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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Girls’ work to influence prom attire availability

Conservative gowns result of requests

February 21, 2002

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— Conservative gowns are headed to some department stores for this spring's proms, with credit in part to a campaign by twin 17-year-old sisters now at Brigham Young University.

Liz and Alisa Christensen, Leawood, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, started the campaign last summer in Kansas and caught the attention of Nordstrom apparel buyers, who have started placing orders for more modest outfits for stores in seven states in the central United States.

The Christensens say they might target Utah stores next.

It began when they were in high school and searching for a prom dress, said Alisa Christensen.

They found nothing to fit their church standards "(below) the knee, with sleeves and nothing backless or revealing," said Alisa Christensen, adding, "We usually end up making our own dresses."

But this time, they complained to a clerk at the Nordstrom store in Overland Park, who put them in touch with a buyer.

With the help of 15 others, they spent months designing dresses and compiling a list of vendors that specialize in more modest wear.

Karen Stankus, a Nordstrom buyer based in Chicago, said she has been hounding clothing vendors for years to make stylish-but- modest dresses. "But most vendors cater to the majority, and the majority wants spaghetti straps, so it's been a struggle," she said.

Armed with the vendor book the girls created, and a petition that drew 9,000 signatures on the Internet, Stankus was able to convince vendors there is a market for the conservative dresser.

Unfortunately, the dresses she rounded up last spring looked like "bad bridesmaid dresses" and didn't sell well, Stankus said. "We still have a few left."

However, Stankus has high hopes this year because there appears to be a resurgence in ruffles and peasant-top styles. The modest spring styles she nabbed in October "are much hipper" and are headed to Nordstrom stores in the central region now.

Liz Christensen said the campaign taught them how much can be accomplished with a little initiative and persistence.

"I don't think we realized how big this was. We got a lot of attention," said Alisa Christensen, who said their campaign was highlighted in some major newspapers.

The sudden fame is weird, but gratifying, said Liz Christensen, who said she does not feel her values make her feel eccentric or ostracized.

"I don't object to the way others dress. I just choose not to wear revealing clothes and I wanted more consumer choice," she said.

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