Chilliwack woman helping add a touch of magic to prom night

Carolyn Burgh has created a two-pronged event to help lower the high costs of prom night

Carolyn Burgh shows off some of the dresses she has in storage for The Graduate Wardrobe

The perfect dress, or the perfect suit, is out there for every graduate.

But often those all-important outfits come with a hefty price tag, putting celebrations with friends at prom or grad night just out of reach.

Carolyn Burgh says it doesn’t have to be that way. She has at least 1,500 perfect dresses, and plenty of perfect suits, that are available for free to grads who need their own fairy godmother.

She’s put together The Graduate Wardrobe, which is a two-event weekend designed to help graduates look and feel their best for their big day.

The first day of the weekend, Feb. 25, referred graduates will arrive to a pop-up boutique. They’ll each have their own assistant for the day, who will help them comb through the dresses and suits to find just the right style, just the right colour, and just the right fit.

With that out of the way, the grads will then have their hair and makeup done for a professional photography session. They will take their outfits home that same day, and the resulting photo will be framed and sent to their school as an 8×10 keepsake of their special day.

Students must be referred to the program by their school counsellors, and some referrals have already been accepted by Burgh. The event is open to graduates from all over the Fraser Valley, and she is hoping to accommodate about 30 students this first year. So far, she says, no graduates have been referred from Chilliwack.

“I’m sure there must be students in Chilliwack that could use this,” she says. “I don’t want any grads to go without.”

While she can’t give all the clothes away, she can certainly sell them for a reduced price. And that’s what she’s been doing for the last two years, through a popular dress sale many have become familiar with. The idea for the last two years was to build up momentum to be able to give some of the dresses away.

And that will happen again with a public dress sale on the second day of the weekend, on Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

These are dresses and suits that have been gently worn, or even never worn. There are donations of sample sizes from dress shops, donations from the former Princess Project in Surrey, and others from individuals who don’t want to see a beautiful outfit worn only once.

And they will be selling at an affordable price.

The dress sale is a major fundraiser for The Graduate Wardrobe, and is open to the public. This year’s event will be held at the Quality Inn in Abbotsford, where Burgh works.

“The space was donated,” she says, helping keep costs low. She also wanted to find a central location, as graduates could be coming from Hope, Agassiz, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Aldergrove or Langley.

Burgh is looking for a few more volunteers to help with the day, along with some donations that could make things run more smoothly. Some of the items still needed are full length and tabletop mirrors, more dress racks, hangers, new or lightly used dresses, suits and shoes. She is also looking for items for gift bags, hair products and make up.

For volunteers, she’s hoping for general helpers and possibly a few more hairdressers and makeup artists.

Finally, she’s hoping to find some storage space. She’s currently housing the dresses in a Chilliwack storage unit, at a cost of about $200 a month.

She’s hoping the event is successful enough to continue to expand it and open the referral program to more students next year.

For more information, email info@thegraduatewardrobe.com.