Parker Secret Closet, a Nonprofit Formalwear Boutique, Offers Free Special-Occasion Dresses and Tuxedos to Teens, with No Strings Attached
How It Works
• Parker Secret Closet accepts donations of gently used or new special-occasion dresses less than five years old, as well as dress shoes, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and graduation caps and gowns. They also accept monetary donations and volunteer hours to keep the store running.
• The owners of a tuxedo rental shop in Highlands Ranch retired last year and donated their entire inventory to Parker Secret Closet, which now offers tuxes to teens for a $30 refundable deposit.
• There is no need to prove financial hardship to receive a dress. The nonprofit only asks that you give something in return, such as a $15 donation, volunteer hours or a formalwear donation.
How it Began
Kiva Frey rearranges a display case at her boutique midmorning when her landlord wheels in two racks packed with a couple dozen dresses, ranging from full-length ballgowns to knee-length party dresses.
“These were dropped off just yesterday afternoon,” says the manager of BlueMountain Self Storage and Wine Lockers in Parker.
Kiva says BlueMountain and the stacks of dresses show the overwhelming support her nonprofit formalwear shop, Parker Secret Closet, has received over the past year.
The boutique offers free formalwear to teens, mostly in exchange for volunteer hours or at-will donations, and operates out of three storage units. BlueMountain Self Storage donated the space to Parker Secret Closet when the owner heard about its mission and need for a public location.
Parker Secret Closet started as an idea a couple of years ago from a friend of Kiva’s, who heard that her daughter’s friend was foregoing prom because she couldn’t afford a dress and accessories. She asked for help on social media, hoping a neighbor would drop off a new, once-used prom dress for her daughter’s friend. Word spread, and hundreds of dresses started showing up at her house, mostly from strangers.
Kiva offered to take over the donations and offer appointments to the hundreds of girls, who, all by word of mouth, were eager to find a gently used prom or homecoming dress.
Spreading the Word
Jenn Sells of Highlands Ranch first heard about Parker Secret Closet earlier this year and immediately knew she wanted to start spreading the word on her social media.
“To me, it really hit me in a personal spot,” says Jenn, who created Facebook videos with some friends to get online interest in Parker Secret Closet. “I grew up in the South and didn’t come from money. Pageants were a big deal. There were times where I couldn’t have new clothes for school, and thinking of having a homecoming dress or prom dress, that was just a big extra expense. It’s just really a special thing to me that we have this resource in our community.”
Kiva emphasizes that Parker Secret Closet isn’t just for low-income teens. It’s for all teens who are saving money for college or to buy their first car. It’s for families who don’t qualify as low-income but have had a bad month because Dad just lost his job or Mom got hurt, but senior prom is two weeks away. And, Kiva says, it’s about saving the clothing from the landfill.
Real estate agent Susan Muenzner of Parker also first heart about Parker Secret Closet a few months ago through her social media networks. She immediately fell in love with the idea, after seeing what a big deal—and a big expense —prom had been for her niece.
“Douglas County is known as high-income, but there are plenty of people struggling,” Susan says. “I just feel it’s a great thing to help these girls out and make them feel beautiful.”
Shopping and Donating
Elizabeth resident Tabitha is shopping at the boutique with her niece, who heard about Parker Secret Closet from friends who had gotten dresses here.
“We’re trying to be respectful, but we’re also trying to be budget-friendly,” Tabitha says, about why she was excited to find the boutique.
Kiva says Parker Secret Closet has grown because it just makes sense. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on attire for a high school dance, teens could use that money for college savings, AP classes or gas. And it’s also about eliminating waste, Kiva says, and recycling beautiful dresses that are often worn only once and stashed away in a closet.
“When we became a board a year ago, I wanted to focus on the ecological aspect of this as well. 70,000 tons of clothes are thrown away each year,” Kiva says. “I want to save the sequins from the landfill.”
A woman brought in 10 brand-new gowns, all with the tags still on, that she had originally bought for her daughter to choose from for prom. She donated them to Parker Secret Closet because she said it was easier than returning the dresses to the store.
“That’s what these girls are competing with,” Kiva says.
Kiva says Parker Secret Closet is about making everyone feel included, important and involved in their community by being able to attend formal functions. The boutique routinely hosts groups from Miss Amazing Pageants and A Night to Shine.
“It just keeps coming in, so I’m blessed to keep giving it out,” Kiva says.
How to Contact
Kiva Frey manages the Parker Secret Closet out of Blue Mountain Self Storage and Wine Lockers, 10255 Dransfeldt Place, Parker. For store hours or to make a fitting appointment, call 720.819.6073. ParkerSecretCloset.org