DOBSON — Surry Early College High School of Design student Jamie Hernandez is combining fashion with compassion for her senior project.
Hernandez explained Project Prom began with her designing a prom dress. The idea struck her to use her skills and style savvy to give donated prom dresses a second chance.
The upcoming prom will be the second one for her, so she was acquainted with expenses involved in a time when some county teens are supplementing family’s incomes by working themselves. She decided on seeking donated dresses, updating them and offering them to other students for a $10 fee.
“I originally planned to to use the $10 for dry cleaning but Hutchens Cleaners volunteered to clean them for free which has left us with money to support the prom. The response surprised me. Jays Office Supply really went above and beyond with donated gowns they collected. Everyone who gave had a story to go with the outfit. People were so committed to help.”
Hernandez said the staff at The Happy Tooth even held an employee drive to collect gowns. The collection now includes more than 70 dresses. She found out every outfit came with a story and she was being trusted to make sure that continued. She decided to offer the service to Surry Central students as well as classmates at the early college.
The senior’s savvy struck a chord economically as well. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Visa Inc., the average U.S. family with a high school student attending the prom expects to spend $978 this year. That’s down 14 percent from last year’s survey average of $1,139 per family.
On average, parents plan to pay for about 56 percent of prom costs, with their kids picking up the remaining 44 percent. Parents in lower income brackets, defined as less than $50,000 a year, spend an average of $733, which is down from last year’s $1,245 estimate. Those earning more than $50,000 will spend an average of $1,151.
Hernandez’s win-win proposition has gathered a wide variety of gowns in a vast array of colors and sizes. She could also draw on her fashion design skills and do alterations, an expensive proposition normally, to better fit the specific girl renting a gown. She explained one student was so pleased by the customized outfit she came back from the dressing room in tears.
She credits the help of English teacher and mentor Jenny Key with helping get the word out through Face Book. Key said she served as an advisor with Hernandez organizing the project.
“I’ve learned we have to organize this better,” said Hernandez. “We’ll get the word out earlier next year. Clothing is a way to express yourself. This was a way to help people with my work. I want to do something where I make things and people are actively involved with them both internally and externally.”
Hernandez approaches fashion in a tradesman-like way, planning first and making the patterns and then going for it, knowing mistakes can be fixed if they occur. Key describes her as a disciplined, self-directed student with a good work ethic. Hernandez said she would like to enroll in the fashion programs at either North Carolina State or University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get all the dresses. It happened by chance,” said Key. “We have sizes from 0 to 28 and all types of colors.”
Key and Hernandez said they plan on offering the dresses to students county-wide next year and said she looks to the always changing collection to be a resource for fellow students.
“My favorite part of prom is dress shopping,” said Hernandez. “The group of gowns we collected can be a constant. They will always use ball gowns. I have finished the prom dress and I’m looking for a model to wear it. I’ll be seeing girls wearing these dresses at proms and that will be a good feeling.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.