Jessica’s Closet provides dresses and accessories for girls and young women who may not be able to afford outfits for special events such as proms and semiformals. Jessica’s Closet is a project established in memory of Jessica Bolognani, a Twin Valley High School graduate who was tragically killed in a snowmobile accident last January.
Bolognani was an accomplished athlete and a hunter, and she also loved to dress up. According to Jessica’s friends and family members, Jessica was always willing to share the contents of her closet with others. She believed others should have the same opportunities she had and Jessica’s Closet seeks to bring girls from all communities and backgrounds together to build friendships, mentor relationships, and build self-confidence.
Jessica’s mother, Deborah Bolognani, said Jessica’s Closet was an instant success. Since its inception, Jessica’s Closet has collected over 600 dresses from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and as far away as Oklahoma. According to Bolognani, there are so many dresses now that they can no longer store them in Jessica’s room. That was when Leggiere, owner of HandKnits, stepped up.
According to Deborah Bolognani, a friend of hers knew Leggiere and she informed Bolognani about the available space at HandKnits. HandKnits had moved to a new location on North Main Street, leaving its former space on Route 100 vacant. Bolognani and others involved with Jessica’s Closet met with Leggiere about using the space as a boutique where girls from local communities can go if they need a prom dress. They struck up an agreement, and Bolognani said that Leggiere agreed to lend the space for free. “(Leggiere) is such a kind and generous person,” said Bolognani. “It’s amazing that someone could be so kind, especially since she did not know Jess, me, or my husband Tim. There is no way to explain how much she has done.”
Jessica’s Closet is now open and has a wide selection of sizes and styles to choose from. All dresses and accessories are free and only small donations for dry-cleaning purposes are accepted once the items are returned. The store has dressing rooms, pedestals, and mirrors, and the goal of the new location is to make dressing-up fun for all girls and young women. “It’s about being with the girls, pampering them, and making them feel special. It’s a place where girls can come and feel comfortable,” said Bolognani.
Bolognani said word has spread all over the community about Jessica’s Closet. Girls from Brattleboro and Bennington, Greenfield and North Adams, MA, and Troy, NY, have borrowed dresses from Jessica’s Closet. Bolognani believes the Wilmington location is ideal and prevents girls from having to travel long distances. “We drove two hours to Peabody, MA for her senior year,” laughed Bolognani. “Everyone has worked so hard with me to build this. It is amazing because it hasn’t been that long since we got it started.”
Jessica’s Closet is also in the running for a $250,000 scholarship, sponsored by the Pepsi Refresh Project. Every month, the Pepsi Cola Company awards money to community organizations focusing on health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the environment, neighborhoods, and education. The general public can vote for their favorite organizations and Pepsi Cola takes the top two vote-getters in each category.
If approved, the money will help sustain Jessica’s Closet and the Jessica Bolognani Scholarship Fund. Bolognani said Jessica’s Closet has come close on several occasions but they need more support (and more votes) from the local community. To vote for Jessica’s Closet, register at www.refresheverything.com/jessicascloset.
Jessica’s Closet is open by appointment only but Bolognani said they will be open on weekends prior to important semiformals or proms. Jessica’s Closet has a Facebook page and a website. For more information visit www.jessicascloset.net or call (802) 423-5303.