Rita's Closet will hold its third Fashion Show and Tea at Carroll County Career & Technology Center, at 1229 Washington Road in Westminster, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 18.
Rita's Closet is named after Rita Marie Medeiros, who died in a car crash in 2012 at the age of 16, the day after she and her mother, Medeiros Medeiros, bought her prom dress.
The nonprofit accepts donations of gently used prom gowns and dresses for all occasions year-round. Some dresses are given away to students who would not otherwise be able to afford one, but most dresses are sold through AMR Jewelry Boutique and Rosalee, both in Westminster, to support scholarships for graduating seniors at Westminster High School and Carroll County Career & Technology Center.
The menu for the event includes traditional fare such as finger sandwiches, desserts and, of course, tea — all served on a mix of china. Medeiros said an eclectic assortment of teacups, saucers, and teapots has been collected and given to Rita's Closet for use at the annual event.
Throughout the evening, volunteer models will walk the runway in fashions fit for all stages of life: graduation, career wear, summer parties, cruises, prom, bridal and wedding parties, and more.
Tickets are $15 per person or you can buy a table for eight at $100 per table. Tickets will be sold at the door if still available, but Kathy Cheatham, event committee member and Rita's Closet board member, said guests are encouraged to make reservations in advance.
Proceeds will support the nonprofit and its work in the community.
LuLaRoe representative Ashley Beryl Reid, of Westminster, will provide fashions to be modeled at the beginning of the event while guests arrive and get seated. She will also have some clothing for sale and will donate a portion of her sales at the event to Rita's Closet.
Rita's Closet will also have some dresses available for sale at the fashion show, Medeiros said.
New to this year's fashion show are donated tuxedos, some of which will be used for the show, and all of which will be either available for sale through Rosalee in TownMall, or given away to students in need, Medeiros said.
"We're going to try to get it all organized to give some tuxes away to some of the guys who need help, too," Medeiros said.
Guests who bring a gently used dress to donate to Rita's Closet will be entered into a special prize drawing at the event.
Adding to the evening's surprises, guests can buy balloons containing numbers that match prizes donated by local businesses, such as restaurant gift cards, gift baskets, Tupperware, and other items. Prize balloons can be purchased at the event for $20. Guests will all pop their balloons at the same time to release the numbers inside and see what they have won, Medeiros said.
This year's show marks the second year the event is being held at the Carroll County Career & Technology Center, where the food being served is prepared by students in the center's culinary program. The first year's event was held at The Portico at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster.
Medeiros said Rita's Closet has given one scholarship to a graduating female at Westminster High School for each of the past three years. Last year, after holding the fashion show at the center, they added a scholarship for a Career & Technology Center graduate.
She said this year they plan to give scholarships to two Career & Technology Center graduates, male or female, in addition to the scholarship at Westminster High School.
All three scholarships honor Rita's involvement in the arts by requiring scholarship applicants to have an expressed interest in the arts. Dance and music were among Rita's many activities, her mother said, as were rugby, cheerleading, baton twirling, and going on mission trips with the youth group at her church, Grace Fellowship Chapel in Westminster.
"Rita was always a very generous person," her mother said. "She was one of those people [that] people always went to when they had problem. She was always coming home asking how she could help [others]."
The idea of giving free prom dresses to high school seniors was first proposed by Dawn DeMario of DeMario Bridal and Formal in Westminster, Medeiros said.
DeMario recognized that Rita had just bought her dress in the shop and approached Medeiros with the idea for Rita's Closet, Medeiros said.
Rita's Closet partners with Judy Klinger, supervisor of school counseling for Carroll County Public Schools, to help identify girls who can benefit from having a free gown, Medeiros said.
Families might experience an illness or a job loss, she said, leaving them unable to afford a prom dress. Medeiros said Rita's Closet gave away 12 or 13 dresses last year.
"Not every school takes advantage of it, [so] every year we try to get a little stronger in [getting them involved]," Medeiros said.
Medeiros said helping the girls who come to Rita's Closet to pick their prom dresses is probably her favorite part of giving away the gowns.
With all of the dresses in the show coming from current Rita's Closet inventory, attendees will have the chance to make their prom experience complete with the purchase of a gown or tuxedo.
Cheatham's daughter Erin Irish, of Baltimore, has attended the previous fashion shows.
"I loved it — I thought it was a great event," Irish said of last year's event. "The food was good. I liked the runway … it's just a good thing to do," she said. "You get some friends together for a good cause."
Donna Mortensen writes for the Neighborhoods section of the Carroll County Times. She can be reached at
If you go:
What: Rita's Closet Fashion Show and Tea
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 18
Where: Carroll County Career & Technology Center, 1229 Washington Road in Westminster
Cost: $15 per person, or $100 for a table for eight people
Registration: Register in advance by calling Cheatham at 410-861-6287 or emailing email@example.com, or pay at the door.