PHS Prom Boutique spreads magic to students with donated formal wear

Anna Marshall, Wendy Wojtanowicz, Michelle Tudor, Karen Ramirez and Christin Donaldson get together at the Prom Boutique at Peninsula High School. Marshall, Tudor and Donaldson are all wearing dresses they found at the boutique. Joshua Bessex

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — In a true Cinderella story, an ordinary room within Peninsula High School has been transformed from classroom to boutique, complete with paper flower decorations and walls adorned with pink and black butcher paper.

Collected within the boutique is an array of prom gowns and men’s formal wear donated by the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula community to pass the magic of prom on to the next generation of students.

While the room may be missing a magic pumpkin carriage and a collection of singing, sewing field mice, it does feature the fairy godmothers behind the transformation: Wendy Wojtanowicz, site director for Communities in Schools of Peninsula, and Karen Ramirez, office secretary at PHS.

“Any little bit we can do to help,” Ramirez said. “I think everyone should be able to go to prom.”

Wendy Wojtanowicz, site director for Communities in Schools of Peninsula

Wojtanowicz and Ramirez started the program last year, giving out 13 gowns to girls attending prom. This year they have collected 170 gowns so far, along with men’s formal wear, shoes and accessories.

“These dresses came from all over,” Wojtanowicz said. “People from the community have been awesome. They’ve been showing up with their arms full.”

Along with the outfits, community members have also offered their time with services such as alterations, hairstyling, makeup and donated corsages.

The goal of the boutique is to help defray the cost of prom for students by providing free formal wear — gowns for the girls and slacks, jackets and shirts for the boys — to any interested PHS student. With the average cost of a prom dress running around $200, prices for the event can quickly escalate.

For Tacoda Anker, 20, finding an outfit for prom at the boutique will allow him more money to spend during prom night.

Tacoda Anker, Peninsula High School student

“It’s been a relief,” he said. “Instead of going and spending money on the outfit, I’m able to save up to spend on the night and make it more meaningful.”

Donations have come from former PHS students and even as far away as Bremerton, with community members cleaning out their closets to contribute to a meaningful night for a younger generation.

Many students will visit the boutique several times, searching for the perfect outfit or waiting until something in their size comes in. Anything not taken this year, or those dresses unsuited for prom, will be kept for next year by Wojtanowicz and Ramirez, who will reopen the boutique for Homecoming and then again for prom.

Karen Ramirez, office secretary at Peninsula High School

“We’re going to work spring and summer to grow the program,” Ramirez said.

Donations for the boutique are still being accepted at PHS, with larger gown sizes and men’s formal wear in particular need.

“Girls are getting pretty nervous if they don’t have a dress by mid-May,” Wojtanowicz said. The PHS prom is scheduled for June 3.

Watching girls come in and find a gown is an emotional experience for both Wojtanowicz and Ramirez.

“The magic and beauty of prom never changes. Just the dresses change,” Ramirez said. “Everyone wants to feel beautiful.”

Donations to the Prom Boutique can be dropped off at the main office at Peninsula High School, located at 14105 Purdy Drive NW in Gig Harbor.