Girls and mothers look through more than 200 formal dresses at the second annual “That’s the Dress,” a formal-dress donation event, at the Solomons Volunteer Fire Department. Shoes and jewelry were also available. . (Amanda Harrison/The Calvert Recorder)

More than 100 formal dresses were given away recently to girls in Southern Maryland who would not have been able to afford the cost of a gown, at the second annual “That’s the Dress.”

Middle school and high school girls attended the event this month at the Solomons Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad to pick out formal dresses for upcoming school dances, including eighth-grade formals, high school proms and homecoming dances.

“Every girl deserves to look like a princess for her prom, and this event will hopefully give her that chance,” the event’s flier said.

Lisa Easter, the event’s coordinator, said afterward that it went pretty well but that not as many dresses were given away as she had anticipated, based on the turnout at last year, when more than 250 dresses were given away.

“I’m kind of disappointed in the turnout,” Easter said. “But we helped those who needed it.”

The 100 or so dresses that remained were donated to several organizations, Easter said, including 30 given to the Solomons Nursing Center for its upcoming formal dance.

Easter said she began the event because of the downturn in the economy and the pressure that parents face if they can’t afford to buy their daughter a prom dress.

A prom is expensive when the dress, hair and makeup are taken into account, Easter said. Last year, she had parents coming to her, telling her they were about to lose their home, that they were struggling financially and that the prom was a luxury they couldn’t afford.

At this year’s event, besides more than 230 donated dresses, there were also shoes and jewelry. There were several raffle prizes, including a hairstyle from Michelangelo’s Salon, a photo session from Photography by Cindi and makeup application from Tia Noel.

Dresses came from various sources, Easter said, including Michelangelo’s Salon, which donated more than 100 gowns, and Southern Calvert Baptist Church in Lusby. Many gowns still have tags on them, she said, adding that there were a couple of designer couture gowns.

“It’s a good opportunity,” said Kelley Quade, who was helping her daughter Ilyssa, 15, find a gown for Chopticon High School’s prom. “I wish I had brought a couple of her friends who could have benefited from this.”

Courtney Hamm, 16, of Lusby and her mom were looking for a halter dress Courtney could wear to Huntingtown High School’s prom. After deciding on a yellow dress, Courtney said she would “absolutely” be donating the dress back so someone else could enjoy it next year.

Volunteer Brittany Grant of Hollywood said she saw the event last year on Facebook and decided to help this year.

“I knew some friends who wanted to go to prom and couldn’t,” because they couldn’t afford it, she said. Grant said she and her sister donated several dresses for this year’s event.

For Ashley Ross and her younger sister, Drewann Haag, who was looking for a dress she could wear to her eighth-grade formal at Southern Middle School, it was an opportunity for bonding.

“I like that she can come here and find a dress and get excited,” Ross said, laughing because she was surprised when her sister said she wanted to wear a dress.

“She’s having a field day,” she said of Drewann, and then asked, “How are you ever going to choose?”

Drewann, who was holding several dresses to try on, replied, “I don’t know. I’ll figure out something.”