The perfect prom dress is a billowing white organza floating over a hoop skirt and sashed with a baby blue satin bow. NOT! Not even if your mother insists. Not unless that's the school requirement to graduate. Not on your life.
High school prom dress shopping is getting into high gear, and it's an intense time. There's no room for mistakes. Every teen-ager wants to look wonderful for that first grand gala. What to try? What to buy?
Luckily, the shopping options this year offer shape and color to flatter any figure and complexion.
"One of the hottest looks now is a return to the glamorous Hollywood of the '40s," says Wendy Lanham, merchandising coordinator for Seventeen magazine. "Glamour is important in the accessories -- elbow-length black gloves, rhinestone jewelry and little Kelly bags."
Smart young glamour gals were the first to pick through thrift stores and pay pennies for those outdated cocktail numbers from Hollywood's heyday. But the pickings are fewer and more expensive.
"I've been to Baltimore to do the Seventeen show and have seen original vintage dresses in Fells Point that would make a great prom look," says Ms. Lanham, "but finding vintage depends on )) chance and blind luck. The new dresses echo that retro feeling.
"The fit and flare line recalls the '50s, but I'm seeing it in chiffon and tulle and soft colors," says Ms. Lanham. "It's all very ladylike. Black, red and some white are still strong colors because they act as terrific neutrals for accessories."
Accessories could be the first shopping step to the prom. Why pay for a lot of frosting and trim on a dress when a marvelous hair ornament or necklace can bring a simple dress to life?
"The biggest demand I'm getting from the prom crowd is for huge, gum ball-sized drop pearl earrings," says Jane Cimino of Cimino's boutique and salon in Fells Point, which carries knock-offs of designer costume jewelry. "Proms are fun. The girls are going for looks anywhere from Joan Collins to Tina Turner, but in the big pearls they're borrowing an idea from Barbara Bush. The other glamour accessory they love is a sequined chiffon scarf which comes in red, gold or black to wrap as a stole around their shoulders."
At Cache in Owings Mills Mall it's been noticed that dress selection varies from junior to senior shoppers. "The seniors are showing more sense and looking for dresses that will carry them to college dances and other dressy occasions," says manager Sharon Ward. "The juniors want all the trimmings and lots of
slink for their first big dance. The Marilyn Monroe shape is very big -- cinched waist, off-the shoulder portrait collar and full skirt. But there is enough styling variety so the nightmare of seeing another girl in the same dress is minimal. Cache does provide the service of keeping records on which dresses are going to which prom."
Alix Rodman, owner of Dressy Affair Ltd., which opened less than a month ago on Bellona Avenue, has seen mothers and daughters shopping in the same racks. "What is a cocktail dress for a fashionable mother works as a prom dress for the daughter. . . .
"The girls I'm seeing think sophisticated and are not looking for that sweet, fluffy look. Some of the high school seniors have invitations to spring college dances and they don't want anything that will scream of prom. They're the girls who buy a simple black tank and dress it up with accessories."
And the black dress brigade will be out on prom night. Rebecca Rich at Oh Susanna! in Fells Point says the trendy set is browsing through the vintage racks. "They all say 'I have too much black,' but they seem to gravitate to the sophisticated looks. They also love the old rhinestone jewelry and long gloves to go with it. The mature clothes turn cute when they're worn by young women.
"There has also been a flurry of vintage crinoline sales," Ms. Rich reports. "Some of them are pretty enough to wear out with a bustier."
At the Merry-Go-Round stores there's a run on teal and full, flirty ,, dresses, says manager Andrea Rotman. "The girls seem to like the rich jewel colors and even carry them over into accessories, but then they also like the pale pastels."
At the prom a young woman may dance as a ballerina or a
sophisticated lady, but all the fashion experts agree that the best look is a happy outlook for the evening.
Prom(ising) help for teens who want to shine
Want some lively ideas to borrow for prom night? Seventeen magazine's Prom Style '92 and a Cover Girl makeup seminar will be held at Owings Mills Town Center April 3 at 7 p.m. and April 4 at 4 p.m.
Seventeen's styling experts Wendy Lanham and Nicole Keneally will demonstrate the latest ways to mix the pieces for that dressy evening, and Cover Girl cosmetics will offer evening beauty tips by premier makeup artist B.J.
Those attending will receive gift bags and have an opportunity to win special door prizes. For more details, call (410) 363-7000.