Ruby Room offers free prom dresses for low-income teens

By Nazia Khan

As the end of the school year draws nearer, mostly upperclassmen girls struggle to pick the perfect prom dress. It can get quite expensive, according to the website PromGirl.net  as the dresses can range anywhere from $200 to $1300.

Fortunately, for some girls, the Ruby Room is here to help. Located on 11th Avenue in Seattle, the Ruby Room is a nonprofit organization that gives away free prom dresses to students in high school who come from low-income family.

Nyla Bittermann is the founder and director of the organization, which started in 2002. Bittermann knows how hard it can be in a low-income household. She said, “I love that I can take the stress off a household that can’t afford a beautiful dress.”

The Ruby Room has more than 1000 dresses and more than 100 pairs of shoes. During prom season, the busiest time of the year, they usually give away about 500 dresses a year. Teens from over 100 different high schools have gone to collect a dress.

According to the Ruby Room website, in addition to dresses, they also have accessories such as shoes, jewelry and purses. The Ruby Room can also provide dresses for homecoming or any other special events. After making an appointment, a personal shopper is assigned.

To be considered for a dress, girls must be eligible for free or reduced lunch at school, or be referred by a school or community service leader.

All of the dresses and accessories that will be given away are donated and money can also be donated to the Ruby Room. Although one is not guaranteed to obtain a dress since supplies are limited in size, girls may only receive one dress and any accessories that relate to the dress.

There are occasional dress drives at the Ruby Room boutique. The next dress drive is on November 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In 2010, the Ruby Room had a fashion show and auction for the dresses, which was a huge success. There are many volunteer opportunities at the Ruby Room such as becoming a personal shopper or a scheduler.

Bittermann said, “Some of the dresses aren’t appropriate for Prom, maybe they are torn, stained or out of date.”

She also said, “Many women buy a dress to wear to an event and never wear it again, so they give it to us.”

Those dresses are given to local fashion designers to make a new dress with the materials, that they sell at the live auction Fall Fashion Show.

The fall fashion show is called the Fashion Faux Pas to Fashion Fabulous fashion show.

The next show is planned for Saturday, October 13. The fashion show helps raise money to keep the organization going strong.

The Ruby Room is open every Saturday starting April 7 to June 9, but will be closed over Memorial Day weekend. For more information about the dresses, volunteer opportunities or any other information, visit RubyRoom.org.