Are you wondering what you’re going to wear to that military ball, high school prom or other fancy event this year?
Operation Deploy Your Dress will hold a “pop-up” event April 30 offering free dresses to about 600 people in the military community. Although it is being held at the headquarters of the Association of the U.S. Army in Arlington, Virginia, the event is open to people from all of the service branches, including those in the Guard and reserves. Those eligible are service members and military family members, including dependents age 12 and older. If the child doesn’t have a military ID card, they can come with their mother or stepmother who has a military ID.
You must register here to attend the event; bring your registration ticket and military/dependent ID to be admitted.
This is the fifth annual pop-up dress event held at AUSA. Not to worry if you don’t live in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. There are now 13 boutiques operated by Operation Deploy Your Dress located on military bases, including a dozen stateside Army or joint bases and one in Landstuhl, Germany. Check here for locations of the shops and information about days and hours of operation.
Since Operation Deploy Your Dress began in 2015, it has “re-deployed” more than 16,000 gowns from those 13 shops, saving military families an estimated $3 million, said Corrie Andreacchio, marketing director for the organization.
The organization’s pop-up events and boutiques accept donations of new or gently used gowns and accessories. Eligible shoppers can choose one dress and one accessory.
The April 30 event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with 75 registered customers for each hour, Andreacchio said. That adds up to 600 customers throughout the day.
After each hour’s session, dresses will be refreshed and new dresses will be introduced for the next group. The show floor and fitting rooms will be sanitized in between each group.
ODYD began at Fort Bliss in late 2015, when founders Renee Chapman, Ronya Rendon, Yvonne Coombes, Liz McKenrick and Melissa Riely decided to organize a dress swap among their units’ spouses, and saw a need for a larger effort.
These formal events can be expensive, and ODYD’s mission is to defray the costs of buying formal wear.
Customers over the years have included military families representing a variety of ranks. Young spouses new to the military, and some who been affiliated with the military for years but have never attended a military ball, and military youth buying prom dresses are among those customers.
For those who would like to donate dresses or accessories, the shops that are most in need of dresses are those at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Fort Irwin, California.
The AUSA April 30 pop-up event also needs dresses and accessories. No shoes are accepted.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.