'Everyone Deserves to Feel Beautiful': Philly Police Offer Free Formal Wear

April 22, 2024
Nearly 100 people showed up over the weekend at the Philadelphia Police Training Center as part of a giveaway of tuxedos and dresses for special occasions.

The Philadelphia Police Training Center is hardly the place associated with high fashion. There, standard blue uniforms and clunky work shoes are more the norm.

But this weekend was the exception as the Northeast Philly facility became a destination for free formal wear — for proms, weddings, or any special occasion — for anyone who stopped in.

"Your income should never be indicative of how beautiful you are," Officer Roslyn Talley said Sunday as she waited for arrivals and tuxedos, dresses and shoes filled a dozen tables and racks in one of the training center's back rooms. "Everyone deserves to feel beautiful."

That's why, in 2017, after Talley had a conversation with a coworker who had recently attended a wedding and was wondering what to do with the dress, they came up with the idea of opening a place where people could get previously loved party attire for free.

It turned into an annual event, with a three-year pandemic hiatus. On Facebook, Talley is promoting the 4th Annual Special Needs Prom 2024, supported by police and others who pay for attendees' tickets. It is scheduled for May 24 at the FOP Lodge 5 headquarters.

According to Talley, both the community and the police officers rally every year to supply the prom wear giveaway with as much size diversity as possible to ensure everyone can find something.

This year, over 500 dresses alone were donated. The giveaway served 50 customers Saturday and expected another 30 by the end of Sunday.

For Marisol Olivero, 31, of Center City, a first-time "shopper," it felt like being in an episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

"Being here feels amazing, I can be myself, shake, giggle," said Olivero, who will be attending the police-sponsored prom in May.

As Olivero went in and out of the bathroom, Talley and volunteer Lisa Pittaoulis helped her find the right fit. In between compliments and suggestions, the choices came down to a pink strapless dress and a yellow corset-style one.

Picking one turned out to be an impossible task. Luckily for Olivero, the limit was two dresses per person.

The experience left her filled with emotion.

"I have depression so it was very hard to come in, but I am leaving feeling much better and happier than I was this morning," Olivero said.

Her goal at prom this year is to dance in her new dress without worrying about what people think.

Like Olivero, Justin Gabor, 23, of West Torresdale, will be attending the same prom and is also looking forward to the dance floor, but not without first finding a suit.

"The cost of it is something we think a lot about," said his mother, Teresa Gabor. "It's great to be able to come out and have options."

In less than 20 minutes, they settled on a black suit.

The cost — or rather the absence of one — is exactly what made Keyanna Guy drive from Southwest Philly to get a suit for her son Dyllion and a dress for herself.

"We are low income and my son is a big guy, 4X, this saves me time and money," she said.

The money she didn't spend on prom clothing will go to groceries and to get Dyllion, 20, who is on the autism spectrum, a couple of DVDs.

Guy is already looking forward to next year's event. Until then, the rest of Talley's inventory will go to String Theory Schools and Esperanza to bring joy to other children.


(c)2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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