FCS’s 2011 Prom Boutique Serves Dozens of Local Teens

Record Donations helped make this year’s event a Success

FCS’s 2011 Prom Boutique Serves Dozens of Local TeensLONG BRANCH, NJ, April 11, 2011 – When 17-year-old Kaeleen Fallon emerged from the dressing room of the Family & Children’s Service Thrift Boutique wearing the stunning satin gown she saw hanging in the Boutique’s front window, it was as if she had stepped onto the set of the popular television show, “Say Yes to the Dress.”

“Do you like it? Is this THE DRESS?” volunteer Lorraine Weinberg asked.

Turning to examine the back of the dress in the full-length mirror, the Middletown South high school senior smiled enthusiastically.

“Do you like it, Kaeleen?” her mother, Mary Lynn Fallon, repeated.

“Never mind that,” her aunt, Lori Dowling, chimed in. “Do you LOVE it?”

“Yes,” Kaeleen exclaimed. “I love it!”

The experience was replicated throughout the day, Saturday, April 2 and into the week by dozens of other young women. Accompanied by their mothers, sisters, aunts and best friends, they flocked to the agency’s annual Prom Boutique, “Countless Dresses, Countless Memories” to hunt through the more than 400 donated dresses in search of their perfect prom dress. The dresses were available in every shade, length and style. Many were brand new with the tags still on them. The rest were in nearly-new condition, freshly pressed and professionally dry-cleaned. The labels read like a designer boutique: Jessica McClintock, Sherri Hill, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. But for the young shoppers, the best part was that each dress cost just $15, and for an additional five dollars, they could go home with a matching bag, shoes and even jewelry.

“This was way more than I expected,” commented Laina Tallefsen, a senior at Matawan Regional High School who found her perfect dress hanging on the mannequin in the front window — a floor-length bronze gown in raw silk. “I didn’t expect to find such a huge selection!”

For Lania’s mother, Regine, the large selection of dresses was an unexpected bonus. She brought her daughter and friend to shop the Prom Boutique for more practical reasons.

“My husband and I are both out of work and currently living on unemployment,” Regine said, “I don’t have to tell you how important this type of shop is for people who need to stretch their budget.”

Regine is not alone. The latest government statistics show unemployment for Monmouth County continues to hover around 9%, up almost a full percent from a year ago and nearly five percent in the past three years. The Prom Boutique, now in its second year, was designed to give young women and their families an opportunity to shop for prom attire without the pressure of the high price tag. The event took months of planning and organization and required the support of the entire community. Schools and churches sponsored dress collection drives. A local drycleaner generously offered to clean dresses at no cost, and volunteers signed up to assist with the sale.

“This is something we can relate to,” offered Melissa Velez, a sales associate at Old Navy in the East Brunswick Square Mall who volunteered to help on the opening day of the sale, along with several of her coworkers. “It’s so rewarding to give back and to know that these girls are getting such a good deal. The retail price of formal wear is ridiculous these days!”

“There is so much pressure to keep up with the Joneses,” Mary Lynn Fallon said, as she sorted through the pile of dresses Kaeleen brought to try on in the dressing room. “Kids feel they need to fit in. Shopping here takes a lot of pressure off the parent.”

In fact, Mary Lynn says Kaeleen regularly shops Thrift and is often complimented on her wardrobe.

“Kaeleen is very honest and open with her friends about where she buys her clothing, and for the most part, they really admire her for it. It gives her a chance to show her creative side.”

Another benefit of shopping the Prom Boutique is learning the value of giving back. Laina Tallefsen, who found her beautiful new silk gown in the shop window, discovered it hanging near another very familiar dress. It was the dress she wore to her Junior Prom last year and donated to the Thrift Shop for this year’s Prom Boutique. The green chartreuse cocktail dress was quickly snapped up by another shopper, who took it home to wear to her prom. The perfect dress, times two.

Click here to see additional photos from our Prom Boutique.