Novi High School senior Stella Camerlengo, 17, shows some of the dresses she has collected so far for her incubator entrepreneur class project, the Promject.

Novi High School senior Stella Camerlengo, 17, shows some of the dresses she has collected so far for her incubator entrepreneur class project, the Promject.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Novi High School senior strives to give prom dresses away for free

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published February 21, 2023


NOVI — A Novi High School senior is striving to make prom dresses available to all young women through the Promject — a prom dress clothing drive.

“Prom is obviously a very special time, and I believe that everyone deserves to look beautiful on their prom day,” said Promject founder Stella Camerlengo. “I just wanted to create a space where people can get a prom dress regardless of their economic status or household income.”

Camerlengo is asking that students, along with the public, donate new or used prom dresses to the Promject to be given out to young women who need them. The dresses will be photographed and cataloged, and then placed on the Promject website, which was set to go live Feb. 24, after press time. The Promject is open for students from all local schools who might need a dress to receive one.

“I feel like a lot of clothing drives are very much just a shirt and jeans, or just regular-clothing-based, and I feel there aren’t enough instances where people are donating things like prom dresses or more elegant clothing for people. Especially with rising inflation, prices are constantly going up. Prom dresses are really expensive, and there are still a lot of people that can’t necessarily afford them.”

Camerlengo said she had received approximately 20 dresses as of Feb. 13. She said there is not a set goal as to how many dresses she wishes to obtain, but she strives to be able to give out as many as possible to those in need.

“Even if I just make one person happy with their dress, I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal,” she said.

As an added incentive to donate to the Promject, the first 20 Novi High School students who donate will receive $20 off their prom ticket, which costs $80 per person. As of Feb. 13, approximately seven students had donated to the Promject. Along with Novi High School students, four additional schools had donated dresses to the Promject.

“Those tickets are really expensive, so that reward for donating felt really good,” said Isabelle Jaing, who donated two dresses to the Promject.

Jaing said that she heard about the Promject through the high school newspaper and decided to donate the dresses. She said that she never wore the dresses, as they were not to her taste, but she hoped they might be of interest to other young women.

“I thought this was like the perfect opportunity to give back,” said Jaing.

Camerlengo founded Promject during her incubator class at Novi High School last fall. According to Camerlengo, the class is “dedicated to social impact through student-led entrepreneurship.” In the class, students are asked to come up with an idea that will solve a problem in society today, and then work to make that idea a reality.

“She is just a person who is just passionate about sustainable fashion and combating fast fashion and also providing to the greater good for students who may be reluctant to attend the prom due to financial restrictions on getting the appropriate attire,” said Kristin Franchi, who teaches the incubator course at Novi High School.

Franchi said that she and the other incubator instructor, Hattie Maguire, thought that if the need is there it could be a really great project for Camerlengo, and they thought to extend it beyond Novi where the need is “perhaps a little more.”

She said they liked the idea and think that it might help to get rid of the stigma of wearing something that has been used before. Jaing said she thinks the Promject is a great way to reduce stigma around second-hand stores.

According to Franchi, Promject needs to ramp up a bit over the next month in order to provide a “nice” variety of dresses. According to Franchi, Camerlengo needs to cast a wide net in order to get a variety of dresses, shapes, colors, sizes and styles. She said she hopes Camerlengo is able to get at least “a handful” of dresses in each size, so that girls can have something to choose from.

“I would hope that she would link up with somebody that is also inspired by this kind of idea in order to take it over next year and to always have it as a sort of annual thing where you continue to allow this as a possibility for those who would otherwise struggle to purchase a dress,” said Franchi.

She said she thinks menswear might also be included next year in “Promject 2.0.”

The Promject will be accepting dress donations through March 31. To donate a dress, contact Camerlengo at Recipients will be able to pick up dresses starting April 1.