ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. | Nestled between comfy furniture, old books and miscellaneous knick-knacks within the Bone Yard thrift store is a cozy corner where anyone can borrow a number of fancy dresses, shoes and accessories… for free.
Created by the Team Ellsworth Spouses’ Club, Ella’s Closet is a project that loans out elegant attire.
“This is a dress-lending closet that military dependents and anyone with (base) access can borrow dresses for no charge,” said Janessa Bisel, the second vice president of the TESC. “All we ask is that they are cleaned before they’re returned. We’re even working with cleaners off base to make that low cost.”
Ella’s Closet is available for more than just official functions.
“It’s for all events,” said Michaela Trickey, the Ella’s Closet coordinator. “Weddings, date night, homecoming, prom, Airman Leadership School graduations, Senior Non-Commissioned Officer induction ceremonies, chief recognition — anything really.”
Volunteers will be hosting a grand re-opening for Ella’s Closet on Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., showcasing the effort that went into making this dream a reality. The project began several years ago, and members of the Spouses’ Club faced a slew of obstacles since. These include a flood that destroyed many of the dresses and a dusty attic where they would have to constantly carry the dresses up and down a flight of stairs.
It wasn’t until a year ago when the Officers’ Spouses Club and the Enlisted Spouses Club merged that Ella’s Closet began to look the way it does now. Rustic boards line the walls, and the turquoise sign above the shoes titled ‘Ella’s Closet’ matches the curtain and ribbon theme — adding to the inviting atmosphere.
President of the TESC, Heather Ryan says that informing spouses on official event customs is just as important as having a cozy environment for customers to try on dresses.
“We’re hoping to make women feel comfortable,” Ryan said. “We can also educate them on what to wear to each event. If they’re comfortable, they will be more confident and more likely to go to these events.”
Ryan added that by couples going to more events together, it gives them an opportunity to grow closer — improving relationships and strengthening families.
“With so many events, spouses and girlfriends can wear something new,” said Trickey. “Most dresses can cost anywhere from $50 to $300. This way, they’re able to go out and not break the bank.”
Ella’s Closet volunteers are looking to the future and plan to add a men’s clothing section with suits, sports jackets, dress pants and ties.
“It’s a team effort,” Ryan said. “We’re really excited to see where this takes us.”
The Spouses’ Club is requesting donations and volunteers. All donations for the closet can be dropped off at the thrift store during their normal hours Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or the second Saturday of the month during the same time.
Ella’s Closet is currently by appointment-only, and can be reached via facebook: @ellasclosetatellsworth or through the TESC website: ellsworthspousesclub.com.