When I attended my senior prom so many decades ago, I made my dress.
My parents had two children in college and couldn't afford such an extravagance.
I created a long, sheath-type dress with a bolero jacket. All white. White was the in color that year.
I think all the materials cost me about $20. I already had white shoes from Easter.
Never miss a local story.
If you had told me I wasn't the best-looking girl there, I wouldn't have believed you.
That feeling, that sense of being beautiful, might be a woman's shortcoming, but it is still what most girls strive for.
That is what has led Deata Sexton Gregory, owner of The Wedding Center Inc., Tres Chic Boutique and Salon Plaza, to continue to help young girls look beautiful for their proms.
For the fourth year, Gregory, with help from Helen Smith, the Winburn Community Center program director, has given beautiful gowns to deserving girls who wouldn't have been able to afford anything as nice ... if anything at all.
Her "Dreaming of a Dress" event began as a donation of prom dresses for a community fashion show that Smith was coordinating. It ended with Gregory giving the dresses to the nine girls who worked as models. And it has taken off from there.
"We've done so much more since then," Gregory said. "The first time sort of happened. It was spur of the moment. The girls touched my heart.
"Now we have an event that is so scheduled," she said.
This year, 23 girls were paired with personal dressers and hair stylists, who pampered them just as every girl dreams of and deserves.
Miss Kentucky U.S. International, Alysha Noel Harris, and Miss Providence Rhode Island 2010, Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo, a client of Gregory's boutique, were among those helping the girls look beautiful.
"The girls get a lot of attention," Gregory said. "Cameras are going, monitoring everything. It's like they have their own little paparazzi thing going on."
Smith has worked for 10 years to make prom special for girls whose families have to stretch incomes just to cover necessities. She said that before Gregory got involved, the girls would wear borrowed dresses on their special night, returning them the following day.
"Deata has been very good to the girls, tremendously good to them," Smith said. Gregory allows the girls to pick a dress from inventory that isn't selling well or from among dresses donated by the community. "She doesn't stand over them watching, and those clothes are very expensive," Smith said.
The girls don't just show up and pick a dress. They have to earn it.
They have to go through special classes beginning in September that include etiquette, personal grooming techniques and proper interview conduct.
Smith said the class, which is open to all girls in the community, not just those hoping to get a prom dress, began with 20 students from the Winburn neighborhood. The classes ended in April with 55 participants. Smith selected the juniors and seniors to participate in Dreaming of a Dress.
When the girls walked into Gregory's Wedding Center, they were greeted with a tea party setting and a runway on which each girl would walk once her pampering was complete. A photographer took glamour shots, and each girl also received a pair of shoes and placed an order for a free corsage from Bella Blooms, which also gave each girl a rose that evening.
"She took it to another level this year," Smith said of Gregory. "It does something with their inner beauty and self-esteem. It makes them feel good on the inside and not just look good on the outside."
Gregory said the event was the result of a lot of people giving back. "We take in donations of dresses all year round, and we get a great selection," she said. She hopes to add new donation stations this year.
Several businesses helped with the event. Azur restaurant provided the food, and Jerame Stephens Photography took pictures. Lexington-Fayette County Council members Tom Blues and Linda Gorton were on hand.
The event began about 7:30 p.m. May 3 and ended about three hours later.
"Every year, there is that one girl who touches your heart," Gregory said. "This year, one girl came in with her head a little low, but by the time she left, she was strutting down the runway.
"It's a wonderful thing when you think you have made an impact," she said.