By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Katie Adams and Stephanie Tomasetta were students at Ranney School back in 2007 when they decided to recycle prom dresses. Both wanted to allow girls who were unable to purchase new dresses the opportunities to have elegant attire for the biggest high school social event.
They asked friends to donate their slightly used dresses and created what they called Cinderella’s Closet. Today, both girls are in college; Adams is a senior at Notre Dame while Tomasetta is in graduate school at Stanford University. Their moms and an army of volunteers are keeping that dream alive today for many young ladies and gentleman.
What started off with several hundred dresses has now grown to nearly 2,000.
Saturday and Sunday, Cinderella’s Closet was set up at the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch. Girls from as far away as Paterson and Jersey City showed up to try and find the perfect dress, accessories, makeup, and shoes.
“We are dedicated to promoting self-esteem among young adults by providing less fortunate high school students in our community the opportunity to attend their prom in style,” said Marcela Tomasetta. “We are an all-volunteer organization with students from 12 different high schools in Monmouth County.”
As the girls entered the ballroom at the Ocean Place they were greeted by 50 volunteers. Each of the girls looking for a dress was given two personal assistants, and allowed to select up to six dresses to try on. A large dressing room area was established with mirrors. If alterations needed, seamstresses were on hand. If they didn’t like any of the dresses, they were allowed to start over with an additional six choices.
Once a dress was picked the girls were moved to the shoe area. Hundreds of shoes were on display and busy volunteers were helping pick the right shoe for the right dress.
“We don’t accept dresses over two years old and are in need of size 12 and up,” said Tomasetta. They also don’t want bridesmaid dresses!
A smaller section of the room was set up for gentleman. Suits, tuxes, shirts and ties are available for boys. It is part of the evolution of Cinderella’s Closet, which now wants to make sure boys also have something exceptional to wear.
Several students from Long Branch High School were excited to see what was available. One of the first to make a selection was 17-year old Lindsey Amour. “I thought this dress was pretty and loved the way it fit,” said Amour, as she picked a silver strapless gown.
Lizzet Gonzalez, also 17, selected a navy blue dress with gold accents. “This is a beautiful dress and it fits so well,” said Gonzalez.
“Our students received beautiful prom attire that included gowns, shoes, jewelry, purses, hair accessories, make-up, and shawls,” said Jennise Nieves, Student Assistance Counselor at the High School. “Many of the girls were accompanied by their mothers, and everyone was very excited and grateful.”