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New Brunswick

Annual Event Helps Students Pick Free Prom Dress In South Brunswick

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ — 2022 was a difficult financial year for many New Jersey families. The pandemic and inflation have caused household savings to shrink in recent years.

As prom season approaches and demands mount, the high school milestone can be costly for many, which ties into the cost of a dress coupled with shoes and makeup expenses.

To help students and families reduce prom costs, Viking Closet is offering free prom clothing and accessories at South Brunswick High School.

They host an annual red carpet prom dress event where students can “shop” hundreds of dresses for free. This year’s event will take place on February 26th.

Pupils from other school districts are also cordially invited to rummage through the closet and take their favorite dress home with them.

“In recent years we’ve rebranded and expanded Viking Closet, collecting tons of clothing from the community and inviting students from other counties as well,” said Carla Garcia, a social worker at South Brunswick School District.

The Viking Closet is located in the high school and collects new and carefully used clothes, shoes and prom dresses. They are open once a week during the school day and as needed the rest of the week. Their inventory changes with the season and trends, Garcia said.

But her prom dress event is special and exciting.

“We want the students to have an appointment because we set up dressing rooms to make sure we have enough space and the girls have enough time to try on the dresses,” Garcia said.

Students can also pick up dresses for eighth grade dances, middle school semi-formals, sweet sixteen, or bat mitzvahs.

“We receive donations from southern Brunswick and the neighboring communities. The Manalapan-based Lolas boutique is a constant supporter and regularly donates brand new clothes,” Garcia said. Some families also donate money. Others are so pleased with their child’s clothing choices that they return to future events.

Once the students say “yes to the dress,” they can either keep the outfit or put it back in the closet.

The event is not only aimed at families in tight financial circumstances. It’s also for the environmentally conscious who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

“All our dresses are in perfect condition. We’re really pushing to reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding the fast fashion industry. So why not save a barely-worn dress instead of buying a new one,” said Garcia, who has served the school district for 20 years.

“We try to make it clear to the students that not everything has to be new. There’s still a lot of life in these clothes because they’ve only been worn once and hanging in the closet. So let’s take a little break from buying and see if we can reuse clothes.”

On average, the Viking Closet collects around 200 to 300 dresses each year. Some even come with tags. “My parents told me that Viking Closet has more options to choose from than a store,” Garcia said.

Last year, students from other school districts including Spotswood, East Brunswick, North Brunswick, New Brunswick, West Windsor and Franklin visited the Viking Closet to select a dress.

Garcia hopes more students will attend during this year’s event.

“We are very pleased that even more families are coming to us this year. We work hard to create a positive experience for everyone. Come shopping with us and have a fun time.”

The school district’s Red Carpet Prom Dress event features a red carpet, a student photographer, and plenty of cheering when you say “yes to the dress.”

If you would like to donate a dress, please proceed as follows: Donations of clothes can be dropped off any school day between 7.40am and 3.35pm. The district is also having a clothes collection at Pierre’s Deli in South Brunswick from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 18 February.

The South Brunswick School District Red Carpet Ball Dress Event will be held at the high school on February 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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