CHARLOTTE, N.C. Picking out a prom dress took a turn in uptown Saturday.

Dianca Pauning, a senior at West Charlotte High School spent part of the day looking over prom dresses along with a few dozen other excited young ladies. Several dozens of dresses in all colors, designs and made of some of the finest materials hung from racks. Prom shoes and other accessories lined the walls.

There are a lot of people here, Pauning said. I'm trying to find a dress in my size. I wear a 7, 8.

From the surroundings Pauning could be in an upscale boutique or some other type of fancy clothing store. But it's not a fancy boutique and the young ladies, some with their mothers, would not normally get the chance to shop at that type of store.

Just that face that it puts a smile on their face, that esteem it's worth it, said Janine Davis, the founder of Girl Talk. She s involved with the Saturday event designed to give prom dresses to young ladies for free.

Every girl doesn't get to go to a boutique, said Davis, an award-winning radio and television personality in Charlotte. She started the Prom Project nine years ago, after visiting several middle schools in the greater Charlotte area and realizing just how many parents of young ladies probably could not afford to buy an expensive dress for their prom.

The parents are even more appreciative with the economy this bad. They don't have the money to go into their pockets and pull out $300 for a gown, said Davis.

The dresses are new or gently used, as are the shoes and other items.

Davis said she has seen her passion and hard work grow over the last nine years.

We started at the African American Cultural Center with maybe 200 gowns. This year we have 825 gowns, said Davis.

This year the boutique sits in the ImaginOn public library. It was designed by Domaine Staging to make it look like the finest upscale shops around; complete with lighting and other accents.

In addition to shopping the free dresses and other items each of the girls goes through etiquette classes and sessions on hair and makeup care. Groups will also hear from speakers about how to behave on prom day.

The lessons they learn here will go far beyond prom night. said Davis.

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