Project Prom

Johnson County Public Library provides free prom attire

For many high school students, prom is one of the most important days of their year. But, for some, it can be overshadowed by the thought of having to spend so much money on getting ready, between a dress or suit, shoes and accessories.

But, “Project Prom,” a program put on by the Johnson County Public Library, is aiming to change that. Each year, they gather new and used prom attire and give it away for free. This opens the door for many people to go to prom who otherwise couldn’t have afforded it.

“A lot of costs are going up and everything,” Nicole Caudill, a Library Assistant at the Trafalgar Branch of the Johnson County Library said. “It’s from gas to household items and groceries, so you know, if we can just help a couple families to keep their costs down with the kids getting a free dress or a free suit, that would just be nice.”

Caudill has been involved in the program for a few years, and its mission is close to her heart. When her kids were in high school, they sometimes struggled to buy the extravagant prom clothing because it was so costly. She said that they would often look for something cheaper that they were able to afford.

But, for some, the high cost doesn’t just drive them to find cheaper clothing, it causes them to forfeit going to the dance at all.

Senior Audra Barclay said that she has heard many students at SHS mention not going to prom because of the high price tag that accompanies it. She said that the main reason is because the prom tickets are so expensive and that adding on the cost of formal wear on top of the already expensive ticket only deters more people.

“There’s an expectation that you have to look a certain way at prom and have a long formal dress,” Barclay said. “So that doesn’t help the situation.”

Having the opportunity to get free formal wear will enable more people to have the prom experience and will ease their money related concerns. Barclay said that having that cost taken care of will allow students to have enough to buy the prom ticket itself.

“It’s just one less thing for them to worry about,” Barclay said. There’s a lot of things to consider going into something that’s kind of costly. So if they can get the dress out of the way and know that they’re gonna look the part… then maybe they can make up enough money to go to prom.”

Caudill hopes that the event can help as many people as possible and Project Prom has been promoting itself on social media. Last year, they gave away about 100 dresses, and they’re prepared to do many more this year. Nearly 1,000 dresses have been donated. Most have been contributed by members of the community, but some prom and bridal stores, like Sophia’s Bridal and Tux, have also donated new dresses.

The event is on March 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and March 20 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Franklin Branch of the Johnson County Library. It will be behind the main library building at the storage barn that houses all of the clothing.

Caudill says that they have “a little bit of everything,” from dresses, to tuxes, to shoes to accessories, so it is a one stop shop for all things prom.

For her, the most meaningful part is seeing how her work impacts the high schoolers who come to the event.

“It makes me happy to see young women or young men come and have the chance to find something that they feel beautiful in,” Caudill said.