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Ashley Feher isn't ashamed to admit that she wouldn't dare think of going on the quest for the perfect prom dress without her mother, Beth.
"She usually picks out the dress that I end up getting. They look weird at first, but she always says, 'try it on, they always look better on than they do on the hanger,' " says the 18-year-old Maumee High School senior.
The petite, size 2/3 cheerleader and gymnast is to attend her school's junior/senior prom on April 30 at the University of Toledo's Student Union with boyfriend Joey Albright, 17, a Maumee junior.
During a recent shopping "bonding" excursion to Great Lakes Crossings in Auburn Hills, Mich., Ashley and mom purchased a form-fitting halter-style tangerine-colored gown with a small train, that "mom picked out."
The Feher women reflect an age-old tradition for many mothers and daughters who shop together for special dances and moments in life, such as homecoming dances and proms in the teen years. Some fashion experts add that the act of shopping for a prom dress is but a prelude to the same special bonding that occurs between mother and daughter in adulthood when they shop for a wedding gown.
"It was very emotional for me," Ms. Feher, a cardiovascular technologist at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, says of going prom dress shopping with Ashley. Mom paid about $120 for her daughter's dress, and about $40 for her shoes. Because Ashley's prom is still a few weeks away, she says she has yet to accompany her boyfriend, Joey, on his trek to rent a tuxedo and match his vest and tie with her gown. She also has other accessories to purchase, such as jewelry.
In junior's sections and specialty dress and bridal stores, prom gowns in the Toledo area ranged in price from about $79 for the knee-length shorter styles, to $199.99 for full-length gowns. Standouts included a $159 lime green full-length gown with train and gathers in the rear, and a $189 strapless hot pink full-length gown with form-fitting bodice and sparkle accents.
Some teens opt to watch their dollars, especially on a gown that most will never wear again. At gently-used and consignment stores, such as Plato's Closet, prom gowns range in price from $15 to a new gown priced at $70. At CJ's Closet, described as an upscale resale shop for women, a limited number of prom gowns are in stock priced between $50 to $100.
While many prom dresses are made of traditional formal materials such as silk, chiffon, and tulle, many mass-produced lines are made of rayon, polyester, and acetate mixes.
Major trends included short trains, mermaid-style forms, and strapless or tube-bodices.
"This is my only daughter and this is the last prom we have to shop together. I've been involved her whole life, and this is the last big dance," says Ms. Feher, who also has a son Andrew, age 15.
Mona Dokurno, a public inquiries assistant in the University of Toledo's division of Student Access and Success program, agrees that preparing for her daughter Brianne's "last big dance" held much significance for both her and the date's mother.
Her daughter, who will turn 18 on April 22, planned to attend Notre Dame Academy's junior/senior prom on April 8 at UT's Student Union. Brianne attended with her boyfriend Todd Ridgeway, 19, a Whitmer High School graduate.
The Dokurno duo invited Todd and his mother to accompany them on a shopping trip in Cleveland where they eventually agreed upon a size 4/5 tube-style dress with tulle at the bottom and sequin detailing at the bodice, which laces up in the rear and replicates the whale-boning fit of a corset.
The clan made a full day of the trip and went out to lunch and dinner in addition to shopping.
Brianne's boyfriend Todd actually selected his date's tangerine-colored long dress, a popular color this prom season. Ms. Dokurno, also mother to Bailey, age 15, paid $225 for her daughter's gown. Todd paid $117 for his black traditional tuxedo, with orange-colored vest and tie to match her gown, along with his shoes and accessories.
"We went all out because it's her last big dance. It's just not about the dress, it's the whole event - hair, nails, flowers, the car, accessories, and also getting her date to look good too," she adds.
While looking at gowns last week, Brianne tried on several dresses at Elder-Beerman-Westgate, and playfully joked around with her mother while trying on dresses.
From her dressing room, she answered a question originally posed to her mother, on why prom shopping excursions are so special for mother and daughter.
"Because she can spend more time with me!," Brianne playfully shouted.
She followed up her statement by adding:
"It's kind of special having my mom there."
"[My mom] helps me out with picking out the jewelry, going to the get my hair done, with everything . . . it's all very exciting."
Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6101.