Paper prom dress inspires wave of giving

Malala Fund features Saanich grad on its website after she brings attention to plight of educating women around the world

Erinne Paisley wears her prom dress

Erinne Paisley is no stranger to being in the news, but this time it’s her dress that’s making headlines.

Paisley’s prom dress – made from old math homework and scotch tape – went viral this week after her friends posted pictures of her at the Reynolds secondary graduation on May 29.

The ‘paper dress girl’ wanted to draw attention to the Malala Fund, founded by Malala Yousafzai with the goal of providing secondary education to women. And attention is exactly what Paisley received: by Wednesday, there were 11,346 Facebook likes on her Facebook post, spots on the radio, TV and even a story on the Malala Fund website.

“The idea was to make a dress out of old homework so I could write a message on it,” Paisley said.

In bold red paint the message on the dress was clear: “I’ve received my education, not everyone has that right.”

Rather than spending money on a prom dress, Paisley donated $250 to the Malala Fund, an estimate of what she would have spent on an outfit.

“I thought it was fitting because I just received my secondary education and the purpose of the Malala Fund is to try to help more women around the world have the right to receive the education I just did,” Paisley said.

Getting involved is what brought Paisley to Reynolds in the first place, she said.

At the start of the school year, when BCTF was at odds with the province, it threatened the livelihood of Reynolds’ annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock fundraising. Paisley stepped up with two other Grade 12s, Abbie Renyard and Rebecca Tran, to rally the cause and help the school hit $100,000 once again. In the summer of 2013, prior to Paisley’s Grade 11 year, she earned a 2014 Education First Global Citizen Scholarship (one of 10 in Canada), to travel to the U.K. for a youth empowerment event, cultural tour of Europe and a science and innovation summit in Berlin.

In September, Paisley enters college life at the University of Toronto as one of 11 in Canada to win a national scholarship for the International Relations bachelor program. At this point,  she believes international law will follow.

“One of the reasons I chose to go to Reynolds was the amount of community development they do, the opportunity (through the Flex program), and I’m so grateful for the amazing teachers and staff who’ve helped me flourish,” Paisley said.

The dress is now being auctioned off online at As of Wednesday, auction bids were up to $550 and bidding will remain open for three weeks. To preserve the dress, Paisley switched to a backup dress during dinner and prom at the Laurel Point Inn last Friday.

“It’s still intact and I’m auctioning it off, to create further fundraising opportunities,” Paisley said.

To learn more about or to donate to the Malala Fund, visit

Paisley borrowed the idea from a friend in Québec who did the same thing two years ago. The friend made a dress out of newspaper and put environmental facts on it and was in a group of friends who used recycled materials to make their dresses.

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