The prom court gathers during the grand march in 2016. A group is collecting formal wear to assist students who need a dress, suit or tuxedo for the 2018 prom.

Do you have an old prom dress, suit or tuxedo sitting in the closet?

Donate it to the Tomah High School Prom formal closet.

For over five years the closet has helped students in the Tomah School District find something to wear for prom for no cost said Michelle Eswein, special education teacher at Tomah High School.

Eswein said the project started because teachers at THS witnessed a need.

“It kind of started with more of the special education kids (in mind), but then it kind of reached out beyond that,” she said. “With the expense that prom and all the other events cost, to add another cost for dresses and tuxes and suits, it can be expensive. So the staff kind of thought to themselves, ‘what can we do to help?’ Well, prom dresses stay in closets − why not get them to be recycled?”

The cost might be why some students don’t attend dances like homecoming and prom, Eswein said, which is why the closet is maintained every year. She said teachers don’t want someone to feel left out.

“That’s why I think it was kind of important for us to get the news out that we have this closet,” she said. “We want it to be used, we want donations, we want to grow, we want it to get so that there isn’t this stigma of being able to afford to go versus not being able to go.”

Eswein wants students to have every opportunity to attend school events like prom. She said they’re something students remember after high school.

“I want our students to have the opportunity to be participating whenever possible in school events, and it not being an issue of money,” she said. “If it’s a field trip, I mean, we have money set aside for those kinds of things, too.”

She said it’s important that students aren’t discouraged from attending homecoming or prom “because they couldn’t afford an outfit to come in.”

Which is where the closet comes in, Eswein said. It’s free for students to come in and borrow a dress.

One key to growing the closet is donations. Eswein said there are only three or four donations a year.

“We don’t get a ton,” she said.

If they got 10 every year, it would be better, Eswein said, because then they could get rid of some of the older dresses.

Another key is to get donations of style items, Eswein said.

“Some of (the items) are getting outdated, and we need to move them on, but yet we don’t want to lose the amount that we have for choices and sizes,” she said. “So we’re kind of stuck with keeping some of the older ones, but we’d like to stay as current as possible.”

To donate, contact Gretchen Meacham at 608-374-7961. Both men’s and women’s gently worn formal wear and accessories are welcome.

The 2018 THS prom is set for Saturday, April 7 with the grand march at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.


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