Prom. Man. If you were to judge high school based on films made about it, you would think that it's just four long years leading up to a dance. In reality, it can feel just as big and important to some teens. And if you're into prom, then you are really into your prom dress. In fact, that might be even more meaningful than the damn dance.

Acknowledging this reality, the Los Angeles Police Department set up a program to collect recycled dresses, shoes, clutch bags, and jewelry from the public to donate to students at Eagle Rock High School and Franklin High School. It's for girls who want to attend prom, but might not be able to because of financial contraints.

This first time program has already collected over 200 dresses. "We're looking for different sizes and styles," says Genevieve Bravo (great name), a crime and intelligence analyst at the station's Crime Analysis Detail who helps manage the Northeast Area LAPD Facebook page. "We just want to make it fun for the girls."

The pilot program is the brain child by senior lead officer, Nina Preciado. If it succeeds, they'll expand to more schools next year.

To help the girls try on dresses, they're setting up dressing rooms for a "boutique day" at the Northeast station. Students can peruse the dresses by size, and leave with the one they love the most. The girls can also choose accessories, shoes, and clutches — although the department hasen't collected as many shoes as they'd like to. Word up, fancy shoe designers of the world, get on this: think of the good press! Also, calling all Imelda Marcos-types in Hollywood: make it happen.

One of the coolest parts is that there's no pressure for the girls to give back their outfits. "It'd be nice if they want to give it back for next year, but they don't have to," said Bravo. "I know that when you're that age you kind of want to hold on to things."

This program sounds exceedingly wonderful, and it appears the organizers put a lot of effort toward making it special for the girls. Turning what some might think of as handouts into something fun, desirable, and cool is no easy task. If you wanna get hokey about it (and we do), this program isn't about charity, it's about loving and empowering your community. It's also amazingly smart on the behalf of the police, because it both humanizes them and provides a direct line to the public. It's connecting them with the people they're supposed to serve; it's what they should be doing. It's fantastic.

I'm gonna see if such a program exists in my neck of the woods, because I bet there's a real need for plus size dresses. I've got a biiiiiiit of a fancy dress buying problem, so I've got a few ASOS numbers that could be perfect. I don't know what's wrong with me — I go shopping knowing I need a pair of jeans, and I come home with two dresses covered in costume jewelry. It's a real problem.

Question: Since picking out a prom dress is so personal to lots of girls, do you think some of them might be bummed they can't get the right cut, color, fit, size? Also, I really hope people are taking the "gently worn" part seriously, and not dropping off bags of their old sweats. Having spent time sifting through donations, I can safely say that one woman's junk is another woman's OMG BURN IT. Sometimes people think you can donate just about anything, and the receivers should just be grateful. That's really not the case, nobody wants to wear something dirty or damaged — especially not a teenage girl.

You know what would be extra great? If all the rich and famouses in Los Angeles donated their old awards show gowns. Although, don't those often just get returned to the designers, or are auctioned off for charity? But maybe fancy dresses from less prestigious events — like, a nice strapless number from the SAG Awards?

Ladies of Los Angeles: Do it, Rockapella.

[Eaglerock Patch]