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Sibley-Ocheyedan prom closet makes cents

SIBLEY, Iowa -- The prom has been a rite of passage for teenagers since its inception. The big event has been depicted in movies such as "Grease" and "Carrie," but with the exception of perhaps "Pretty in Pink," the subject of expenses associated...

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Sibley-Ocheyedan senior Ellie Klaassen stands with a few of the dresses available in the S-O Prom Closet. The closet opened in January for students to borrow dresses for formal events. Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe

SIBLEY, Iowa - The prom has been a rite of passage for teenagers since its inception.

The big event has been depicted in movies such as “Grease” and “Carrie,” but with the exception of perhaps “Pretty in Pink,” the subject of expenses associated with the night haven’t been the real focus. But thanks to the suggestion of senior Ellie Klaassen, Sibley-Ocheyedan High School has a way to combat the ever-rising costs associated with prom.
Klaassen came across the concept of a prom closet while serving as Osceola County Fair Queen. She said a friend from another school revealed that she’d borrowed her dress from her school’s prom closet.
Klaassen found the idea to be ingenious. In August, she presented the idea to the school counselor and its administration.
Starting in January, the closet began receiving donations. Currently, the project has around a dozen dresses available with more coming in regularly. People donating the dresses have the option of receiving their dress back after prom season or making it a permanent addition to the closet.
For students, the only charge incurred for borrowing a dress is to have the garment dry cleaned before it is returned. If the dress is damaged, the student would also be responsible for repair costs. The cost of a dry-cleaning bill, of course, is minimal in comparison to the average cost of a prom dress saving families a good deal of money for a one-time event.
Anonymity
In order for the closet to remain open to students, anonymity is key.
Klaassen said she didn’t intend for her name to even be associated with the project at first. Arguably, she has now become the face of the program, but she maintains a hands-off approach.
“I’m not the one to go asking girls if they need a dress. I think it would be awkward coming from another student,” Klaassen explained.

The students have been made aware of the closet through morning announcements, and the dresses are kept in the school’s front office. Students work directly with the school staff to keep other students from being aware who will be wearing a donated gown.
While staff members are working to ensure confidentiality, there is still a concern among some students that a dress will be recognized. Klaassen said she honestly doesn’t remember who wore what last year - aside from her sister and herself - but recognizes the possible stigma.
Klaassen proposes that the school trade dresses with other districts in the future to not only keep the inventory fresh, but to reduce the odds a girl will be spotted in last year’s dress.
To donate to the prom closet, contact Sibley-Ocheyedan High School at (712) 754-3601. Students interested in viewing or borrowing a dress are encouraged to speak to staff at the school.

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