Dressed to Dream formalwear giveaway puts the glitz in prom for area teens

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Event organizer Cyndy Hillier (standing) joins volunteer greeters Keira Morthland (left) and Ellie Emery in welcoming guests to Dressed to Dream
Event organizer Cyndy Hillier (standing) joins volunteer greeters Keira Morthland (left) and Ellie Emery in welcoming guests to Dressed to Dream, which was held at Rolling Hills Community Church. Mike Antonelli/Tualatin Life

Glam is where it’s at for Keira Morthland.

“I’m a huge dress person,” the 17-year-old high school junior said. “I like seeing all the nails, the jewelry, the shoes, all of it.”

Bergen Lien (right), served up custom drinks, snacks, and Miss Hannah’s Gourmet Popcorn to tired “shoppers.”
Bergen Lien (right), served up custom drinks, snacks, and Miss Hannah’s Gourmet Popcorn to tired “shoppers.” Mike Antonelli/Tualatin Life

And there was a lot of it being seen, tried on, fawned over, and taken home for the low, low cost of free last month at the pre- prom formalwear giveaway event, Dressed to Dream, where Morthland was a volunteer greeter.

The event was designed to take the financial sting out of an evening that can cost hundreds of dollars before it even begins, making the iconic night accessible to students who might otherwise be priced out.

“We really want to make the kids feel like this is their special day,” said Cyndy Hillier, a Tualatin city councilor.

Hillier, who spearheads the giveaway for Tualatin Together, coordinates year-round donations and leads the volunteer crew that spent a combined 200 plus hours making it happen, from clothes collection to tear down.

The group’s efforts included a full day arranging dresses, suits, button-downs, dress pants, shoes, jewelry, purses, and make-up into an easy to navigate, one-stop, pop-up prom shop at Rolling Hills Community Church.

Guests shopped for shoes, suits, prom dresses, jewelry, purses and more, all provided free of charge by volunteers.
Guests shopped for shoes, suits, prom dresses, jewelry, purses and more, all provided free of charge by volunteers. Mike Antonelli/Tualatin Life

Tigard/Tualatin area students were invited to “shop” head to toe for the attire and accessories to complete their prom looks.

While the bulk of the collection is femme attire comprised of hundreds of dresses from vintage to still-tagged new styles, the Dressed to Dream team is working to grow its more masculine collection. This spring’s inventory included a handful of tuxedos, a couple of dozen suits, and about 50 pairs of slacks and dress shirts.

“Whichever way you want to dress to go to prom, we have the clothes,” said Kristen Grant. Grant works with the school district’s Caring Closet, which culls formalwear and other dress clothes from its donations to help stock the racks at Dressed to Dream.

A couple of years ago, Grant’s daughter “found this absolutely stunning blue dress. And because we found a free dress, we were able to go buy really nice shoes,” she said.

Unfortunately, the 2021 graduate, never got to wear it. Her junior prom, like dances around the globe that spring, was a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Grant said, the shopping was fun.

“I love taking the girls and watching them get so excited to find something they are so utterly in love with,” she said.

The only thing better is getting to be the one trying them on.

The last time Morthland volunteered, she tried on at least a dozen of the dresses just for the thrill of playing with fashion.

Like many of the other student volunteers, Morthland got involved through Tualatin Together’s youth coalition StandUp Tualatin. Both the non-profit and its youth group focus on encouraging young people to maintain a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle.

Tualatin Together holds the event three times a year, also hosting free pop-ups for homecoming dances and winter formals. Hillier said they’d additionally like to expand into outfitting students for their first interviews and jobs.

Dressed to Dream, originally dubbed Diva Day, was started by parents about a decade ago. When Tualatin Together took over, the group changed the name to reflect the events’ gender inclusivity.

About 130 students from five high schools left the event with something to wear this round, Hillier said. She estimates they’ve outfitted about 2,500 kids over the years.

To up the access, they offered free bus service to Rolling Hills Community Church from both Tigard and Tualatin high schools and several elementary schools. Hillier said she was pleased that, in its inaugural run, the bus service had a handful of riders and said she hopes to see it more widely used on future voyages.

While the idea is to ensure kids can attend who otherwise might not be able to afford dancing the night away at the prom, there are no income restrictions.

“The biggest thing with this program is that it’s for everyone. This is not just for those kids who are in need. It’s for everyone – anywhere in the area,” said Kristin Morthland, who volunteered at the event with her daughter.

With the spring event fading into the rear view, organizers already have their eyes on the fall. And winter. And spring 2023.

“I love that the community comes together for all of these kids,” Grant said. “It’s a high school moment every kid should have. It’s absolutely a milestone.”

To find out more about Tualatin Together, email info@tualatintogether.org. They next meet on May 12 from 4:30-5:30 p.m.