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Cinderella Dress Day

This video is about Cinderella Dress Day

Breasha Bolden, 15, from South Side, has her dress pinned by volunteers Nancy Gouloff-Grabner, left, and Linda Macabee, to have it shortened.

Playing a princess for the day

Event gives free dresses to girls who need them

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Tori Esquerra, center, a volunteer at Saturday’s Cinderella Dress Day, helps Kellie Kessler, 19, left, and Paula Kessler pick out prom dresses to try on.

– The floor around Payton Scott’s feet was a sea of teal, azalea pink and maroon satin.

And she thought she’d found The One.

Whoosh! Without so much as a magic wand, the slim 16-year-old Homestead High School sophomore from Fort Wayne had been transformed into a princess by a satin strapless gown in a dusky persimmon color.

Surrounded by two girlfriends, Abbey Ramsour and Kairah Schlatter, and dozens of other young women trying on dresses, Scott was enthralled.

“I like the color. I like the neckline, and I like the ruched bodice. I liked it right away,” she said of the dress she’d just discovered during Saturday’s Cinderella Dress Day giveaway.

Veydra van der Leur of Spencerville, a coordinator of the event sponsored by the Fort Wayne Medical Society Alliance, said girls in search of gowns were lined up outside Parkview Health’s corporate office just off Dupont Road nearly three hours before the doors opened at 9 a.m.

The scene, she said, was reminiscent of a blowout sale day at Kleinfeld’s, the New York City bridal salon familiar to viewers of TLC’s reality TV show “Say Yes to the Dress.”

“It’s exactly like that,” van der Leur said with a laugh. “We need to get a bell, so they can ring it when somebody says ‘yes’ to a dress. But it would be deafening in here!”

Indeed, about 800 girls were expected to drop by for a dress before the event’s conclusion at 2 p.m., van der Leur said. About 2,200 dresses in all sizes hung on racks for shoppers’ perusal.

Any high school girl desiring a formal dress can attend, van der Leur said, adding that all the dresses are either gently used and donated by individuals or samples donated by area bridal and formal shops.

Van de Leur said this was the first year the event, in its 12th year, was held at Parkview Health. The site was changed from the Fort Wayne’s Boys & Girls Club, she said, because more space, especially for parking, was needed.

However, organizers provided free transportation from the club to the new location for those who needed it, she added.

Besides being able to select a dress, attendees could pick up information about women’s health issues, nutrition and texting while driving.

Jewelry, dressy shoes, wraps and even specialty undergarments were offered, and about a half-dozen cosmetology pros had volunteered to do free hairstyles and makeup.

Meanwhile, a row of fairy godmothers sat behind sewing machines or with needle and thread in hand performing on-the-spot alterations.

Nancy Gouloff-Grabner of Fort Wayne deftly hand-stitched a sparkly rhinestone embellishment onto the wide waistband of a short black dress with a full skirt and tulle overlay.

“There. That’s perfect,” Gouloff-Grabner said, handing the dress back to a smiling Marceda McElroy, 18, a senior at Snider High School. “All it needed was a little bling.”

Despite the number of customers, there was no tussling over dresses.

Back in the dressing room, Mercedes Matter, 16, of Monroeville, had tried on a strapless aqua satin ball gown and a pink ball gown with a beaded bodice and tiny beaded flowers scattered on the skirt.

Matter’s shopping companion and junior classmate at Heritage Junior-Senior High School, 16-year-old Alysha Brunton, also liked the pink dress. Encouraged to try it on, Brunton decided it was The One for her, and Matter cheerfully gave it up.

The two girls are friends from the school’s track team and weren’t about to let a dress get in the way, they said.

“We know how to get dirty, but we also like this,” Matter said.

A bit later, Scott emerged from a dressing room wearing a different dress than her first pick.

This dress was a figure-hugging teal satin gown with a flowing skirt cut on the bias. At first, she thought the dress’ straps and top were too big.

But when she heard she could have the slinky garment altered, she changed her mind and decided this dress was The One. She liked the color better, she said.

Scott planned to wear the gown to a formal Sweet 16 party her friend Ramsour was hosting today.

“For my Sweet 16, I decided to have a formal party at my church,” said Ramsour, trying on an azalea pink gown.

“I like dress up.”