Operation That’s My Dress: Mission Accomplished!

operation thats my dress
I selected this black gown by Gigi from my first Operation That's My Dress at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Thanks to the USO and the generous contributions of many sponsors and volunteers.

If the mission of Operation That’s My Dress is to reward dependents and active duty military members with a gorgeous gown and make them feel like Cinderella for one evening, then I’d say “Mission Accomplished!”

Recently I received an email from Jessica McAndrews, Vice President of Programs, Services and Operations of USO. As a past participate of Operation That’s My Dress, I was contacted – like many others – to give feedback on my experience. Because I was so thankful for the opportunity, I decided to respond and write this post for Military Mom’s Blog about my experience.

In 2015 a friend of mine suggested we sign up for OTMD. Having no idea what she was talking about, a quick online search led me to the website, where I learned that this USO program gives military teens, female service members and spouses the chance to pick out a new gown or cocktail dress from some of the most recognizable names in fancy dresses.

operation thats my dress
I selected this black gown by Gigi from my first Operation That’s My Dress at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. I offer a big thanks to the USO and the generous contributions of many sponsors and volunteers for honoring dependents and female active duty members with this program.

Usually for two nights out of the year at select duty locations, OTMD begins with a runway fashion show, featuring professional models showcasing the evening wear available. The event also provides entertainment, hair and makeup demos and free goodies. While the event normally caters to teens attending formal events, the program has been expanded to include female service members and spouses.

The first year I attended OTMD in Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas with the friend who informed me about the program. We had such a fun time, and I found a beautiful formal gown that I wore later that fall for family portraits. I also took it to wear for the formal evening on a family cruise. The second year I attended OTMD, my friends and I were already on the mailing list, allowing us to be some of the first to register. We already anticipated the event for a full year.

I was searching for a Sherri Hill gown the second year, having learned that she also is a military dependent. Her generosity – a gift of about $500,000 worth of dresses donated to the USO – initiated the OTMD program. She continues to donate dresses free of charge for these events in an effort to give back to the military community. The USO has hosted more than 20 events across the country over the past five years.

Even though my second experience with OTMD in Las Vegas in 2016 did not offer as many dresses as the same event in 2015 (a truckload failed to arrive in time), there were many stunning gowns from which to choose in a variety of sizes. While many dresses appealed to the younger crowd who might be attending prom, I found a classy dress that fit my age and size. I also had an enjoyable evening with my friends, talking hair and makeup and trying on glamorous gowns. 

Want to get your next extravagant gown without having to pay extravagant prices? (In fact, the gowns are free!)

My recommendations:

  1. Sign up for the mailing list to learn what OTMD is offered in a city near you.
  2. Sign up with a friend! This event is better shared. Plus, you wouldn’t want your local bestie to be mad at you for keeping this opportunity to yourself.

    My Sherri Hill gown from the 2016 Operation That’s My Dress in Las Vegas. My husband and I enjoyed attending the Royal Air Force Summer Ball at RAF Leeming in England this summer where I received many compliments for my Sherri Hill gown. Best part… it was free!
  3. Arrive on time and be courteous to the volunteers. They are there to help you! Thank them when they do.
  4. Wear a strapless bra and fresh undies. You will be trying on dresses with a hundred other ladies searching for the perfect dress. Be kind and courteous.
  5. Don’t stress over finding a particular or even the perfect dress. You’ll find something beautiful!
  6. Have fun!

My husband and I could not be more grateful for the generosity of the USO and Sherri Hill. I also appreciate the other sponsors and volunteers like Pat Supter for her hair and makeup consulting, the Miss Teen USA participants for the runway show, Melody Sweets for performing, Savanna Bee Company for the gifts, Banded2gether for the headbands, Planet Hollywood and the many other sponsors and volunteers who have made it their mission to give back to the dependents and female Active Duty members of our military. 

I would like to offer up a big “Thank You!” to the USO. I’ve been on the receiving end of your generosity and I am grateful — whenever I enter an airport, when you brought Elmo to Aviano Air Base, and when I’ve been given complimentary event tickets. The USO offers a variety of other programs and events and ways to get involved and give back to the “force behind the forces.”