Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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The Woman’s Club of Evanston dresses local students up at 17th annual Dreams Delivered Prom Boutique

Photo courtesy of Erin Booker
High school students and Woman’s Club of Evanston volunteers select their ideal prom outfit at the club’s Grand Ballroom.

The Woman’s Club of Evanston hosted its annual Dreams Delivered Prom Boutique from Sunday to Tuesday, outfitting 120 Chicago area students with free prom dresses, shoes and accessories through a custom experience. 

The Woman’s Club co-hosted the program with the Ivy Pearl Foundation, a philanthropic organization within the Delta Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, at the WCE Clubhouse. The boutique has outfitted prom-goers for the past 17 years, instituting a legacy of service and empowerment in the Evanston community. 

At the boutique, WCE volunteers assist students to find the perfect prom dress with matching accessories. Students from the Tricoci University of Beauty Culture also offered hair and makeup guidance to complement the students’ outfits. Tailors were also on-site to provide alterations.

Many of the event’s 104 volunteers, including WCE President Caitlin Cody, cited the students’ confidence in their prom transformation as the most magical part of the boutique experience. 

“You see their posture change, you see their facial expression change,” Cody said. “There’s something special about feeling beautiful and feeling like an adult.”

WCE member Moyenda Knapp founded Dreams Delivered in 2007 after she and school administrators identified the need for greater accessibility to formal prom attire at Evanston Township High School.

Her favorite part of the event is helping students go to prom despite financial or time constraints, she said.

“I hope the community gets out of this event knowing that there are people out there who will support others,” she said. 

Knapp said a student’s grandmother asked if she needed to return the dress after the first Prom Boutique. Being able to tell her the dress was her granddaughter’s was “so moving,” Knapp said.

Dreams Delivered has evolved from a need-based, ETHS-focused event to serve a growing number of students from diverse backgrounds. Organizers promote inclusivity as an event tenet.

“We do not have any restrictions by gender (or) gender identity,” event chairperson Erin Booker said. “We don’t restrict by income or, right now, geographical location … It’s open to pretty much anyone who wants a dress.” 

The boutique’s stock of about 1,000 dresses, ranging from size 0 to 26, comes from local business and family donations collected at 10 Chicago-area drop-off sites. The Women’s Club also raises money to buy additional dresses and shoes to complete the selection. 

Evanston mom and Dreams Delivered member Kelly Terrell said the community connection aspect of Dreams Delivered enhanced her boutique experience with her youngest daughter, who attended this year’s event.

“The dress that she ultimately picked … was donated by someone that I know,” Terrell said. “It was actually one of her wedding dresses. And so having all the layers of emotion, it’s pretty exciting.”

For ETHS senior Ela Altay, who attended the boutique and promoted it at ETHS’ Senior Assembly in March, trying on prom dresses with friends was an iconic high school experience.

Altay said the event showed her the power of support and solidarity among women. 

“It ended up being such a teenage coming-of-age movie moment … of all the girls in these beautiful dresses,” Altay said.

WCE volunteer and future co-chair of the event Kathy Hayes said she hopes the boutique instills students with a sense of service to the community.

“This is all about giving forward,” Hayes said. “We want students and youth to know that there’s stuff out here that you can do that gives a smile on your face by the end of the day.”

Email: [email protected] 

X: @Marisa_G_Ech

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