Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
March 7, 2023 // Diocese

Payton’s Closet: No Excuse for Staying Home from a Dance

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

“I  was so surprised when Miss Bailey told me not only that the formal dress drive would continue at Marian High School, but also that they would call it Payton’s Closet in my honor,” says senior Payton Molnar-Matz.

Only three weeks before Marian’s midwinter dance on Feb. 18, two of Payton’s teachers asked if she might be able to help find dresses for two students who couldn’t afford to pay $25 for a dance ticket and buy a formal. They told her Marian had a dress exchange in the past but it never really caught on. Payton thought she could probably scrounge up donated dresses for those two. The dean of students, Ryan Dainty, suggested she approach Allison Bailey, who teaches health and physical education.

Bailey came to Marian from St. Thomas, Elkhart, five years ago; she had been waiting for a high school position to open up. One of the things she’s done to increase the school’s sense of family is having the Bernadette scholars invite typical students to play games like pickle ball with them every month. She’s also revived the after-school concession stand so students can get something to eat before practices and games.

Marian High School Teacher Allison Bailey poses for a picture with senior student Payton Molnar-Martz, who created Payton’s Closet.

Because she teaches every freshman girl and serves as advisor to both freshman and sophomore classes, Bailey is responsible for Frosh In/Frosh Out and the midwinter dance. She’s the sort of teacher who keeps tabs on all her students and describes Payton as a person who “gets an idea and finds a way to make things happen. She works hard for her grades but you’d never know she’s had to struggle with anything.”

Beginning with a post on her personal Facebook page, Bailey was overwhelmed when it got 3,000 shares in one night. There were 150 dresses dropped off at Marian, along with purses, shoes, and other accessories. Payton says, “It snowballed!” Running from the front door to the sports storage area kept her busy. A total of 37 young ladies wound up being able to select dresses for the midwinter dance, and others have found something to wear to everything from weddings to piano recitals. All the dresses that fit within Catholic modesty guidelines have been cleaned, bagged, and arranged by size, waiting for each girl to find something that’s perfect for her.

“We have a variety of styles from the 90s to the latest fashion,” says Bailey. Students with a need come to see her before school or during lunch hour so they can try on dresses. One of her most heartening experiences was arranging an after-school time for a mother and daughter.

Marian High School Freshman Madeline Dougherty tries on a dress from Payton’s Closet.

The Molnar-Matz family is active at St. Monica in Mishawaka, where Payton’s mom is a lector and Eucharistic minister while her dad also ushers and belongs to the Knights of Columbus. The oldest of six children, Payton hopes her only sister will follow her from Mishawaka Catholic to Marian next year. She herself hopes to study pediatric nursing at Purdue or Saint Mary’s. Ever since she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age 4, the nurses at Riley “helped me and my family so much, I wanted to help other children. I know how it feels to be scared in the hospital!”

At Marian, Payton has been a cheerleader and swimmer. She’s especially loved painting murals and participating in Spirit Night.

She says it’s been delightful seeing what comes into Payton’s Closet. One of her favorites was a bright yellow gown just like that worn by Belle in Beauty and the Beast. “It found a home with a beautiful young lady who looks amazing in it.”

Photos provided by Allison Bailey
Marian High School Senior Payton Molnar-Martz, who created Payton’s Closet, searches through some of the formal and semi-formal dresses that have been donated for girls who can’t afford to buy a dress as a reporter from ABC 57 records video for a news story.

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