Operation Fairy Dust

Is it just me, or is Jim Dwyer going through a fashion phase? First, it was H&M, then The New York Clothing Bank and in Sunday’s Metro section, The New York Times columnist highlighted Operation Fairy Dust, a program for distributing pre-loved prom dresses to girls in need. Dwyer referred to “the fancy dress: usually worn once for a few hours, then retired from active duty.”

How does Dwyer know? Does he have a closet-full of said dresses? I love the idea of Operation Fairy Dust, (and wonder if they still need volunteer personal shoppers) but had the columnist looked further, he might have found not all girls ferret away their formalwear when the dance is done.

You bet your bustle that as soon as the snow began to melt in high school, I was wondering what to wear to the prom.

Image from Wgirls.org

Senior year, my original plan had been to wear a dress that belonged to my friend Laura (or was it Molly?), who was a year ahead of me in school. It was an Uma-inspired slippery number, if memory serves. I think I was getting dressed in my mom’s bedroom. My hair was done, my makeup on; I pulled the dress  over my head and turned around to show my mom. Her face fell, and she pointed to a large spot on the front, like a water stain over the right thigh. The dress was periwinkle sand-washed silk–oh my, it’s coming back to me now–there was nothing that could be done. My mom drew in a deep breath, likely flashing back to the violent fashion crises that nearly kept me home several mornings in the second grade. 

But all was not lost. We had inspiration. It was 1999, and Gwyneth Paltrow had worn a silvery ball gown skirt and strapless top to the Golden Globes. I had a skirt like that. I even had a tube top, albeit a cotton spandex one. I put it on. It looked like cotton spandex. I think that by that point my date, Jimmy Kerley, might have actually been downstairs. Mom went into the closet for reinforcements (sound familiar?) and emerged with a black negligee. I was confused. I was scandalized. I was…relieved. I pulled it on over the tube top and tucked it into my skirt. Done!

There I am on the right. My friends Kate and Katie, in the middle, chose dresses that were not too prom-specific to be worn again. Jessica, on the left, was likely inspired by the same muse I was, and I bet either she or her older sister has worn at least one piece of that outfit again too. But, I’m sure we all have at least one one-night wonder that might be better off relegated to a cycle of rebirth at various proms, and it’s great that NYC has organizations like Operation Fairy Dust for those glamorous gowns. 

However, that silvery skirt is still hanging in my closet (next to the hand-me-down prom dress I wore Day 2 of Fashion Week) as I type, and I’m contemplating what I might be able to wear it with for spring. It could be cute with a grey tee shirt  and a jean jacket. I’m sure photographer and stylist Kristen Joy Watts will have an idea or two when she helps purge my closet this weekend. Maybe there’s still some fairy dust left in there. 


Filed under closet case study, news

8 responses to “Operation Fairy Dust

  1. I can smell Clayton through that picture…

    Fabulous post.

  2. Hi Jenni,

    Thanks for the great post. Operation Fairy Dust is always looking for fabulous new volunteers. Right now we need volunteers to help us unpack and hang all of the fabulous dresses that we collected on Friday, April 16th from 3pm – 9pm in downtown Brooklyn. We will also need personal shoppers at our dress giveaway on Sat. April 17th. We are currently in desperate need of plus size dress donations! If anyone is interested please email me at operationfairydustnyc@yahoo.com 🙂
    ~Megan Kerrigan

  3. Hey Jenni,
    We met when you were on you Dad’s boat on Tortola a couple of years ago. We were also from St. Louis. Anyway my daughter, Alex, will be walking in the VP Ball this December. I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to where we should shop for the coolest gowns at reasonable prices? Is there a garment district sale week or something?

    • Hi Linda,
      Of course I remember!
      Depends on Alex’s style! I would guess that there are some pretty swank consignment shops in St. Louis–all those charity gowns have to go somewhere, right? Does she know what she wants? My problem in St. Louis was that I always had something terribly specific in mind that didn’t really exist there. But friends and family archives can hide some gems! When’s the ball?

      • I don’t know what she’s looking for. She’ll be at school in Florida till the end of April.
        I did sign up for Rent the Runway.. They only have about 8 long gowns, but lots of other cute short dresses. Funny- it’s run by some gals named Jenn & Jenny in NY. Maybe a 3rd Jen is in order? : )

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