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Change of a dress

Local high school students earn the right to a free prom gown after being among 20 essay contest winners.

April 12, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

Grata Chung scans a rack of prom dresses with the familiarity of a vegan at a barbecue.

“I hate shopping,” she said, deferring to a dress shop clerk. “I have absolutely no idea what I am looking for. How do I know what size I am supposed to wear?”

On most days — and Thursday was no exception — Chung wears basketball shorts, a white T-shirt and sneakers. Her closet, she explained, is full of shorts, jeans, T-shirts and sneakers.

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So when it came time to get a dress for prom, the Burbank High School senior was feeling justifiably out of place standing in the dressing room of Unique Vintage, the online clothing retailer whose brick-and-mortar boutique is on Magnolia Boulevard.

“Honestly, help, I don’t know what I am doing,” said Chung, 18. “I am getting so far out of my comfort zone that it’s starting to become fun.”

And fun, after all, is what Project Glamour Girl is all about. Chung was among 20 deserving young women from across the country given the title along with a complimentary prom dress. Half of the awardees were designated to come from Burbank.

“I do see the irony,” she said. “I got the call on a Sunday and was like, ‘Mom, you don’t have to buy my prom dress.’”

Each of the 100 young women who chose to participate in Unique Vintage’s inaugural contest was required to submit a 500-word essay explaining why they should be chosen as one of 20 Glamour Girls. In her essay, Chung highlighted her accomplishments, including making the varsity basketball team and being voted student body president.

“I sure should not have been on the homecoming court, nor [should I] have been elected ASB president,” she wrote. “It is true; most of the time, artificiality outweighs authenticity in high school settings.

“However, in the grand scheme of things, clothes can carry you [only] so far. Glamour is not a word I often associate with myself, but at least I know who I am.”

Chung was 10 years old when she moved with her family from Seoul, South Korea. The daughter of two kinesiologists, she attended Miller Elementary and Muir Middle schools before finally settling in at Burbank High.

On Thursday, Chung was invited to choose any dress in the store priced at $150 or less.

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