“If the Dress Fits”: MSUM Student Brings Nonprofit to Moorhead

By: Katie Betz, betzka@mnstate.edu

Ashleigh Arntson wants you to part with your prom dress.

For a good cause.

She is one of the co-founders of “If the Dress Fits,” a nonprofit organization which seeks to help girls who can’t afford an expensive prom dress.

A senior public relations major at MSUM, Arntson and her mother, Amy Arntson, started the nonprofit in 2015, when Arntson was a senior in high school. A year later they got a lawyer and went through the process to become an official Minnesota nonprofit. “If the Dress Fits” is based out of Duluth, Minnesota, Arntson’s hometown.

She and her mother are the co-founders and work as a team to run “If the Dress Fits.” They also have a board of 10 members who helps make decisions. The board includes businesswomen from Duluth.

“What we do is collect prom dress donations throughout the year. We have an event or two in the springtime, and we give the dresses away for free,” Arntson said.

The inspiration for starting the organization came out of Arntson’s own experience of getting a prom dress in high school.

“Duluth has a lot of really nice prom dress stores, but they don’t really have anything lower-end, so unless you want to spend like $300 on a prom dress or buy your prom dress online, there really isn’t a ton of options,” Arnston said.

“I faced that issue in high school, I was ordering a lot of dresses off line and borrowing from people, and I never really felt happy with it,” Arntson said. “So, I was like, ‘Why isn’t there a program that recycles prom dresses or has some place that people can donate them to and then people can pick from there?’ So, we just started it and it kind of took off and it’s been going really well.”

Arntson is looking to expand her nonprofit to Moorhead. She will be doing a collection event on Nov. 26 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the CMU. They are looking for people to make donations because they will be having a giveaway event in Moorhead, hopefully at MSUM.

Donated dresses shouldn’t have stains or tears and preferably not made in the 1980s.

A group of students from Professor Liz Conmy’s event planning class are helping Arntson plan the collection event. For the giveaway event she will be partnering with Delta Zeta sorority.

Zoe Esser, Mary Dominguez, Aubrey Hill, Clara Anderson and Kelsey English are the members of the event planning class who are helping put the collection event together.

Esser has known Arntson since her freshman year and has been involved on and off with “If the Dress Fits” for two and a half years. She said that they really want to expand the availability to girls in Moorhead also.

Esser sympathizes with the cause of the organization through her own prom experiences looking for a dress which can cost from $300 to $1,000.

“Giving girls the chance to really feel beautiful and not have to worry about the cost is appealing,” Esser said.

Arntson believes “If the Dress Fits” is benefitting girls by giving them an opportunity to attend prom, as a “rite of passage.”

“I just wanted to make sure that no one was missing out on it because they couldn’t afford a prom dress. That’s not the reason that you shouldn’t go to prom, if you don’t want to go that’s one thing, but if you physically can’t afford it, I think there should be program to help those people,” Arntson said.

After the dresses are donated, they are picked up and taken to the Arntson’s basement, where they are labeled, sized and washed if needed before the event.

“It’s been super humbling and rewarding. Every year I’m in tears because people are just so grateful and so excited,” Arntson said. “We have a really nice inventory, and they are just shocked that they can take home a prom dress for free.”

“If the Dress Fits” has a Facebook page, which can be found at ifthedressfits101.

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