With prom time soon upon us, the season of turning ugly ducklings into stunning swans has started. In our household, with three girls, it turned into a frenzy of activity.

Our usual plan started with the oldest daughter, Caroline. We would go to some of the best department stores, and she would try on several prom dresses. She would pick out the one she liked.

Then we would hotfoot it to the fabric shop and get the necessary fabric in the color of her choice, and within the week we had the dress made.

Two things were accomplished: No one would have the same dress, and I would save a ton of money.

One particular year we also hit J.C. Penney to get something. While I was shopping, Caroline took off for the prom dress department. She came across a 50 percent sale rack, and found there a tan cotton dress.

It had a large tear in the front and a dirty footprint; apparently the garment had been soiled in the warehouse.

Caroline brought it to me and asked if we could buy it. “Are you serious?” I asked.

She was sure we could fix it and told me how happy that dress would be.

Now I have compassion, but for a dress? She was serious. It turned out that we got it for another 25 percent off because of some special sales day. Even the saleslady offered to see if she could help us find something else. The total for the dress came to about $14.

We bought some very nice English cotton fabric with little flowers all over it and replaced a section of the bodice and added a small ruffle to make up the lack of length. The footprint came out in the wash. All re-done, the dress looked very nice.

One day, a friend and her two children were visiting, and Caroline came down to show off her dress. She was told that it was very nice and skipped back upstairs to join her girlfriends.

I was not aware that Caroline had overheard my friend tell me that I should be more attuned to the needs of teenagers. “She needs to have the best that money can buy for her self-esteem,” my friend said, indicating that the dress was not going to cut it.

But the dress was a hit, and Caroline had a great time at the prom.

Weeks later, I was framing a photo of her in her prom dress, holding a bouquet of roses because she had been named Prom Queen. As she walked by, Caroline patted the frame and told me that her self-esteem was doing just fine.

Margaret Griffin has lived in Sun City Hilton Head for 15 years.