is the average amount teen girls spent on prom dresses in 2009, according to a Hearst survey.


is the total cost of a prom dress, shoes, jewelry and handbag at the Santa Fe Prom Closet.

"O.K., so you’re trying your best to scrimp. You dilute your bottled water with tap water. You give up premium cable for shadow puppetry…And now: what are you going to wear to the recession?" —Patricia Marx in The New Yorker, December 8, 2008

Prom comes to Santa Fe Preparatory School in May. So, for Physical Education Department Chair and longtime prom coordinator Rennae Ross, April means crunch time. This year, Ross has extra duties: As a founder of the Santa Fe Prom Closet, she's spent hours collecting and organizing donated prom dresses, shoes, jewelry and the occasional sequined clutch for Santa Fe's high school seniors.

Girls who make reservations at the Prom Closet's secret location land a cost-free dress, accessories included. ("We can't really handle just opening and telling everybody where we are," Ross says, because of the Prom Closet's limited space and personnel.)

Imagining bottom-of-the-barrel thrift-store fare? Think again.

"We have Christian Dior, Vera Wang, Hugo Boss," Ross says, rattling off big-name designers. "We have some amazing clothes."

Donation collection has been so successful, in fact, that Ross hasn't found nearly enough girls to take all the dresses.

"We didn't know getting the clothing would prove to be the easy part," she says. Matching them with prom-going seniors, on the other hand, "has been very difficult."

While dress-donating campaigns aren't new, they're a bit late in coming to New Mexico.
Donatemydress.org, an arm of CosmoGirl and Seventeen publisher Hearst, bills itself as "the first national campaign" for formal dress donations but lists no New Mexico donation sites. Ross says her only local advice came from a small startup in Las Cruces.

According to Hearst, teen girls in 2009 spent an average of $893 on "the prom experience"—dress, shoes, corsage, limo, dinner, etc. (A Seventeen magazine survey puts that number at $537.)

Ross, who says she wants "to acknowledge the hard work it takes to stay in school," booked 15 girls from five area high schools for dress fittings April 10 on the Prom Closet's first Saturday. For upcoming dates, call Ross at 795-7522.

Visit SFReeper.com for SFR's Prom Closet slide show.