Coming of Age, Coming to Now: Prom Changes LIVES

I have told this story on my site before, but I wanted to return to it because I want to revisit at least one of these drafts. It’s the story of my prom dress.

I found it at the bottom of a bin in a Goodwill in Stamford, CT.  I don’t think I paid more than 12 dollars for it. It was a full-length cream dress with a beaded bodice and covered with a silver netting. I loved it. I bought it with this Madonna “Virgin Tour” t-shirt that I still actually own:




Here is the only picture I still have from that night ( I had to scan it with my phone so please forgive the quality):



It made me so happy. It’s one of being totally myself, determined to not let this event be another compare-and- contrast of what I didn’t have. Not to be so woe-is-me about it–my family was actually just normal, but I grew up lower-middle class in an extremely wealthy town, so my embrace of the thrift store was an act of resistance. With the inspiration of the ’90s independent spirit bubbling from Sassy magazine and watching Sofia Coppola/Spike Jonze throw renegade fashion shows on “House of Style,” I wasn’t going to feel “less” anymore.

I made the act of getting dressed an art project and the “hunt” was the beginning of a type of activism, because it felt anti-capitalist to put my disposable video store clerk money to thrift rather than the Gap.

I remember how it really shocked everyone that I would actually “choose” to wear a used dress. Now, it seems sort of insane (when Martha Stewart’s television show is doing segments about vintage chic) but it was a different time. We were programmed to want the shopping mall. I mean even my mother was grateful that I wasn’t chasing her down for a $200 dress, but she still thought a thrift store dress was kind of “gross.” This contradiction was confusing to me and remains an interest.

But then something happened the night of my prom.



I was washing my hands in the bathroom, and a pack of the most popular girls came in. I never talked to these girls, not out of any real vengeance, but more of that weird reality that high school creates where the hierarchy of the clique is the dictate of who you will actually acknowledge.

So I didn’t say anything. And then I heard a voice from behind me say, “I really like your dress.” I thanked the girl and kept washing my hands. I started to feel a little nervous. These girls never spoke to me and now they were all surrounding me, fixated on my dress. Visions from “Carrie” danced in my head.  They just stood there, staring at me.



Another girl said, “I never would be allowed to get a dress like that.” and that was when I really got scared because it just felt inevitable that this “compliment” would take a twist. But it didn’t. We started talking about my writing and how it reflected what was going on in their lives, which left me dumbfounded. It wasn’t until these many years later that I realized how much weight that moment had for me. So, things change.

My love for vintage has turned to hatred for polyester. I like high heels now. The way that I consume is primarily through swapping and an occasional stoop sale and consignment and, okay, sometimes I even shop in regular stores, too; but all with great conscious and that has nothing to do with being “alternative.”  It’s just what it means to be part of this society, and that is what keeps pushing me to chronicle these stories.

When I first started this guest blog -, I thought I would have some video portraits to post but actually shooting has been so non-stop, that hasn’t been possible.

If you are interested in hearing about how my video project evolves, LIKE us on Facebook or follow the project here : SWAP

Meanwhile, here are some stills from near recent interviews.


Caroline Woolard at Trade School


Elena prepping for Haiti.


Susan Cianciolo at Fashion Week.


Susan Cianciolo at RUN Collection Fashion Week prep.


Big shoots coming up in Houston, Boston, and always New York!

Hopefully I will guest post once it’s all over with new insights.

Until then,

Cat Tyc


About cat_tyc

Cat Tyc is a Brooklyn based filmmaker/video artist making a documentary about style & exchange called SWAP. She gets weepy watching "Project Runway" marathons and loves her Marc Jacobs skirt more than you.


  1. With Care

    I really liked reading this, Cat! I’m not sure what it is that is in the air but I’ve also been spending some time thinking about thrift and second hand markets as a means of refusal- so much so that I even wrote my own blog post about it a few days back ( I’m not an overtly political person nor aim I one to flaunt my life decisions but what and how I consume and/or engage are aspects of my life where I find myself becoming more vocal in my statements.

    Great prom dress, BTW! Mine came from a thrift store called “Lots for Little” and was $8. Thrifty minds, ever thiftin’!

  2. cat_tyc

    Thanks so much ! I love your piece too. Especially that line: “Find more ways to hack life and maybe you can weave a blanket to hide under”. Beautiful.

IBC LOVES your brain, and we encourage thoughtful, lively discussion. We will, however, moderate comments that are abusive or disrespectful. Stay classy!

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