HOWARD LAKE, MN When Tabatha Williams stepped down from her role as Miss Cokato this past August, she knew she wanted to stay connected to her community.
Now, as the 18-year-old Howard Lake native wraps up her first semester attending Lake Superior College in Duluth, she’s holding on to that connection by starting a formal-wear clothes closet for the Cokato area.
The closet, which is currently located in Williams’ home in Howard Lake, is a place for girls to exchange, borrow, and donate formal wear, free-of-charge.
Williams was inspired by a similar closet in Dassel, which was started by a Dassel Royalty committee member. She had noted how Dassel royalty used a lot of clothes from the closet, and how helpful it was for them to have it as a resource.
She decided to present the idea for a similar closet to the Cokato Royalty Committee, and got approval to open in mid-October.
“I think people who will benefit the most will be royalty,” said Williams, though she hopes to be a resource for others in the area once she has a wider selection of dresses.
The closet currently has 30 dresses, and is accepting donations of “everything from formals to sundresses to shoes to jewelry to dress pants and skirts, and formal shirts,” said Williams, adding “We are accepting anything and everything, because everyone is different and everyone likes different things.”
Williams also mentioned that, while many of the dresses she’s accepting are ballgowns and formals, they don’t have to be expensive. If someone has a dress to donate, whether it originally cost $5 or $500, they can bring it to the closet. The more dresses available, the more likely it is for girls to find just the right one.
For royalty, the selection will be of special help, because over a year the cost of dresses and accessories can quickly add up.
Royalty are given a clothing scholarship to put toward royalty-related items such as dresses, shoes, and jewelry.
Williams expressed her gratitude for the scholarships, but said sometimes they aren’t enough to cover all royalty expenses.
Williams said she hopes the closet can help current and aspiring royalty enjoy their experience as much as she did, by offering them a way to get some of their dresses at no cost, “so that the girls who are current royalty aren’t spending so much of their royalty scholarship on dresses. They can come borrow dresses, then return them, and put more of their scholarship toward other things,” said Williams.
“I thought this would be a beneficial way, not just for me to stay connected to my community, but for these girls to get a better opportunity,” added Williams, who hopes to eventally expand the closet and potentially offer an alterations service.
“I think it could have multiple ways of being used for people besides donating dresses,” she said, noting that even with a number of choices, it can be hard to find a dress that fits exactly.
Her main focus, though, is for the community to have a way to pass dresses down year to year, to “wear them when you need them and return them when you can,” said Williams, who plans to spend as much time as she can on the closet, whether she’s at home in Howard Lake or not.
“I want to be connected to my community, but also offer something and raise up girls around me, and show them what it can be,” said Williams. “It’s a priority to me.”
Williams asks people to contact her if they have gently-used formal wear to donate, or if they’re looking for a dress. She can be found on social media or contacted at 763-221-1766.