Prom dresses hang on a rack. Photo by Salvation Army USA West/Flickr Creative Commons.

Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School teacher Candis Fields began collecting prom dresses in 2019 on her own to help her students celebrate what can be a very expensive rite of passage for city teenagers.

Now this year, Fields is working with the local chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction to help even more teens in need of prom dresses.

“First of all, Baltimore City is already an area where poverty is a thing,” Fields said. “But these prices are crazy for dresses. They want to feel like they have friends and peers but to have dresses made, these people are charging like $600, $700, $800. And that doesn’t even cover the hair and makeup and transportation costs and prom tickets.”

Those costs can add up quickly. Amarra, a national company that specializes in prom dresses, estimates the average girl will spend about $1,000 going to the formal event. Fields said even freshmen and sophomores have a need for dresses with their classes having their own formal events each year. 

Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School teacher Candis Fields is collecting prom dresses for students in need. Photo by Candis Fields.

Fields is collecting dresses now because most Baltimore schools will hold their formal events in April and May.

In previous drives, Fields said she collected between 150 to 160 dresses. This year, with the backing of the Ladies of Distinction, she hopes to collect even more. 

Fields and her group said they are very aware of the need for discretion for the students who participate. 

“A lot of them are very very happy and very excited. But we do give them out after school for privacy. Everybody doesn’t need to know that your family doesn’t have.” 

Anyone interested in donating a dress can contact Fields at Donations are also being accepted at Mervo at 3500 Hillen Road from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days. The drive runs until March 6.

Fields will also hold a “Browse and Bag” event for interested students from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on March 7 at Mervo.

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Tim Swift

Tim Swift is a local freelance writer and the former features editor for the Baltimore Sun.

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