Howard County Times

Free dresses offered Saturday for Howard County formal events, no fairy godmother needed

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A back corner hallway at Atholton High School in Columbia was filled with color and sparkle Monday as hundreds of dresses swayed on dozens of racks.

Just in time for high school prom season, the collection of both new and used dresses in a variety of styles and sizes, practically assures most young prom-goers that a fairy godmother won’t be necessary to find the dress of their dreams — for free — during the school’s Becca’s Closet event Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the school’s cafeteria.


“We have 2,000 dresses to give away. My room gets very cluttered,” said Krista Bopst, a government teacher and adviser for the school’s chapter of Becca’s Closet, a national nonprofit that donates formal dresses to high school students who need them.

The organization is named for Rebecca Kirtman, a Florida teenager who in spring 2003 single-handedly collected and distributed more than 250 prom dresses to girls in need in South Florida so they could attend their high school proms. Kirtman died in a vehicle crash in August 2003 and her family carries on her legacy through the nonprofit.


As the only Maryland chapter of Becca’s Closet, Atholton High receives donations from throughout the area, including from national department stores and boutiques from as far away as Alexandria, Virginia. Bopst was scheduled to receive 300 dresses Thursday, courtesy of Macy’s, with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball helping to deliver.

“Our students have been through so much during the past two years. Many have had to re-imagine what events like prom will look like,” Ball said in an email. “When I heard about this dress drive, I knew we had to get involved and help support our students. We look forward to doing everything we can to remind our students that we support them and want to make their events truly memorable celebrations.”

The pandemic prevented the dress giveaway from happening for the last two years and almost canceled this year’s event, too.

“When we were planning this, COVID was ramping up,” Bopst said. “Everything fell together, but it will be a pared down event.”

In past years, the event was done in partnership with the local chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, a nonprofit service organization that helped pay for things like alterations, changing rooms and food for volunteers. Concerns about the pandemic forced the sorority to back out this year, Bopst said.

“We’re just a student club,” Bopst said. “The freshmen and sophomores have never even experienced it.”

Student members Olivia Elliott, 15, Naomi McKenna, 16, and Samantha Chrzanowski, 15, were only in seventh grade when the last Becca’s Closet event was held, and all admitted they had never heard of it until entering high school. On Monday, they were sorting through dresses, removing any that were damaged or out-of-style to assure a quality selection for Saturday.

“We’ve had two years of collection donations. It’s a lot of work,” Bopst said.


The event will have dresses appropriate for prom, Homecoming, quinceañera celebrations and eighth-grade dances. Accessories, including 200 pairs of shoes, will also be available.

“These are good dresses,” Bopst said. “We’re working hard to get the word out.”

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Those attending the event Saturday will be able to take home as many dresses as they choose. The club just asks that everyone fills out a survey to say where they are from, what styles they chose and how many dresses they took. They will also have the option of returning the dresses for any reason.

“If you try it on and don’t like it, bring it back,” Bopst said.

At the end of the sale, the group will sort through all the dresses again. To keep the selection fresh, some styles will be removed and donated to a school custodian, who sends them to Africa for repurposing, Bopst said.

“It’s an arrangement that was in place as long as I’ve been here,” said Bopst, who has supervised Becca’s Closet for five years.


The school’s student government association has approached Bopst about hosting another Becca’s Closet event next fall before Homecoming. It is a possibility, she said, but right now, her hands are full with Saturday’s event.

“This is it,” Bopst said. “If you see a dress you like, take it.”

Becca’s Closet will take place Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Atholton High School, 6520 Freetown Road, Columbia, in the cafeteria. Anyone may attend.