Donna Gadd with stylists at her shop the Prom Den
Image Source: Jules Stenson
Donna Gadd with stylists at her shop The Prom Den

Member Article

Mum sets up booming prom dress shop in West Yorkshire after her daughter was left in tears buying a gown for her school leavers’ prom

Donna Gadd, 54, was upset at how her daughter Lia was treated as a 15-year-old searching for her frock for the prom dance at Hipperholme Grammar School in Halifax.

She said: “My daughter is a size eight but this woman at another shop touched her stomach and made her feel bad and suggested she buy a floaty dress to cover up her weight.

“She made a perfectly normal child feel fat. We bought a dress for Lia which came in several colours and she was on edge that one of the other girls in her year would come in it because the shop would not keep it exclusive to her.

“Lia texted me on the night saying, ‘All clear on the dress’ and I just felt that all that stress was so unnecessary.

“I thought that I could make girls feel special and offer them a much better experience and that was the lightbulb moment for my business.”

That was six years ago and now the Prom Den is booming with eight stylists and Donna individually picking the fairytale gown so that all their customers feel like a princess on the night of their proms.

Most mixed schools in Yorkshire - state and private - have them to celebrate the end of the school year after GSCEs - a tradition picked up from America where the prom has been part of the high school calendar for decades.

Donna refuses to sell the same dress - even in a different colour - to two girls from the same school, so every pupil looks special on the night with a unique outfit.

Dress wars break out as girls compete for the most popular designs which can cost as much as £1,000.

The best seller for 2024’s proms is a £700 ball gown which has already been sold to 16 schools in Yorkshire, and the average price of a dress is between £299 and £495.

Donna is aware that this a stretch to lots of families and she gives away dresses each year to pupils after schools nominate girls who need help.

She is also setting up an outlet selling previous year’s dresses and samples at much cheaper prices to help families through the cost of living crisis.

Customers come from as far as Edinburgh and Newcastle to bag the best dresses after finding the shop on social media. It has 42,000 followers on TikTok and is popular on Instagram.

Donna, who lives with her partner and 16-year-old son in Lightcliffe, said: “We have girls coming into the shop as early as September to book their dress for a prom which won’t be happening till the following summer.

“Obviously there is competition for the most popular designs and we do get dress wars where you have girls upset that their favourite dress is taken.

“That is why I have individual stylists for each girl so that we can pick another design from the 600 available at the shop and they will look just as good.

“The dresses are a big expensive for many but what happens is families rally around and the aunty and the granny all chip in because they are determined to get their girl the dress of their dreams.”

Donna, a former Halifax estate agency manager, provides party dresses for adults, too, and recently worked with a group of breast cancer survivors called Bosom Friends who have gone through mastectomies and chemotherapy and wanted to look special for a charity fashion fund-raising show.

Miss England contestant Chloe McEwen, 21, from Harrogate, has just signed a modelling contract with the Prom Den and wore one of Donna’s dresses when she won Miss Yorkshire in Doncaster in October.

Donna said: “It is wonderful working with Chloe who has an amazing figure and wears our dresses so beautifully.

“We are excited to see her in Miss England next year and, if she wins there, she will compete in Miss World.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jules Stenson .

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