Ollie Dimijian wasn’t looking forward to her junior prom at Hampton Bays High School because shopping for clothes isn’t her thing. But her mother persuaded her to look for a dress in an unconventional place: the local library.
After sifting through dress racks, Dimijian, 15, of Southampton, left the Hampton Bays Public Library last month with a full-length, sleeveless black gown for her May 13 prom that she described as glamorous.
“They were all really nice,” the teen said of the selections. “I had never been to prom before, so I was surprised at how fancy they were.”
Her mom, Ellen Greaves, called the dress “incredibly elegant and very Art Deco.” She also loved that it was free.
For four years, the library’s teen department has asked residents and Long Island clothing stores to donate prom dresses so local girls can look stylish on their big day. But this year’s Prom Dress Drive was broader and, for the first time, included tuxedos for male promgoers.
The teen department sent letters to more retailers across Long Island. Stores overwhelmed the branch with donations, tripling the library’s usual inventory. Some of the more than 100 dresses and nearly 50 tuxedos came from Estelle’s Dressy Dresses in Farmingdale, Denise’s Bridal in Sayville, Village Bridal and Boutique in Babylon and Omnibus Fashions in Babylon. The selection also included shoes, ties, vests, jewelry and handbags.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we gotta make space,’ ” Vicky Urbelis, who runs the library’s teen services department, recalled when the clothing began arriving in January.
Teenagers across Long Island can visit the library branch through June 23 and pick an outfit during library hours (Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.). No appointment is needed.
“If this means more kids can go to prom because the cost isn’t a barrier, I think that’s a great thing,” Greaves said.
Jocelyn Schult, who works in the library’s teen department, noted that many of the dresses are brand new “with the tags still on them.”
Urbelis said girls have come into the library in recent weeks with their friends and tried on dresses or accessories. They show up “with huge smiles on their faces” and even ask for fashion tips, Urbelis said.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re a little boutique,” she said.
The library’s clothing drive is the brainchild of former staffers Theresa Maritato and Jackie Dunn. The women started the drive in 2013 after a grandmother came into the branch one day asking about resources for girls struggling to afford prom clothes.
Dunn and Maritato did some research, found that there were little to no existing services and decided to start the library’s giveaway, Urbelis said.
“They had a big response that year and it’s been going on ever since,” she said.