[Photo: Hoke High teacher Kristin Khan is busy organizing donated prom clothes for a “Cinderella closet.” The school also has a year-round clothes closet to assist students with a variety of needs.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • A special closet tucked away in one of the classroom buildings on the MacDonald side of Hoke High is collecting a castle’s worth of gowns: sequins, flowing skirts, flashy and classy colors galore, all waiting to meet their match ahead of Hoke High’s 2022 prom night.
Dresses aren’t the only thing teacher Kristina Khan is stocking up on in the “Cinderella closet” ahead of the big party, either. She’s also collecting formal suits, tuxedos, dress ties, bowties and plenty of swag.
It’s all part of a plan to make sure students who want to attend prom this year will get the chance to do so, without having to worry about the expense of buying a fancy outfit.
Khan first wrote a proposal three years ago to try and fill a need she saw among Hoke students. A closet of all kinds of clothing and shoes to help students who might need a quick change of clothes, or a clothing item they didn’t bring with them to school. A student might need a clean shirt after a spill in the cafeteria, or perhaps a coat in winter, or something a little dressy to help look their best before going to a job interview.
“It just kind of progressed from there. I had a kid come in this morning, he had a job interview and so he was getting a shirt for a job interview,” Khan said of the project.
The “Hoke’s Boutique” closet is open to any student, and operates on a very basic premise.
“The clothes run on ‘you may keep, you may bring back.’ Whatever I can do to serve our kids,” Khan said. “We have coats, we have shoes, we have all kinds of things. So it runs from oops, I forgot my gym clothes, to I’m in need, I’ve grown, I need school pants. We try to serve all school children without it being stigmatized. Anyone’s welcome to come in, anyone’s welcome to take as much as they want.”
Khan knew she wanted to include prom attire in the closet. However, due to the pandemic, prom was canceled for two years in a row. This year it’s back on, and she was able to start collecting donated items.
Already several businesses and individuals have donated dresses, including some that are brand-new.
“We have started calling all different bridal shops in the community and Fayetteville. I got 25 from Together as One Bridal Boutique, gave me 25 free dresses with the tags,” Khan said. Others such as Affair to Remember and other bridal centers have also donated.
“I have had amazing feedback. I have been thoroughly blessed, and I have gotten quite a few from the community as well,” the teacher said.
Khan came up with a way to let students get an idea ahead of time what they’d like to try on. Each of the dresses is included in a flip folder with a photo, size and other info, so students can pick out their favorites. Saturday, April 9 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. they’ll get to come and check out the clothing at a special event planned at the high school.
Members of the community have even offered their time and services for that day to help out. One former Hoke High graduate stepped up to provide on-site alterations along with some helpers, Khan said. People are also volunteering to help with things like flowers and makeup.
The project is still accepting donations at this time. The Cinderella closet is taking donations of:
•Cocktail, formal, evening gowns
•Formal heeled shoes, dress flats
•Accessories including: necklaces, earrings, evening clutches, shawls/wraps
•Dress ties and bowties
•Collared dress shirts
•Other formal attire accessories
Right now the Cinderella closet is especially in need of formal suits, tuxedos, dress ties and dress shoes, Khan said, but suits and tuxes can be hard to come by. They’re most often rented, and so can’t be donated. Instead, she’s working to come up with other ways to help, like taking monetary donations made through gift certificates to tuxedo rental companies in the area.
“It’s hard to find tuxedos for boys, most boys do go and rent them, so I’ve started thinking of ways and one of my ways was if they contacted certain places and asked if they would be willing to put a gift certificate in the name of a student…that could be an offering, or if they wanted to contact me, and I would make sure the student got that,” Khan said. “We’re trying to work and branch out for gift certificates for services, even people from the community that would be willing or from businesses. As long as our kids are all met in a need.”
For more information or to talk about making a donation, contact Hoke County High School’s main office at (910) 875-2156.