The "Why"

The Ruby Room was bustling, dresses flying in and out of the fitting rooms, the sound of hangers being passed from the racks for the thousands of dresses that fill the boutique. Then it happened, she came out emerging from the fitting room with the perfect dress, the perfect fit and a smile on her face knowing this, was the one. Courtney, a high school senior, stepped in front of the mirror and stunned the room. The ooh’s and ahhs from nearby clients and volunteers brought excitement to the air. There stood Courtney’s mom, next to her in the mirror, with extreme adoration for her daughter. As I looked on, Courtney’s mom turned to me placing her hand on my shoulder, drawing her head near as tears filled her eyes. “Thank you for what you do here,” said her mom,  “This means so much.”  I returned the embrace and felt her weight in sadness. I assured her that she was in the right place to let out a good cry. Only a few months prior, she received a diagnosis of stage four cancer. The jolting news of this harsh diagnosis rocked her world placing enormous uncertainty on their future and finances. Buying a dress for prom was not in the cards. The Ruby Room formal wear program reduces the financial burden for families by 60% - 70% of the overall cost of prom.

A single mom of two girls, there are still things to do and dreams to share with her daughters. That day, they came to the Ruby Room determined to fulfill a very specific goal of seeing Courtney go to prom. It was this very moment their dream was beginning to come true. Goosebumps filled my body and the sting of tears pierced my eyes. What an honor to witness the making of memories of a lifetime and support a mother and daughter who now exactly how precious these moments are. As she takes on the fight of her life, she will sit with some comfort knowing they received the support needed to achieve the milestones every parent dreams for their child.

A Busy Saturday in the Ruby Room

The Ruby Room is a happy place!

The hustle of dresses in and out of the changing rooms…

The talk of hairstyles to fit the look of a dress…

Questioning at 17 years old, “Can you really walk in those heels all night long?”

The Ruby Room inventory spans over 1500+ dresses, gowns and cocktail dresses included.
So what happens when a teen leaves without a dress for the dance?
It’s unusual for this to happen, in fact, this season is a near perfect styling girls for prom.
And then there’s that one exception...

A busy Saturday afternoon we welcomed a client, who did not get a dress with us that day.
I reflect back on the why
Why her?
What happened?

Meet Sarina, a lovely high school senior, with an alternative style and a sparkle of hope in her eye to be in the Ruby Room; Sarina arrived with her boyfriend’s (BF) mom. Like most teens visitng the Ruby Room for the first time, Sarina was a bit timid. Promptly we paired her with one of our volunteers, Kris. 

Kris is the perfect fit as a Ruby Room stylist, she will greet you with a warm smile and sweet tone. She has the patience of a goddess, as the mother of three teenage kids she has been on the playing field with sometimes, opposing battles, fashion on one team and teenagers on the other. As clients and volunteers get acquainted they talk about where the dance is, what style and color of dress a client is interested in trying. This is the moment where stylists at Ruby Room try and read the client to gauge the initial pace of her experience at the boutique. 

During this discovery process, Kris attempted to warm-up to Sarina, there seemed to be more pressure to find a dress than to learn more about her. Quickly, Sarina and BF’s mom pulled dresses from the racks and placed in her private dressing room.  Sarina started trying on dresses.

Kris attempts at asking Sarina to come out of the fitting room and show one of the dresses she is trying on, with no avail. Seeing a client in a dress, even if it is the wrong one, allows our stylists to check on sizing, pull more of the right style, or help zipping up the back of the dress. With Sarina, this was never an option, not even a peek through the curtains. When Sarina found a dress that could be a contender, Kris walked into the shoe area and selected a pair of shoes, with the hopes it would elevate Sarina’s choice in dress. Kris walked over with a pair of shoes and without a blink, the BF’s mom chimed in condescendingly and said,” Sarina’s foot is bigger than that”. The negative tone from the BF’s mom clearly paved the way to an uncommon experience. Sarina’s shoulders folded in a little more and Kris found it difficult to make suggestions to an anxious teen.

Did Sarina dare not come out from behind the curtain because she felt nervous about a critical eye? One can only imagine what BF’s mom would have said about a dress! Yikes!

Negative comments can easily take a girl down. Maybe BF’s mom didn’t mean it to be so harsh but her delivery…. and reading off body language alone, I would say next time leave her at home!

At the end of the busy day, I paused, I took time to reflect on my feelings seeing Sarina leave the boutique without a dress in hand.  I knew we were in the position to help her further so I called in an attempt to schedule a one-on-one shopping trip to find this sweet girl a dress! Maybe we hear back from her and she gives us another chance. 

There is pressure for girls to find the right dress for the dance, the hopes of feeling confident, and we do our best to manage expectations of each girls’ experience at the Ruby Room boutique.  Often times the age of girls we work with, it is their first time trying on a formal dress or formal dresses for that matter!  We try and take that pressure off the girls and give them individualized attention when shopping at Ruby Room. 

As a client, coming to the Ruby Room, and you question if you need moral support, you will always find that at the Ruby Room! Leave the critics at home! Everyone at the Ruby Room is here to lend a helping hand, it is a shared goal to have a girl walk out with confidence and self-love.

Style and fashion is one’s unique perspective, so remember if you didn’t love something a girl was wearing or have a difference of opinion, BE KIND!

The truth is we don’t know what others may be internalizing or trying to overcome as they look in the mirror.  We think of finding a dress at the Ruby Room is part of their prom story and we want the girls to reflect on their experience as a positive one.