At its annual boutique, Fairy Goodmothers grants prom dreams for girls in need

It's midnight on a brisk Friday night in April, and a line of teenage girls is forming outside the door of a pop-up shop open only five days every spring. The tickets these young ladies are here for--which gain them entry into the boutique the next morning--carry the promise to make their princess-like prom dreams a reality.

One of the waiting girls needs a dress for her friend who lost everything in a house fire the night before. Another has been battling leukemia her whole life; her parents spent every extra dollar to pay medical expenses for a daughter they didn't expect to live to the age of 3. Then there's a foreign exchange student who's never heard of the high school tradition, but is excited to experience a new custom.

Entering in small groups, girls look around in awe at the sparkling pink draping, racks of formal gowns, shoes, purses and jewelry.

This can't be real, a skeptic may think at first. But when she stands in front of the mirror, in a gown that fits like it was made just for her, the defenses melt away. She smiles.

"Their faces glow, and they straighten up. It's so exciting to see them just be happy," said Jill Fergus through tearing eyes. She is president of Fairy Goodmothers, a Central Ohio nonprofit started by a group of Dublin and Upper Arlington moms that, since 2005, has been providing local girls in need with prom dresses and accessories at no cost.

At last year's boutique in Worthington Place, 1,078 "Cinderella girls" were outfitted head-to-toe for their high school dances. Students represented 138 high schools in the area, proving to the "fairies" (as volunteers call themselves) that the need isn't just great, it's everywhere. With more than 4,000 gowns in their inventory, the hope is to help even more teens this year, Fergus said.

During the five-day boutique, each girl is allowed one female guest (dads, uncles and boyfriends are kindly asked to wait outside) and is given a personal shopper to help her navigate the racks. Dresses are a combination of gently-used donations and new gowns purchased with funds raised throughout the year. For $30, Fairy Goodmothers can buy a new gown--which retails anywhere from $150 to $450--from partnering stores. For $40, they can supply an entire outfit. Girls are also given goodie bags with coupons for up-dos, manicures, boutonnieres and other prom-related needs to help defray costs.

But their purpose is more than just providing a pretty look. The goal is to build self esteem. With this in mind, no girl is asked to qualify her need for a dress.

"It's an opportunity for them to feel beautiful, to feel worthy and to feel more than adequate," said Anne Garlock Houser, Fairy Goodmothers vice president.

The more than 300 volunteers who make the boutique possible every year might not get things, but they do get satisfaction, Houser added. "I can't explain what this boutique means to each girl. It's such a rewarding thing to be a part of."

Cinderella's Closet Boutique will be held on April 7, 9, 10, 14 and 16. For more information or to get involved, visit

The Capital Style Prom Edition is on the newstands! Click here to find your copy.