Girls Get 'Equal Opportunity' to Look Elegant in FiDi Prom Dress Giveaway

Girls pose with the free gowns they have selected at the Project G.L.A.M. event, sponsored by WGirls Inc. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 28, 2019

“I feel fabulous,” said Rachel, a student at Harlem Prep Middle School.

“I feel like Marilyn Monroe!” gushed Erica, who attends Hillside Arts and Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens.

“It’s magical,” exclaimed Diadelez, who will graduate this year from Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical High School in the Bronx.

Rachel, Erica and Diadelez were among more than a thousand girls who came to the Financial District on a recent Sunday, excitedly picking out a dress for their upcoming proms, thanks to the non-profit organization WGirls Inc. Through its Project G.L.A.M. (Granting Lasting Amazing Memories), girls whose families otherwise could not afford a high-priced gown were treated to one—for a $5 donation—from among racks upon racks of donated new dresses, more than 7,000 of them, plus an assortment of cosmetics and accessories to choose from. WGirls Inc. calls the annual event the largest prom dress giveaway on the East Coast and it draws more than 300 volunteers to help out.

Pausing amid the swirl of young shoppers, Holly Lemanowicz, co-president of the WGirls New York City chapter, fought back tears as she talked about what the event means to her. “I feel so emotional, it feels so good to give someone a great experience, something they normally wouldn’t be able to do,” said Lemanowicz, 29, a Financial District resident. “To be able to give an experience that I had in high school to someone in need. It’s just very powerful.”

Through school counselors, teachers and social workers, the girls are vetted for need and must be passing all their classes, have good attendance records and be on track to graduate.

Launched in 2010, Project G.L.A.M. draws its donations of gowns from individuals and, increasingly, from dress companies that have mismatched bridesmaid outfits, samples, fitting dresses and other unworn garments to give away. “The quality of our dresses is pretty high and it makes the girls feel good,” said Genevieve Vaida, 31, who is co-president of the local WGirls Inc. chapter with Lemanowicz.

“To me, as a single parent, this is a great help,” said the mother of a girl who had just emerged from the dressing area, beaming in a pink dress with a pearl-festooned beige top. “And it makes the kids happy to come today to have fun, to see their other friends pick out a dress. It’s like they’re shopping.”

“When you take them to the store and you don’t have that amount of finance they take what they can get,” the mother added. “Here they have a lot to choose from. That may be a $500 dress you’re looking at.

Or, as Belissa, a senior at the High School for Arts and Business in Corona, Queens, put it, wearing a dress from Project G.L.A.M., “means having an equal opportunity to look as beautiful and elegant as anyone with a bunch of money.”