Dresses of Hope

Although prom is in the past for most college students, one student organization at Mississippi State University is dedicated to giving girls the perfect prom dress at no cost. Dresses of Hope (DOH) is a group that takes gently used prom dresses and redistributes them to local girls in need.

Prom is a high school staple in America, but it can prove to be expensive, especially when purchasing an outfit. DOH serves the greater Starkville area. Throughout the school year, the organization collects prom dresses of all sizes, colors, styles and more. Its goal is to have something for every girl to want to take home with her.

These dresses are available at Starkville high schools on DOH's Shopping Day. This year's Shopping Day was held on February 26 at Starkville High School. On Shopping Day, DOH sets up its own dress shop to mimic the experience of a real prom store.

DOH President and senior psychology major Sidney Claire Smith says the most recent Shopping Day was a huge success despite the new COVID-19 protocols.

"This past Shopping Day was great," Smith said. "I was a little anxious about how COVID-19 would affect the day, but we were able to social distance and still have so much fun."

Throughout the year, DOH holds a number of fundraisers to cover the costs of storing the donated prom dresses, including benefit days at local restaurants and graphic fundraising on Instagram.

Mary-Margaret Earp, a junior in marketing and DOH secretary, said COVID-19 has affected some of the group's operations but not its overall goal.

"While our activities have changed because of COVID, it hasn't affected our mission," Earp said. "We are still dedicated to giving dresses out and giving hope to girls in our local Starkville community."

DOH has been meeting virtually throughout the year, but according to Earp, they have still accomplished a lot, including collecting more dresses than ever before. 

Shopping Day has become something the members look forward to, as they are able to interact with the high schoolers and help them pick out their dresses.

"It was such a blessing to be able to give out dresses and see the joy on the girls' faces," Earp said. "Dresses of Hope truly took on a different meaning during such a hard and difficult year."

DOH offers more than just prom dresses on their Shopping Days. The group also provides shoes, jewelry and the opportunity for girls to have their makeup done.

Smith said she has been a member of DOH for over three years, serving on the executive board and now as president. She was looking for something she felt passionate about and fell in love with the organization's mission.

"Dresses of Hope allows girls to pick out a free prom dress, which is great in itself," Smith said. "But I have also found that the girls walk away with more confidence."

DOH is a way for MSU students to give back to the community, which is why senior marketing major Elizabeth Johnson joined.

"I joined Dresses of Hope because I was looking for a way to serve in Starkville and the surrounding areas," Johnson said. "Ever since I was a freshman, Dresses of Hope really appealed to me. Dresses of Hope has grown to be one of the biggest organizations on campus and one of my biggest blessings."

Many of DOH's members remember prom as one of their favorite high school memories, which is why they believe it is important to give every girl the same opportunity.

"Especially in this season of COVID-19, a lot of people are struggling financially on top of having a lot of their high school experience taken away," Smith said. "I hope that our organization plays a small part in restoring that normalcy and gives them their dream prom."

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