There’s nothing worse than showing up at prom in the same dress as a classmate, and going vintage is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Loudoun teens are turning to vintage and consignment shops to find a unique dress—and getting bargains in the process. And for budget-conscious teens and families and girls with a sense of adventure, the Junior Woman’s Club of Loudoun offers hundreds of fabulous dresses for free at its annual Prom Wishes event this Saturday.
At Nostalgia Boutique in Purcellville, owner Silas Redd helps shoppers of all ages find dreamy vintage dresses year round, but the pre-prom months are especially exciting at the 3-year-old vintage shop.
“A lot of times the girls are coming because they don’t want to wear the same dress as someone else,” Redd said. “We get a lot of girls who want to be different and stand out.”
Redd says his sense is that Gen Z high schoolers take a different approach from his own high school days in the mid-2000s when $500 Jovani and Sherri Hill gowns were the norm. And while there are still plenty of those to be found in Loudoun, some girls want to take a different path.
“There’s never just one trend,” Redd said. “Especially with this younger crew, they want to do whatever they feel good in and what they feel comfortable wearing.”
Redd helped Emily Landis, a junior at Woodgrove High School, find a dark blue 1950s-inspired ’80s-era gown that exudes mid-century glam.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the ’50s era,” Landis said. “I really love vintage styles, and the idea that I can wear a dress from one of those eras for prom is amazing.”
For homecoming last fall, Landis opted for a 1950s-style dress with her strawberry blond hair in victory rolls, and she’s continuing the theme this spring as she heads to her first prom in an elegant gown with a train of which Grace Kelly would have been proud.
While Landis got things knocked out early for her May 3 prom thanks to an impromptu trip to Nostalgia with her mom, Amy, last weekend, Redd said the store also specializes in last minute dresses for teens who haven’t found the right thing at the mall or who were disappointed with a dress ordered online. And serving as a last-minute lifeline is more than fine with him.
“Once we get people in one time and they experience our store, then we get them for life,” he said.
Redd regularly posts great finds on social media and has his eye on a fabulous late ’70s/early ’80s sequined dress that’s waiting for the right person.
“It’s such a fun, youthful dress for a girl who’s really hip and really with it,” Redd said. “I’m waiting for the girl who wears this dress.”
That sense of finding something unique is also a big draw down the street in Purcellville at the Re-Love It consignment shop, said clothing manager Kathy Mote, but cost also comes into play. Mote loves welcoming groups of girls who come in looking for the perfect consigned dress, often worn only once, for a fraction of the cost, with most gowns going for under $100 and some as low as $60.
“I think it’s a great thing to do. We’re probably a third of the price of what’s in stores,” Mote said. “Each girl wants to be unique. … We don’t have one dress in five different sizes. We have one dress.”
Re-Love It owner Michael Oaks adds that they have plenty for guys as well, offering cool retro styles as well as more traditional tuxedos. He points out that it’s often cheaper to buy a tux on consignment than to rent one for a single night. Oaks remembers renting a tux a few years ago for more than $100 and then buying one on consignment from his shop.
“With alterations it came to around $120, and now I own a really nice tuxedo,” he said.
For low income families who need help buying a prom dress, or for girls on a budget who are feeling adventurous, the annual Junior Woman’s Club of Loudoun Prom Wishes event in Leesburg this weekend offers a selection of hundreds of new and gently used dresses for free.
“We have short dresses, long dresses—every size, every color, every style imaginable,” organizer Kathy Cain said.
The club usually winds up hosting more than 100 girls, with a selection of up to 1,000 dresses, including new dresses with tags donated from bridal shops, along with shoes, jewelry, accessories and new makeup.
The event got started in 2002 when a JWLC member saw an article about a young woman struggling to come up with a used prom dress. The program is now in its seventeenth year and has grown by leaps and bounds, Cain said, with hundreds of dresses on racks filling meeting rooms at Rust Library in Leesburg.
“It’s a lot of fun and the environment is very exciting,” Cain said.
The club offers advance appointments which are booked for this year but also welcomes walk-in shoppers. Prom Wishes is a lifesaver both for low income families and for girls and families on a budget who just don’t relish the thought of spending hundreds on a gown.
For Michelle Harper of Ashburn, a mom of five girls, shelling out hundreds on dresses just wasn’t a priority, especially with three girls in high school at once a few years ago and now with two daughters in college. Her three older daughters have all used the Prom Wishes event to find formalwear and fourth daughter Makayla, a senior at Broad Run High School, will be shopping with a friend there this year, as well as volunteering for event set-up with her mom the night before.
Makayla says the key is going in with a sense of fun and adventure. She starts out by finding the right size and color, and almost every girl finds something that works.
“It’s a great group of ladies who really work hard to make sure the girls can get these dresses,” Michelle Harper said. “Pretty much every year they’ve come away with something,”
The Junior Woman’s Club of Loudoun’s Prom Wishes event is Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rust Library in Leesburg. For more information, go to jwcl.org.
To check out the selection at Nostalgia Boutique, go to shopatnostalgia.comor follow Nostalgia Boutique on Facebook.
To get in touch with Re-Love It, go to reloveit.comor follow Re-Love It on Facebook.