Rock the prom dress one last time

Girls will receive a photo similar to this one when they sign up for the Rock the Dress Drive on Aug. 15. - Danielle Ness/Contributed Photo
Girls will receive a photo similar to this one when they sign up for the Rock the Dress Drive on Aug. 15.
— image credit: Danielle Ness/Contributed Photo

Any girl who has been in high school in the last 10 years, or the parents of a high school girl, can attest to the closet of formal dresses they leave behind. Prom, homecoming, winter formal — the dresses stack up. For many, the dresses are worn once, maybe twice, or possibly shared around a group of friends, but typically the lifespan of such attire is very short.

So then, the question becomes, what to do with them? Many people hang onto them, only to find the dresses, years later, out of style and not fitting.

A local photographer came up with a way to use those dresses one last time and to benefit a local charity. Danielle Ness, who owns Criativo Photography, does mostly high school senior pictures for students on the Eastside. This August she’ll be trying something new, taking pictures of girls who want to rock their formal dresses one last time before giving them to charity. The event, which she is calling the Rock the Dress Drive, will let the girls who sign up get a photo session with Ness at Luther Burbank Park on Aug. 15. Then Ness will take the dresses to The Ruby Room, an organization in Seattle that collects dresses to give to girls who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

“As prom season came around, they were all posting pictures of their prom dresses, and I just love looking at their gorgeous dresses. Coming from a very frugal nature myself, I never spent much on my dresses, but knowing that these girls spent hundreds on their dresses ... it made me sad looking at these pictures,” said Ness. “They are never going to wear the dresses again. It got me thinking, what could we do to get awesome pictures of these girls in these amazing dresses, and how could we use these expensive dresses again to benefit other people?”

Ness found Ruby Room and brought up her idea, which they loved, and a partnership was formed.

“It’s a win, win, win situation. It helps Ruby Room, the girls who are going to be getting the dresses, and it’s fun for the girls who are donating. They get to feel good about themselves and they get an awesome picture,” said Ness.

The Ruby Room is a nonprofit in Seattle that collects dresses and accessories throughout the year and makes them available to high schoolers in the spring. Girls are paired with a personal shopper volunteer to help find a dress. Dresses donated must be no older than four years.

The photo sessions for the Rock the Dress Drive will be about 20 to 30 minutes each, and Ness said she plans to pick a different spot in Luther Burbank for each girl who signs up.

“I love Luther Burbank Park because there is so much variety for pictures,” said the photographer. “I figure if I’m doing 20 different girls, I don’t want the pictures to all look the same. With the barn ruins, the lake, the fields, fences, the water, there is just tons of variety to make every girl’s picture look different.”

Girls interested can sign up with Ness and should come ready to go, with their hair and makeup the way they’d like it in the pictures.

“I have plenty of room — if I get tons of girls, I’ll open it for another day. I’m starting later in the evening because I like evening shots and booking earlier into the day,” said Ness. Each girl who participates will receive a free 5x7 print and a photo for Facebook.

“[Girls should] come wearing other clothes because she’s going to be giving me the dress, so she’ll need clothes to change into,” said Ness. “I guess just expect to have a lot of fun and to be willing to try some different things. This is not a typical senior picture type of thing — this will be more funky, model-type shots. So they can practice their model faces before hand.”

For Ness, the opportunity to work with a local charity is something she has wanted to do for a while.

“I love giving back,” she said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve been since I was a teenager in middle school. With my business — I’ve been in business for three years — there’s not much I’ve done to give back except for tithing, a percentage of my income. I figured this was a fun way to give back.”

Ness will also be accepting donations of dresses other than the ones the girls want to wear in the picture, as well as accessories like jewelry, shoes and purses.

Register now

To register for the Rock the Dress Drive or to learn more about the event, visit

Contact Danielle Ness at or via Facebook at Ness can also be reached by phone at (206) 890-7801.


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