Fashion Cents

Jennifer Bonat, 18, and Jessica Banach, 17 (right), model gowns that will be available during the prom sale. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

— Northeast Philly will be the scene Goodwill Industries’ popular Prom Dress Sale on Saturday. It’s a chance for girls to look great…at a great price.

Goodwill prides itself on the slogan, “We put people to work.”

This Saturday, Goodwill’s Bustleton Avenue store will also be putting a lot of teenage girls to “play,” if that’s what you want to call the high-school prom season.

Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia will bring its annual Prom Dress Sale to its Northeast location for the first time, and hundreds of leftover new and gently used prom dresses will be available for purchase at ridiculously low prices.

Doors open at 9 a.m., but lines are expected to form outside earlier than that. The store is at 10101 Bustleton Ave., on the northeast corner of Bustleton and Red Lion Road.

“We’re bringing (the sale) to the Northeast because it’s such a densely populated area for teens and high schools and it should make a lot of girls happy, and that’s the goal,” said Juli Lundberg, public relations manager for the Maple Shade-based Goodwill Industries International affiliate.

Goodwill of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia has three stores in Philadelphia and about 17 others in New Jersey, as far north as Monmouth County.

Saturday’s sale will feature at least 600 available dresses in all colors, styles and sizes. New dresses sell for as little as $19.99, while gently used dresses could sell for as little as $7.99. The same garments might sell for hundreds in a retail setting.

Making the prom more affordable for teens and their families was the motivation behind the organization’s first prom-dress sale in 2009. According to Lundberg, a formalwear retailer initially contacted Goodwill seeking to donate some unsold inventory. The secondhand seller gladly accepted the dresses. The annual sale has grown bigger each year.

“It came from a sign of the times,” Lundberg said. “The economy was in a downturn and people were looking for a bargain.”

They still are.

Nowadays, Goodwill reaches out to many formalwear and bridal stores throughout the year to solicit for their surplus. Further, a lot of individuals donate their recently worn prom dresses. Goodwill also hosts a bridal sale around Valentine’s Day each year.

The plan is to cordon off a large section at the front of the 11,000-square-foot store and create a “prom boutique,” according to Lundberg.

“We’ll have a full staff and we’ll ask volunteers from our corporate office to help out,” the PR manager said.

Workers will bring in portable dressing rooms to complement the store’s permanent ones. In case the turnout is really big, patrons may be given tickets so that a limited number may enter at a given time. Those arriving first will have first choice.

The sale may feature many “high end” creations by such designers as Vera Wang or Bill Levkoff. Shoes and accessories also will be available.

“Girls are usually lined up at the door. They’re with their moms and their best friends and are giddy with excitement,” Lundberg said.

While patronizing a high-priced boutique may still be a measure of status for some, a growing consumer base seems to recognize Goodwill as a more practical and socially conscious alternative.

“It teaches girls, ‘I got my prom dress at Goodwill and I helped out a charity,’” Lundberg said. “It teaches them a sense of social responsibility.

“I think we’re more accepted now than we were, even fifteen years ago. (The perception) is a lot different now. I really think it is.”

Proceeds generated at Goodwill stores fund the organization’s job training and career services for people with disabilities and other disadvantages. The prom-dress sale gives Goodwill a marketing boost, too.

“A promotion like this brings new faces into the store,” Lundberg said. “And when you bring someone new into the store, they always see something they weren’t expecting.” ••

For information about the prom-dress sale and Goodwill of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, visit or “Like” the organization’s Facebook page.