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Old dresses generate new funds for students


Sarah Bursey's flowing, hand-beaded designer evening gown -- made of blue chiffon with a lime green underskirt -- set her parents back about $300 last year for the junior prom, or about $50 for each hour she wore it.

Now the Burseys' investment could become another lucky girl's bonanza.

Marked down to half its retail price, Sarah's gown will be among a collection of barely worn -- or, in some cases, brand new -- dresses being sold during Prom Fest at Winters Mill High School next month.

"You can make money and clean out your closets at the same time," said Linda Hoppe, whose son is a senior at Winters Mill.

Bonnie Bosley, who enlisted Hoppe and a few other mothers to help her organize Prom Fest, came up with the idea to help raise funds for the school's Class of 2006 activities. In addition to the prom, seniors are planning a cruise.

"It's a nice opportunity to recycle," said Sherri-Le Bream, principal of Winters Mill, who plans to bring some of her college-age daughter's used prom dresses for the sale. "Someone else can benefit, and you can make a little bit of your money back."

Sellers agree to give 20 percent of their proceeds to the class fund, which will help students who don't have enough money to pay for senior activities, such as the prom and the cruise, Bosley said. Unsold dresses may be donated to students who can't afford to buy them, she said.

"There are seniors who may be excluded because of the price," said Bosley, who is a nurse at Francis Scott Key High School in Union Bridge. Her daughter, Kristy, is a senior at Winters Mill High. "Doing this, everybody wins."

In her zeal, Bonnie Bosley has transformed Prom Fest -- the first such event at Winters Mill -- into a one-stop-shopping venue for students and parents by inviting florists, limousine owners, hair and nail stylists, and tuxedo and jewelry retailers to hawk their wares and services.

Bonnie Bosley -- who used to work for a bridal shop and provided gown descriptions to local newspapers for the brides-to-be -- borrowed from her fashion repertoire as she collected gowns from girls hoping to earn some cash.

As she filled out cards with descriptions of dress details such as fabric type and embellishments, she consulted with students about the best price to ask.

When an ambivalent Sarah couldn't decide how much to ask for her gown, Bosley recommended she charge no more than half the retail price.

"Remember, used things -- no matter how nice -- never go for as much as you'd think," she told Sarah, whose mother nodded in agreement.

"Anything over $100, you should be happy with," Sue Bursey told her daughter, who was calculating how much she would net after the 20 percent cut to the class fund.

Sarah eventually agreed but asked that the price on her dress be marked non-negotiable, a condition that Bosley dutifully noted on the card.

Many of the dresses that were handed over for sale on a recent day after school were new, dresses that girls had decided they didn't like after all.

Joyce Hertsch knows about unworn new prom dresses.

Her daughter Katie, a senior at Winters Mill, had turned up her nose at about half the 12 gowns they dropped off.

"She said they didn't call out 'Katie,'" Joyce Hertsch said as she and Katie set prices ranging from $20 to $50 for the dresses, some of which still bore store tags. "I just didn't have the heart to take them back and I thought she might wear them the next year or change her mind."

Katie said she is hoping to net enough from her dress sales to pay for this year's prom dress. Of course, among the dresses she was dropping off was one her mother had recently purchased for her to wear to this year's dance.

"For my senior prom, I wanted one that I really loved and I didn't love that one," Katie said.

Her mother admits that she probably isn't the best judge of what her daughter wants anymore, but she said that she can't seem to keep herself from gravitating toward the dresses she sees in the stores.

"I still want to dress up my little girl, my Barbie doll," she said. "But she's not my little Barbie doll anymore."

As they inventoried the dozen dresses, Katie's mother suggested another reason why they had so many to offer.

"They don't want to wear the same dress more than once," she said with a shrug. "My daughter says there's a law against that."

Prom Fest

Prom Fest is scheduled for March 11.

All sales are final and payments must be made in cash.

Clean new and used dresses will be collected at Winters Mill High, 560 Gorsuch Road in Westminster, in the school's foyer on the following dates and times:

Tomorrow , 5-7 p.m.

Wednesday , 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Friday , 5-7 p.m.

Saturday , 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

March 7, 5-7 p.m.

March 8, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

March 9, 5-7 p.m.

March 10, 5-8 p.m.

To arrange a drop-off time not listed above, contact Bonnie Bosley at 410-848-6226.

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