Salvation Army’s Red Carpet Ready offers gender-inclusive formal wear

Formerly the Princess Project, the new program helps youth ages 12 to 18 access affordable graduation and prom clothes in a safe and gender inclusive space

The Princess Project is getting a gender-inclusive makeover. 

For the last few years, the program has run out of the Salvation Army Citadel, offering gowns and prom dresses, shoes and accessories for low prices. 

Now, the Salvation Army is gearing up to help youth ages 12 to 18 get Red Carpet Ready with its gender-inclusive take on the Princess Project. 

Why the change? 

“It’s about time,” said community relations coordinator Jerushia Hoang. 

“We’re here to serve people in the community who are in need, and that’s what we want to do. We want to demonstrate to the community that we recognize all people, and all people deserve to be celebrated,” she said. 

It’s expanded to include attire “for all bodies” and “diverse expressions of gender identity,” from dresses and floor-length gowns to suits and masculine attire. Accessories, purses and shoes will also be available. 

“This program acknowledges the unique needs of queer and trans populations, fostering an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance,” the press release states. 

Gowns and suits will be $20 each, and shoes and accessories will run for $5. All proceeds go back into Salvation Army programs aimed at helping those in need. 

There will be accessible change rooms, and Hoang assured volunteers will be welcoming to everyone. 

Formerly a collaborator on the project; this is the first year the Salvation Army is at the helm. 

“We will be ensuring that it is a safe space for all,” she said of the program, which will run April 12 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and April 12 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Citadel on 1320 Gordon St. 

“The goal of everyone involved is that the youth in our community get what they need, so they can feel their best and their most confident, regardless of what resources they have access to,” she said. 

The age range is from 12 to 18, because they wanted to make sure youth in Grades 6, 8 and 12 (and anyone in between) have access to affordable formal wear.

The project was initially targeted towards prom-goers, but she said they found young people in Grades 6 and 8 were regularly coming through “because of the organic need of people in Guelph,” so they wanted to expand the advertised range. 

Last year’s event sold 153 dresses, but had more than 1,000 for people to choose from. People are encouraged to donate the items back once they’ve been used. 

Retail rates for suits and gowns can range from around $100 to more than $500, she said. 

“They’re not accessible prices,” she said. “We recognize that, with everything going on in our community, employment is harder to find. Youth are managing mental health, etc. We want to acknowledge that (everyone’s) capacity is different.”

As a result, she said some youth might have to pass on formal events like proms and graduations, but a program like this makes those special moments more accessible. 

“We want to meet people where they’re at so they can continue to have those moments of joy and hope,” she said. “It’s so incredibly important that people know they are valued, loved, supported and celebrated. And this is just one of the ways that the Salvation Army is doing that.” 

The event is cash only, and there will be door prizes and a chance to win a draw. 

They are accepting formal wear donations until April 10, which can be donated at the Citadel from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.


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