Closet, a national non-profit organization, with a local THS chapter, that collects prom dresses and gives them away to girls who need them.

That can be almost anyone. As any parent of a teenage girl knows, the latter years of high school are filled with springtime events that call for dresses of various sorts usually at steep prices.

Her idea worked.

"It was awesome," said Kristen. "Everyone involved is so happy. It went better than I expected. I absolutely feel it was a huge success. I felt something would go wrong along the way, but nothing did. Everyone at school was talking about it the day we came back." That was Tuesday, as the blizzard forced the cancellation of school through the following Monday —  the buzz about the show lasted for a good four days.

Cathy Winston, a guidance counselor at THS, served as Kristen's advisor. She has been involved in organizing the only local chapter of Becca's Closet in Rhode Island. It's called "Becca's Closet of Tiverton High School," and it has its own Facebook Page.

"There were a ton of kids involved in the fashion show project," Ms. Winston  said, "and a handful of teachers, both men and women." The event raised about $400 in ticket sales and contributions, she said

DJ services, music, and the speakers, and the light show, were provided at no cost by Michael Cordeiro, a 1986 THS graduate. "Oh my god, he made such a huge difference in the program," said Ms. Winston. "He had the whole thing."

Samantha Marshall, also a THS student, shared in producing the fashion show. "Samantha was constantly at my house, helping me plan. I honestly don't think I could have put it together without her," said Kristen.

In connection with her support for Becca's Closet, Kristen said Ms. Winston "has a huge basement filled with dresses."

Picking up the dresses

The big day for giving away the dresses is April 1, and the selection is immense.

From 2 to 8 p.m. on that day, Revive Hair Salon, a Portsmouth salon located at 2515 East Main (telephone 683-0110), will have "about 600 dresses to give away, in a broad range of styles, sizes and colors," said Revive co-proprietor Mary Ferreira.

This is the second year that she and Sharon Phelan, who operate Revive together, have participated in the Becca's Closet dress give-away program. Last year they gave away close to 150.

"Our entire staff of nine shows up for the event," Ms. Ferreira said. "We try to be very hands on and help the girls with the process. It's outrageous what people can spend. We try to promote it as a green event. Just to recycle. It's for anyone who may be looking for a dress."

Ms. Ferreira said she and her staff donate free make up and hair consultations for the girls the day of the event. "It's so exciting for us to see these girls get excited, and get excited about themselves."

Ms. Ferreira said "the dresses are all very current and in tune with what's in fashion." She said all the dresses are brand new or dry cleaned and inspected before being displayed for being given away.

Anyone can get a dress. "All the dresses are free for any girl in the  community, on a first come first serve basis," said Ms. Winston. They will be given away on the one day only. Anyone interested should call Revive at any time and make a half-hour appointment for Monday, April 1. They can come alone or with a friend to try it on and pick it up.

"There is no proof of financial need required," said Ms. Winston. "We just take them at their word."




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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.