Mississippi high school students find their dream prom dresses at donated formalwear event

Oxford High School hosted their second-annual “Say Yes to the Dress” formalwear event last night, with nearly 100 students taking home their dream dress for prom.

“Say Yes to the Dress” is the brainchild of OHS girls’ fitness teacher Rose Hickey, who started the program as a way to give every girl a chance to have the fabled “princess moment,” of trying on a prom dress for the first time.

“These dresses have all been donated, and they’re from David’s Bridal, Oxford Bridal, sororities, Memphis, all over the place,” she said. “Whenever people have dresses, they just email me, and I have a storage unit, so they just come in all year.”

The entire girls’ fitness room was decorated with pink and gold balloons, with music playing over loudspeakers and makeshift runways in the center of the room for the girls to model their top choices. There were over 100 dresses from size 00 to 24, in nearly every cut and color imaginable.

“I honestly can say, this is an incredible event for all girls,” Carmel Hollowell, whose daughter Emily chose a red ball gown, said. “I tell everyone about it because I want girls to know they can come here and try on that dress that makes them feel special.”

In addition to the dresses, girls have the opportunity to complete their look with shoes and jewelry donated by Lulu’s and other businesses around Oxford. Madison Hickey, Rose’s daughter, said being present at the event is a rewarding experience for all involved.

“I love to see how it makes a girl’s day to find their dream dress,” she said. “Most of these, when they came in, were still in their zipped-up bags with price tags on them. There are some that retailed for as much as $600.”

The event isn’t exclusive to OHS students, however. Girls from Lafayette, South Panola and Water Valley high schools attended, and it’s open to any girl who registers. Nicole Rensink, a senior from South Panola High School, is attending three proms this year. Rensink ended up selecting a champagne-colored cocktail dress with matching earrings.

“I thought, why not? I’m going to prom at South Panola, Senatobia and North Point Christian school,” Rensink said. “I also came here looking for shoes that won’t make me taller than my boyfriend, and they have such a wide variety to pick from.”

The dresses and accessories are completely free for the girls, with local businesses donating their services to make each dress look perfect. Rainbow Cleaners on Jackson Avenue dry cleans each dress for free and a seamstress attends the event to help each girl look and feel her best.

Hickey and the other volunteers all say the best part of the event is the way girls’ faces light up when they find their prom dress.

One of those girls, OHS senior Kamesha Lay, admits to trying on more than a few dresses in her search for “the one.” She and her mother, Jacqueline, selected a black-and-white sequined gown with a full tulle skirt.

“It took awhile. I tried on five, maybe six dresses,” Lay said. “I was looking for something fitted and then big at the bottom, something different because it’s my senior year.”

Regan Hill, who has a daughter at OHS, is one of the volunteers from the event. Hill said working with “Say Yes to the Dress” is a way to help girls who might not otherwise be able to find their dream dress.

“I feel like there are a lot of kids, and I want my daughter to realize, that there are a lot of kids that don’t have everything,” Hill said. “To see their faces light up when they walk in this room and know that they can be a princess, that’s very rewarding to me. I’m starting to tear up because not everybody is as fortunate as others.”

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