Abby’s Closet provides thousands of free prom dresses


Girls try on the dresses at the Abby’s Closet prom dress give away.

Abby’s Closet, Portland’s largest free prom dress organization, had it’s 11th successful year over the final weekend in March, with 2,200 girls filling the convention center to claim a gown for themselves.

“We started in 2004 with Abby Egland, the founder, and her mother going through Abby’s closet, her literal closet, and finding her old prom dress. She was going away to college and was thinking, ‘I’ve only worn this once; maybe someone else wants it,’” said Tanis Campbell, a Student Advisory Board (SAB) member who helped plan the event.

“Essentially, there is a group of high school girls who meet once a month for a couple hours at a time to plan. We also have what we call ‘The Motherboard,’ which is the actual board of directors and about 400 outside volunteers who came in,” Campbell said, noting the village that it takes to pull off a nonprofit event of this scale.

With this year’s total of 7,777 dresses filling up the convention hall, the setup took days in advance. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of people,” said Campbell.

As for the turn out, around 2,000 girls was the anticipated amount, but the organization is always looking to connect with more girls who need prom gowns. “This year was kind of hard because it was on the end of spring break, so we didn’t get a lot of announcements out to the schools in the week leading up, which is our big time to do a lot of marketing work. We really pushed social media and tried to get information out there for girls,” commented Campbell.  In addition staying active on the Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, Abby’s Closet worked with KGW’s Drew Carney on the Friday before the event.  Starting at four in the morning, 14 SAB members filmed numerous live teasers and a full segment with the Channel 8 news, modeling a selection of the bounty of prom dresses they had to offer for the weekend and sharing their mission: to inspire confidence and respect in high school women by providing free formal gowns for prom and other memorable events.