Going Formal, With a Twist

Tuxedos are still standard prom attire, but some young men are stepping out in new directions

Focus On Fashion


Steven Uhl has always liked to dress on the wild side, and the senior prom is no exception. After mulling over his options -- a tie-dyed tuxedo, an orange suit, tails -- he opted to go yellow. Yellow, as in a canary yellow zoot suit, feathered hat and black and white polka-dotted tie -- a get-up he modeled after Jim Carrey in the movie, "The Mask."

"I wanted to stand out," says Uhl, 18, a senior at John Carroll School in Bel Air. "This is the last dance. I wanted to go out with a bang. ... My friends have been bickering because they've discovered some guys are wearing the same tux. Nobody will have mine."

In the past, many guys equated dressing up for the prom with sheer misery. But these days, Uhl and others are breaking away from the almost uniform-like tuxedo and embracing formal looks that show off their personality.

For athletes, that often means pairing a tuxedo jacket with shorts and tennis shoes. The style-conscious are looking to Europe for the latest trends in evening wear. And class clowns like Uhl believe a one-of-a-kind outfit is the way to go.

Uhl, who lives in Parkton, resorted to searching the Internet for the right suit, finally finding what he wanted on a Hollywood costume company's Web site. His mother, Karen Oleska, printed the picture featured on the site, pasted her son's face on it and got feedback from family members. When everyone gave the look a thumbs-up, she OK'd the purchase. With shipping and handling, the suit came to $98.

Oleska, who spent two hours ironing it after it arrived in the mail, wasn't surprised that her son chose such unconventional attire.

"That's just Steven," she says. "He wants to end it big."

Jamie Hodges, 18, is upholding a Gilman tradition by wearing shorts with his tuxedo jacket, shirt and tie. For next month's prom, he chose white pleated Gap shorts and his cleanest Nikes to go with his Jos. A. Bank tuxedo. Hodges, a captain of the football team, says the look is particularly popular among athletes. And it's not exclusive to Gilman. Young men at other schools, including Boys Latin and St. Paul's, are also fond of the black-tie-meets-playing-field style.

"The old tuxedos are kind of dated. I don't like all the frills," says Hodges, who lives in Ruxton. "This is more comfortable. ... It's practical."

The trend hasn't been a universal hit. Kevin Murphy, head of the Upper School at Boys Latin, says, "It's not a tradition we've tried to promote."

"They look pretty good to the waist and then it starts to digress," he says.

The school addressed the issue about five years ago after hiring a new headmaster, Mercer Neale. Neale and Murphy both thought that students might be doing girls who invested time and money in their prom dresses a disservice by allowing the boys to wear shorts.

Settling the issue came down to a basketball shootout. If the students could score more baskets than the headmaster, they could continue wearing shorts. If the headmaster won, the students would have to resign themselves to wearing full tuxedos.

The students emerged as victors, but Murphy says, "I'm not too sure the head-master didn't throw the match."

Guy Berry, 17, a senior at Old Mill High School in Millersville, is planning to wear one of the more fashionable prom tuxedos this season -- the European-influenced longer jacket, vest and Euro tie, an alternative to the bow tie. (It resembles a regular tie, except it's shorter and has a slightly wider knot.)

But Gilman senior Sina Ekundayo has opted for the traditional tux and cuff links.

His reasoning?

"I figured it would be an event where you would have pictures to show your kids," he says.

Uhl isn't concerned that his prom pictures will feature him in an outlandish suit. And neither is his date, Jenn Lutz.

But Uhl hesitated when it came to preparing Lutz's parents for what they'd see when he stepped out of the limousine.

"I told her father that my tux is a little weird," he says. "He was silent on the phone."

Prom styles for her

For young women, the prom is often a time to show off the latest trends.

Sherri Unger, store manager at David's Bridal in Glen Burnie, says styles run the gamut this year from the sexy, bare look to the Titanic look to ball gowns with frilly tulle.

Other hot looks include:

Elizabethan. Dresses that hark back to the Elizabethan period, with fitted bodices and long, flowing skirts.

Buffy. Fox Licensing and Merchandising has launched a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer line with dresses that resemble the trendy ones worn by Sarah Michelle Gellar on the show.

Swing. The swing look is also in, with dresses in pastels or basic black and full skirts.

Separates. Girls can pull off a formal, sophisticated look by wearing sparkly tube tops with a full tulle or sequin skirt.

Butterflies. Anything with butterflies, whether it's the dress itself, or hair clips and other accessories are also extremely popular.

Pub Date: 05/09/99

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