With prom season just around the corner, high school juniors and seniors are already selecting formal attire for their elegant evening of fine dining and dancing. For some students, though, the expense of attending prom, including event tickets, evening wear, flowers, dinner, photographs, and transportation can be prohibitive. Butterfly Dress Project, in Las Cruces, is a New Mexico registered nonprofit organization committed to providing a complete prom outfit, free of charge, to any student who cannot afford to purchase one.
Clients also sit down with Mary Kay Master Consultant Lynn Derksen to learn more about make-up and hair design ideas that accentuate the client’s natural features for her elegant evening out.
Butterfly Dress Project, founded by Kandi Kiolbasa, CEO, is governed by a board of directors, and run by volunteers from a variety of professions who lend their time and expertise so that clients can feel confident at their formal social event. Clients simply show some form of identification, even if it is just a school sports jersey with their name on it, and sign a contract that allows them to receive an outfit of their choice, including shoes if available, accessories, tailoring, dress embellishment, if desired, along with a course on etiquette and safety.
Throughout the year, gorgeous cocktail dresses and evening gowns are donated to the Butterfly Dress Project, along with suits, tuxedos, party clothes, hats, ties, dress shirts, shoes, and a full complement of accessories. Clients “shop” through a large inventory to find an outfit that appeals to them, matches their taste and style, and makes them feel attractive. Each client is fitted for alterations, and the items are tailored just for him or her. If the dress is perfect, but lacks sufficient pizzazz, a volunteer seamstress is happy to add ribbons or rhinestones to customize the dress for the client.
Clients also sit down with Mary Kay Master Consultant Lynn Derksen to learn more about make-up and hair design ideas that accentuate the client’s natural features for her elegant evening out. Since many girls tend toward wardrobes with a lot of solid blacks and browns, Lynn might recommend the client “kick up the color a bit away from the darker eye colors. In terms of the intensity, I want her make-up to look and feel the way she wants it to look and feel.”
Because the success of a formal event relies on more than simply looking terrific, Butterfly Dress Project provides its clients with etiquette and safety tips suited to the affair. Since their evening will likely include challenges such as multiple forks at dinner, pinning a corsage, elevated courtesy, tipping, safe transportation, and being offered alcohol or drugs, the organization requires clients to attend a brief informational course with guest speakers from beauty and law enforcement industries. According to Kandi, the course is age-appropriate, interesting, and is designed to equip and empower clients “with the skills necessary to feel confident, smart, proud, and powerful.”
The organization’s symbolic name was inspired by the butterfly’s distinctive transformation from chrysalis into a unique, spectacular beauty. Most of the company’s clients are young ladies who are anxious to be a butterfly for their one special evening. “You can see a girl’s eyes light up when she walks into a room full of beautiful dresses and people ready to love on her,” says Kandi. “When she is dressed, her hair is professionally styled, and her make-up is tastefully applied, she feels ready to take on the world.”
With a new, snazzy look, clients typically behave differently by standing taller, moving more gracefully, or speaking with lower volume. Kandi recounts, “One of the girls we dressed told us about her tuxedo-clad date and how straight he sat up at dinner. She told me, ‘I didn’t even realize he was that cute!’”
The Project is not exclusively for students attending prom. It is meant for people within the Las Cruces community who cannot afford to purchase appropriate clothing for any formal event, including weddings, theme cocktail parties, cotillions, and upscale dining soirées. “We recently dressed a 60-year-old woman for a first date,” Kandi explains. “She had been widowed, and it had been decades since she’d been on a first date. She was as cute as a 15-year-old girl.”
Kandi and her team are passionate about the work they do to ensure that every person in the community has the opportunity to confidently attend formal outings if they wish to. “I don’t take a paycheck. I love doing this. Every step of the way, I love the results,” explains Kandi. “It is our sincere wish that, through Butterfly Dress Project, we are giving people their wings and motivation to fly out into the world.”
The organization’s symbolic name was inspired by the butterfly’s distinctive transformation from chrysalis into a unique, spectacular beauty.