Prom night can be one of the biggest events of a high school student’s life. It is the last bash before college for many, and the memories are often recorded. That is why prom fashion is so important to high school seniors.
“Me and all of my friends get ready together at someone’s house who has a big bathroom,” said Kelsy Baker, a senior at Oneonta High School. “Then we will all go out and eat together before we go to the prom.”
Buying the prom dress is a big part of prom night. The dress, and date’s coordinating formal wear, set the tone for a night to remember.
“The girls who come in here are looking for a specific look,” said Paula Fassler, owner of House of Brides. “They want a dress that will make their day.”
Cooperstown High School senior Abby Wilcox, who has participated in the Cooperstown fashion show for five years and managed it for the last three, said prom fashions have changed.
“This year the dresses are not poofy, they are more slim-fitting,” Wilcox said. “Bling is really in. I am wearing a mermaid-style dress that is blue with rhinestones.”
Baker, who has not yet bought a prom dress, said she is looking online for ideas.
“I definitely want a low-cut back,” Baker said. “Something in a nice color, like coral — a long dress definitely.”
Baker said she will begin to shop at local stores in the next couple of weeks to see if she can find a dress, but if she cannot find what she wants, she will buy the dress online.
“The thing is, I need to get it in time to make any alterations,” Baker said.
At Leilani’s, owner Stephanie Miller has seen the styles of prom dresses change from one year to the next.
“Last year oranges and salmons were in — so were gold and white,” Miller said. “This year we are seeing more colors — bright vivid colors like greens and blues.
“The guys want to get in on the fashion too,” she added. “Sometimes they will want a change of costume — sometimes they will start with a top hat and a cane, and later change into something better for dancing.”
Sometimes self-expression calls for a camo-style cummerbund and tie.
“We have some beautiful green dresses that will complement a camo look,” Fassler said.
At Rainbow’s End Weddings and More, owner Norah Doyle said she has an entire licensed “Mossy Oak” line of camo formalwear, featuring dresses — both short and long — in the authentic camouflage pattern. In addition, Rainbow’s End carries a line of camouflage tuxedos.
“Most of my customers are looking for the most unique thing they can find,” Doyle said.
Those students who are excited about senior prom often plan for months before the event. They look at the fashion trends and decide what would best define their last hurrah in high school. And then many of the students save for the outfit.
Dresses generally run from $75 to $600 and the tux can be as much as $150. The couple or a group of friends often go out to eat dinner before the prom and sometimes they will rent a limousine.
“I am seeing that girls are more conscientious about spending money now,” Fassler said. “They have a budget and they come in here knowing what they can spend. Back when I first got started in the business, girls would spend anything they wanted. It was like a wedding.”
Fassler said she has layaway, where the girls may put a deposit down and pay the balance over time.
“They have to pay it off in time for any alterations,” Fassler said.
Most prom shops have a registry to ensure that no one is wearing the same prom dress at the same prom. The registries allow area shoppers the confidence to know their signature gown will not be upstaged by another.
Many area prom dress shoppers will travel to other areas to get the perfect dress, while many seniors from high schools hours away may visit local store to get a dress no one else has claimed.
But the day is special, no matter where the dress is purchased or what its cost.
“For me,” Wilcox said, “this is a time to show a new side, to feel beautiful, to look awesome for an awesome night.”