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Dress Rehearsal

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Dress shopping can end up being more fun than the prom itself. Last Saturday, 1,219 teenage girls took part in this ritual, trying on bejeweled, crinolined, and otherwise red-carpet-worthy gowns at the Fourth Annual Operation Fairy Dust Prom Dress Giveaway. The dresses were donated new or “gently used” and given to seniors with high school IDs. The price they paid was mainly in the form of patience. The ornate Prince George Ballroom on East 27th Street provided the glamorous setting, but the line outside, which began forming with three determined young ladies at 4 a.m., was strictly informal. By noon it was five girls deep and stretched around two corners.

Inside, there were 3,000 dresses to peruse. In keeping with tradition, boyfriends sat on benches wearing zombie-like looks of boredom, while moms were busy hauling armfuls of tulle into the dressing rooms. As shoppers zeroed in on their choices, some sashayed around the ballroom as if the prom had already begun, seeming uninterested in ever wearing jeans again. Others needed more convincing. One girl, in a floor-skimming satin drop-waist number, gazed into a mirror, scrunching up her face and fussing with her straps. “You look so elegant!” her friend, in a lacy minidress, told her.

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