Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this



El Cajon Library to give away gowns on April 27

By Tracy DeForeCounty of San Diego Communications Office

March 11, 2019 (San Diego) - For many teenage girls, the prom, the quinceanera, the big night out – it’s all about the dress. But special occasion dresses are pricy. That’s why the County Library is playing fairy godmother.

All 33 County library branches are collecting gently used gowns now through April 15.

The dresses must be dry-cleaned, no more than five years old and come on a hanger. The apparel can be any style, size and length but must be stylish and appropriate for young women. Accessories like jewelry, evening clutches and bags are welcome, too. Shoes, however, aren’t being accepted.

The County Library works with the nonprofit organization The Princess Project to collect the gowns. Teens can sign up to attend the giveaway events by visiting the Princess Project website.

The Library’s giveaways take place at the El Cajon and Vista library branches but teens from any high school in the county can sign up. For hundreds of teens, these giveaway events help make their dreams come true.

They pick and choose from racks of gowns, try them on and twirl in front of full-length mirrors to see which dreamy confection is “the one.”

Many teens bring along a friend or their mother for second opinions on what looks best. For some moms, seeing their little girls try on gowns and transform into young women can be quite emotional.

Library staff members have seen it again and again in the seven years since the giveaways began.

“It’s not a true gown giveaway until Mom cries,” said El Cajon Youth Services Librarian Fumiko Osada. “We’ve had a lot of moms cry and thank us through their tears.”

Osada recalls a special father and daughter moment, too. During the giveaway, he preferred the simple gown, and she liked another featuring plenty of bling. She wanted to make him happy, though, so she chose the simple dress.

But Dad could clearly see it was the embellished gown she really wanted. He wanted her to be happy, too. Dad told his daughter she was beautiful just like her mother and it didn’t matter which dress she chose. (Yes, she chose her favorite.)

Some teens find the dress of their dreams is too long or doesn’t quite fit right. At the El Cajon giveaway event, a volunteer comes year after year to alter the gowns. Teens walk out the door with their dresses ready to wear to the big event.

The giveaway events take place on:

Saturday, April 20

  • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Vista Library Branch
  • 700 Eucalyptus Ave.
  • Vista, CA 92084
  • (760) 643-5100

Saturday, April 27

  • 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • El Cajon Library Branch
  • 201 E. Douglas
  • El Cajon, CA 92020
  • (619) 588-3718

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.