Nonprofit Provides Teens With Beautiful Gowns for Any Special Occasion

Bella Boutique provides prom and homecoming outfits for teens on a budget
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Photos courtesy of Bella Boutique

Shopping for a prom dress is meant to create some of the most joyful memories a high school junior or senior will carry into adulthood. It can be a costly experience, though, with expenses easily topping $1,000 once the gown, shoes and accessories are factored in.

That can put prom out of reach for anyone whose family budget cannot bear that large of an outlay.

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Beautiful “Bellas” saying yes to the dress for upcoming events.

Thank goodness, then, for Bella Boutique, which since its founding in 2014 has been the source of free prom and homecoming outfits for teens who otherwise would not be able to purchase them. The clothing and accessories are theirs to keep as a remembrance, to wear for another special occasion or to gift to someone else.

Founded by Tia Hunsperger, Bella Boutique is Denver’s only all-volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit where prom-goers can pick out the perfect outfit in a space replicating a boutique or formalwear shop.

“The first year we were open, we dressed 18 students out of a school gym,” recalls Katie McDermott, president of Bella Boutique’s five-member board. “Last year, we dressed 500.”

During this year’s prom and graduation season, Bella Boutique will welcome teen shoppers in a central Denver location on South Sheridan Boulevard provided by EXDO Properties, a division of EXDO Group Companies.

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Beautiful “Bellas” saying yes to the dress for upcoming events.

“It’s important for us to create a boutique setting, because we want everyone to feel special,” McDermott says. “Our emphasis is on equity, dignity and inclusion.”

Bella Boutique clients are current high school students who are on free or reduced-cost lunch programs and from a family facing financial hardship. Appointments for each one-hour shopping session are mandatory and can be made by visiting the boutique’s website. A limited number of walk-ins can be accommodated on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon and from 1 to 3 p.m.

Each client is paired with a volunteer personal shopper who can answer questions and guide the student through the selection process. “We have over 3,000 dresses in a variety of styles and sizes, including those that are gender-neutral,” McDermott notes. “The students can bring friends, a parent or guardian, but they aren’t allowed in the shopping area because we want the student to make her own decisions.”

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Bella Boutique accepts donations of gowns, shoes, accessories and money year-round. “We’re very fortunate to get donations not just from individuals but also from wedding shops that donate bridesmaid’s dresses, and from several area boutiques. Things that are brand new, with tags still on them.”

Which, she adds, is important because Bella Boutique’s focus is to not have their young clients feel “less than.” Instead, “We want them to be excited and happy, to feel that what they have is theirs and not a rental.”

Drop-off donations are accepted at this year’s boutique site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 8. Donations of money, shoes, accessories and dresses size 0-30 can be mailed year-round to 1550 Larimer St., Suite 1004, Denver 80202. Specific needs are listed on the Bella Boutique website.

Bellabotique Logo






21295 S. Sheridan Blvd.

Categories: Community/Society, Fashion & Beauty