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Thousands of Gowns: Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project Sets Up at Mid Rivers Mall

Students from the Art Institute of St. Louis helped get the boutique set up at Mid Rivers Mall. Starting next week, high school students in need will be able to choose a prom dress.

Ben Trotter, 22, tried to organize an armful of glittery, beaded prom dresses by color at the Metro St. Louis Cinderella boutique in Mid Rivers Mall on Tuesday.

Trotter was one of several students from the Art Institute of St. Louis in St. Charles who came out to help set up the boutique. During the next two weeks, girls who would not otherwise have the chance to go to prom will get to pick out a prom dress for free.

More than 200 students recommended by their counselors will get first pick of the more than 2,000 dresses donated by the public. The students come from schools across the metro area, from Winfield to Parkway to the City of St. Louis school districts, said Pam Raines, marketing director for the Community Council, which runs the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project.

This year, Raines recruited students at the Art Institute to help turn the empty storefront in the mall into a magical place.

"When I had seen they were coming to town, I thought it'd be a natural fit for us," she said.

Working with donated racks and decor from JC Penny, the students on Tuesday worked primarily on organizing the dresses by size and color.

Doing so not only reduces the visual clutter, Trotter said, but makes it easier for girls to find the perfect color for them.

"The color of the year is emerald," Trotter said as he worked. "So green is supposed to be big this year. But I'm a sucker for sequins and sparkles."

Cheyenne Stoecklin, 20, a fashion marketing student at the Art Institute, hopes to someday open a bridal and formal wear shop.

"I thought this was the perfect opportunity to see how you set something like this up," she said.

The boutique was packed with dresses in every color, from zebra stripe to Tic-Tac orange. Beaded ballgowns hung next to strapless cocktail dresses and some 1980's fashions with puffy sleeves and bows.

"We have some that have been sitting in people's closets awhile," Trotter said.

The general public will get a chance to peruse the boutique after the high school students make their selections.

The boutique opens to the public at 8 a.m. March 9 and sales continue from 6-8 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. It's located on the upper level of Mid Rivers Mall near JC Penny.

Learn more about how you can help the program here.

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