Thursday morning, Victoria Rossi was poised to make a Hollywood-style entrance to her senior prom that night, rocking a custom-made, bright-red dress inspired by the one Julia Roberts wore in the film "Pretty Woman."
The special "adaptive" dress is the result of a novel couture connection facilitated by the Runway of Dreams Foundation, which matched Victoria with another high school girl, whose senior-project goal was to design fashions for those who need it most.
The connection also fashioned a new friendship between her designer, Kylie McRobie of Scarsdale, New York, and Victoria, who has muscular dystrophy and requires a wheelchair for mobility.
"I never thought it would be custom-made, exactly the fabric I wanted, and would get to choose every part of the process," Victoria said of the "adaptive" gown Kylie made for her. "I love it."
"The whole design was her idea," said Kylie, who also made the dress she wore to her own recent prom.
Victoria is not able to try on clothing at most boutiques, which makes it hard to find appropriate special occasion dresses, she and her mother, Anabele Rossi, said.
Kylie said she also had trouble finding a nice dress for her own prom, which made her wonder how hard it must be for girls who have special needs to find the perfect outfit for special occasions.
Runway of Dreams founder Mindy Scheier said the timing was perfect, as she was trying to find the right project for Kylie when Victoria's mother emailed her office.
"It was such a beautiful email, just reaching out and saying Victoria is a senior, she is so excited to go to prom, but the process has been so disheartening because she can't find anything that works for her body," Sheier said. "I said this is the greatest opportunity ever. I'm going to connect Kylie with Victoria."
Meeting via email, Skype and eventually in person, Kylie custom-ordered the stretch silk charmuse satin fabric that would provide the look and comfort Victoria required.
"I wore a red dress to a wedding over the summer, and really liked how I looked in red," Victoria said. "When I thought about what the dress should look like, I thought of Julia's dress in 'Pretty Woman'. Off the shoulder, sweetheart neckline, and it was just very elegant and classy. So I just took that, and wanted to make it more like me. So I added the slit and the glitter."
Kylie spent about a month on the dress, delivering it for a fitting and final adjustments last week. Custom adaptations included strategically-placed fabric fastener strips to ensure the perfect fit.
"I had never really sewn anything more complicated than a pillowcase before," Kylie said.
"I love it," Victoria said Wednesday as she modeled the dress in her home to the approval to her mother, topping off the ensemble with drop earrings, silver heels and red lipstick.
"I think it looks magnificent," Anabele Rossi said.
Both girls received a special surprise Wednesday: A video phone call from Oscar-nominated "Pretty Woman" costume designer Marilyn Vance, who heard about their project and offered her support.
"You look great!" Vance said.
"Access Hollywood" also interviewed Victoria about her adaptive dress experience.
Victoria also cheered on actress Ali Stroker, who won a Tony Award on Sunday for her role in the Broadway revival of "Oklahoma!" Stroker, a New Jersey native, was the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony for acting.
"I was watching, and I was so happy for her," Victoria said. "Being disabled is not easy. There are a lot of challenges you will face in life. But if you are surrounded with good people, and you work hard, and you believe in yourself, you can do anything you want."
Prom plans include photos at a friend's house before heading to the nearby Park Savoy for the big Hanover Park High School event.
Her plans for the next day? "Sleep," she said.
"We have done a lot of amazing things at the Runway of Dreams Foundation, but this is by far one of my favorite moments," Scheier said. "What Kylie created for Victoria is so magnificent. As Victoria said, she now feels like a pretty woman."
Scheier, a Livingston resident, founded Runway of Dreams in 2014 after trying and failing to find adaptive fashions for her son, Oliver, who also has muscular dystrophy.
"Clothing has a direct impact on who we are as people, as human beings," said Scheier. "Our confidence level. Our self-esteem. If we don't have options, like my son did not have and Victoria did not have, she was almost robbed of this milestone in her life."