The Hidden Boutique: Dr. Phillips High helps economically challenged students attend prom

Dr. Phillips High School’s DECA club is seeking donations to transform a storage closet into a boutique to offer students with financial struggles the chance to attend prom.

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  • | 2:15 p.m. February 23, 2017
  • Southwest Orange
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DR. PHILLIPS – Inside a 6-foot-by-12-foot storage closet enclosed within a larger classroom storage closet at Dr. Phillips High School hang several secondhand dresses of every color and fabric awaiting a student to take them home with the intention of being worn to prom night.

The goal of the hidden prom boutique, with its stand-alone mirror, three racks holding 40 dresses and two bookcases with an array of dressy high heels on display, is to provide female students who are financially unable to purchase suitable attire the opportunity to attend prom.

The McKinney-Vento Prom Boutique, available to students who receive assistance from the federally funded McKinney-Vento program for homeless students, is an initiative that was launched 10 years ago and has since been expanded. Now, the school’s Distributive Education Club of America chapter — an internationally recognized association of marketing students — is sponsoring a donation drive to fully transform the storage closet’s space to a bonafide prom boutique.

Although small and largely concealed from view, the McKinney-Vento Prom Boutique at Dr. Phillips High School has a big impact on many students.
Although small and largely concealed from view, the McKinney-Vento Prom Boutique at Dr. Phillips High School has a big impact on many students.

Laura Doud, the school’s DECA club adviser, hopes to add more dresses, accessories, shoes and décor, including draperies, to add some charm to the modest space and help imitate a genuine shopping experience for the students it benefits. 

“It’s not much, but it’s better than digging through a bin,” she said. “And the walls in there are, you know, the school’s walls. So it’s a creamy tan color, very muted. So we had tinkered with the idea of getting wall décor ... but it’s really up to the kids and their imagination and what they want to do in there. I just ask for donations because it’s a charitable idea that we’re working with, and if we had any extra money, we would want the money to go specifically to the McKinney-Vento program and not wall art.”

Doud also hopes to get more dresses to update their inventory with dresses more in line with modern fashion trends. 

“The thing with the dresses is that they’re all donated,” Doud said. “So some people are donating dresses that were really in style maybe five or six years ago but maybe not so much now. So that’s why every year we ask for donations for dresses; we try to keep our inventory up-to-date with fashion trends.”

Before DPHS was renovated, the prom boutique was located in a small bookstore. In prom season, the school would close the bookstore for two weeks, lay out all the prom dresses and allow the students to come in, take a look at the dresses, try them on and keep the dress to take to prom.

However, when the construction started, they were forced to move the boutique to a very small storage closet. 

“The students would come in, but there wasn’t enough room,” Doud said. “So they would go through the racks real quick and look, but then they would have to go down the hallway to try on the attire because it was just kind of shoved in a corner. And then we were moved to the north campus, and we were sort of displaced. We had no home. But when we got a new classroom last year, we started setting up the closet and it was just never properly finished.”

Now they aim to finish it and hope to receive help from the public to achieve that goal. 

“Every student should have the opportunity to participate in any function that’s available to them,” Doud said. “Not having something shouldn’t inhibit them from having that experience.”


Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].


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