Looking like a princess doesn't mean you have to spend like one, thanks to Ziker Cleaners' 11th annual Princess for a Night event.
About 800 high school girls lined up inside the Century Center in South Bend on Saturday morning, waiting for their chance to choose the perfect, gently-used prom dress -- and take it home for free.
Many of them camped out inside the building overnight, arriving at 7:30 p.m. Friday night to stake their spot in line.
There were 1,200 dresses in all different sizes available, said Jennifer Probst, spokesperson for Ziker Cleaners.
"With today's day and age, it's really tough for some families to be able to send their daughters to prom," Probst said. "It's the one time in their high school career that they get to dress up and just be beautiful for the day, so we just want to give everybody that opportunity to do that."
Volunteers from the Junior League helped out with the "organized chaos" and have the event down to a science now: Each girl is assigned to a group of 20. Only one group can be let into the dress room at a time, and the girls have exactly 20 minutes to try on and choose the right dress.
About 600 dresses are given away each year, Probst said. The remaining few hundred are taken to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to be sold for a few dollars.
Clay High School senior Anastasia Smith-Davis started waiting in line around 4 a.m. Saturday morning, and it was nearly 9 o'clock by the time she walked out the door with a lime green, sequined number.
"I never thought anybody would be gracious enough to give dresses for free to us. This is really, really, nice, me and my friends really appreciate this," Smith-Davis said. "I have to make sure my date matches my dress now."