SUDBURY -- Prom and graduation season may be months away but the Sudbury Women’s Centre is putting out the call for formal dress donations to assist those who may not be able to purchase their own.     

This is the third year the non-profit organization is looking to help young people find the perfect dress at the perfect price – free.     

With appointments to try on dresses expected to begin as early as February, the centre hopes people will start digging through their closets now. In addition to gently used fancy dresses, the program also accepts shoes and jewellery as well as suits and men’s formal wear, a preference for some clients. Items of all sizes are sorted through to make sure they’re free from stains or rips. Organizers say some donations have even come in unworn, with tags still attached.

“Everything is on a rack. It’s like going into a store,” says Executive Director Giulia Carpenter. “So that’s the important thing for us is we try to create the normalcy. So just because you can’t afford to be able to go to a boutique or store, we still want you to feel – enjoying the moment of prom and all that great stuff.”    

In some cases, volunteers also assist people with their hair and makeup on the big day.

Carpenter recalls one young girl who was less than excited about attending her Grade 8 graduation, unsure she’d get a dress that would fit her body type. In addition to finding a dress, Carpenter says the girl was even able to have it altered with help of the centre’s sewing circle program. She returned after her grad.    

“She came in and said, ‘thank you guys. You have no idea. It was the best night of my life and because of you guys I was able to go,’” said Carpenter.

With their formal dress racks looking rather empty at the start of the year, Carpenter hopes the public can once again help meet the demand. The prom dress program collected and distributed over 500 dresses and other items last year. 

The Women’s Centre is located at 324 Elm St. West. It also runs the “My Sister’s Closet” program, welcoming donations of used women’s and children’s clothing and small household items throughout the year.