Need graduation attire, but can't afford it? Gowns for Grads and Suit Up Winnipeg are here to help!

Graduation is a celebrated milestone in a teenager's life, and grad season is right around the corner.

Gowns for Grads is working to ensure that all graduates have the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in style. A local volunteer initiative by the Laura Milner White Committee, they make dresses, accessories, and services available to graduates who might not otherwise be able to afford their own.

The program began at St. John's High School in 2009, when it was discovered that numerous young women were simply not attending their own graduations due to lack of proper formal attire.

"If you're there when the girls are selecting gowns, it doesn't take long to make you feel like all your hardwork is very worthwhile," explained Brooke Buchard, Gowns for Grads Organizing Committee Chair.

"It's not just seventeen-year-old girls that are graduating, we do accomodate many of the adult education programs, so we have a lot of mature students who come through our program."

In addition to selecting their gown, graduates can choose from an assortment of accessories, including shoes and jewelry, and will also receive certificates for hairstyling and drycleaning.

"It's something that should really be celebrated, it's a happy moment, regardless of your age or your circumstances. We're just so pleased to be a part of that, to make everyone feel special."

Recently, the volunteer run initiative moved into a small space in order to provide a "boutique" experience for young women picking out their dresses during their 2017 event.

For young men, Suit Up Winnipeg works in a similar fashion, providing gently-used suits for graduates that they can later use for job interviews and other formal events.

Dana Binder, an inner-city high school educator, began the initiative after taking students to visit Gowns for Grads and noticing the absense of appropriate formal attire for males.

"A lot of the graduates I work with, it has taken them awhile to get there because of different obstacles they've had to overcome in their life, so 

graduation is a really big thing for them," said Binder. "When I see the look on individual student's faces, knowing they would never be able to afford a suit to wear to grad or to a job interview, it just gives me that sense of 'this is one more thing that they've now been able to accomplish in their life that they never thought that they would'."

This year, Suit Up Winnipeg helped over 175 graduates suit up for graduation festivities.

Gowns for Grads accepts donations of dresses, shoes, and evening bags, while Suit Up Winnipeg appreciates contributions of suits, socks,

 ties, and belts, year-round.

As Bouchard summarized, "every graduate is deserving, they should all feel special and they should all have the opportunity to celebrate in the same style as everyone else."


Donation drop-off locations:

Gowns for Grads

  • Best Care Dry Cleaners, 998 Main St. and 1290 Kenaston Blvd.
  • BraBar & Panterie, 160 Provencher Blvd. and 1765 Kenaston Blvd.
  • Ce Soir Fine Lingerie, 166 Meadowood Drive
  • d.a.Niels Gourmet Kitchenware, 485 Berry St.
  • Innovative Medical Supplies, 217 Henderson Hwy.
  • Loka Boutique, 1444 Corydon Ave.
  • Perth's Dry Cleaners, all Winnipeg locations
  • Polar Bear Rubber, 1663 Burrows Ave.
  • Westwood Collegiate, 360 Rouge Rd.
  • Whodunit Mystery Bookstore, 165 Lilac St.
  • Whole Touch Natural Wellness Centre, 364 Stafford St.

Suit Up Winnipeg

  • Storageville, 123 Reenders Dr. and 830 Waverley St.