Fashion forward change

Jessie Taylor ('12) gives a thumbs up to a prom dress.

What if recycling were fashionable?  No, not popular — fashionable? Literally fashionable?

That’s what Jessie Taylor (’12) wondered two years ago when she considered if barely-used prom dresses might be recycled. After all, what woman doesn’t have at least one lovely gown hanging in her closet gathering dust?

“I had done a project on eco-fashion in my GCOM class,” Jessie wrote in an email after I inquired. “It seemed to make sense to collect prom dresses from college students since we’ll probably never have another use for them.”

It sounded like a win/win to Jessie.

“It’s environmentally friendly and can save the high school students in the area some money (which is great considering the economy right now),” she wrote.

Jessie, however, needed some help.

She contacted Monica Johns (’91), a licensed professional counselor at Harrisonburg High School who works with at-risk students. Monica, who earned a degree in social work at JMU, was eager and equipped to work with Jessie. In fact, she had collected and distributed prom dresses before, since 2005 when the new Harrisonburg High School building opened.

Together Monica and Jessie made plans to distribute the dresses during lunch at the high school.

Monica originally got the idea from a brochure she received from an Indian Reservation. That year, she and some fellow teachers collected a box of dresses to ship off to the reservation.

“What about doing it here?” Monica had wondered.

“It started out pretty small, but since that time it has grown,” she said. Monica collects dresses from a local consignment store and from teachers and students. Dresses are distributed through the Blue Streak Boutique to any student who wants one.

Modeling fashion forward green change

While free prom dresses may fill a financial need for some with the cost of new gowns running into the hundreds of dollars, “it’s about going green,” Monica said.

When Jessie and her JMU friends started helping two years ago, it made a big difference, Monica said. JMU students donated about 150 dresses.

“That year we borrowed the clothing racks from the theater department and hung up all the dresses for viewing.  Students were allowed to try them on and take one if they wanted,” Jessie wrote.

Monica has a closet in her office that she has turned into a dressing room. “It’s small. The girls have to share it with my filing cabinet and a ‘fridge,” Monica said.  She also rolls dresses out into the hall for students to see.  “The boys love to look them over and say ‘how’d I look in this?'”

“It’s become kind of a fun thing,” Monica said. She hopes that in the future she can involve other area high schools. She has also snagged a listing for Harrisonburg’s program on the website.

Teaming up, Jessie and Monica are making a difference again this year. Jessie is co-president of the Environmental Management Club, which is sponsoring the drive. It begins on campus tomorrow (Jan. 31) —  time enough for anyone to dig through closets and give a second life to some of those lovely dresses.

Here are the times, hours and locations where prom dresses will be collected:

January 31 and February 1 between 10 a.m and 12 noon, in the ISAT lobby.

February 29 between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. in HHS* 1007 (behind the copy center).

You can learn more about Blue Streak Boutique at

*JMU’s Health and Human Services building (not Harrisonburg High School)

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to Fashion forward change

  1. Christy says:

    What a great idea. Nice to know that everyone, no matter if they are wealthy or not, can have a beautiful prom.


    • grahammb says:

      I understand this is done every year, and not only here. Yes, it is a great idea….great for girls, for the environment, and for the spirit of sharing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: