Julia D. Ashworth (BA ’96) had a vision of dresses. She imagined exactly 100 of them hanging in the Harris Fine Arts Center atrium as she prepared to direct BYU’s production of The Hundred Dresses. The play stages the 1945 Newbery Honor book featuring Wanda Petronski, a poor Polish immigrant who is tormented by classmates because of her foreign accent—and her claim to own 100 magnificent dresses.
Ashworth ended up with far more than 100 dresses. The play toured local grade schools before its run at BYU, and as it did so, the project expanded into a dress drive. Almost 2,000 donations flowed in, including traditional pieces given by immigrants from Germany, Iran, and other countries. The play’s dramaturge, Katherine Williams Olsen (’13), herself an immigrant, says the displayed dresses, like the diverse people they represent, “make a tapestry.”
Through two local charities, the dresses will become symbols of acceptance and hope as they find their way into the closets of needy immigrants in Utah.