If a teen girl's life were Hollywood, then prom would be the Oscars.
Many girls spend much of a day getting ready for prom, just as movie stars do for the Academy Awards. They wear their most spectacular finery; they may go to a salon for professional hair styling and makeup application; and when the big moment comes to enter the dance, they might as well be on the red carpet with Joan Rivers shrieking, “Who are you wearing?”
The analogy doesn't end there. Dress designers increasingly look to the awards show and its sisters (such as the Golden Globes and Grammys), as well as movies in general, for inspiration.
“We have a dress that looks like Jennifer Lopez's dress in Maid in Manhattan, and it's selling like hot cakes,” says prom dress designer Nathalie Lambert of Alyce Designs, based near Chicago. “Hollywood is a very, very big influence.”
“Lots of times, movies will inspire what we see in prom-goers,” agrees Sara Rogers, trend correspondent for the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. “The one-shoulder silhouette is one of the hot looks. And for Oscars, we saw Halle Berry wearing the one-shoulder this year.”
Ms. Rogers says details play a big part in prom fashions for this year: beaded shoulder straps, for instance; sheer overlays, lots of straps, and pretty accessories (think Julianne Moore's intricate, emerald-green chandelier earrings at the Oscars).
The other major trend is color, and plenty of it: “Sapphire is doing well, cherry, melon, dark turquoise - very bold colors now,” says Ms. Lambert, naming the big sellers. Ms. Rogers adds, “Pink is the color of the season, and shades of green, and blues, and lavender.”
Dress shapes don't change much from year to year, but designers have had a little fun with hemlines. Shoppers can find asymmetrical hems, plus hems that are longer at the sides than the front, which have a flirty effect.
With so many choices, the right dress is bound to lurk on the racks. Ms. Rogers and Ms. Lambert advise girls to play up their good points and go with their instincts when choosing a dress.
“As long as you feel good in the dress, as long you love the dress, it's gonna look good on you,” Ms. Lambert says.
Dress prices range from about $50 for a short dress to upwards of $300, Ms. Rogers says. However, most fall in the $100-to-$150 range. Add shoes, jewelry, and other accessories, and you're looking at another $50 to $100 - or more. (This is where your mom's, or sister's, closet and jewelry box come in handy.)
To cut the price, a girl can go vintage, one of the big looks in Hollywood these days. Or borrow a gown from someone who went last year and doesn't want to wear the same dress again.
As for wraps, Midwestern girls need to adopt the Coast Guard motto: semper paratus, or “always ready.” Around here, prom weather can be uncertain. Maybe it'll hit 75. Or 55. Or 45. One never knows.
If the evening is warm, take a lightweight, flirty, filmy wrap. Many prom dresses come with wraps these days, so use that if you have it, or choose a favorite of your own.
For a chilly evening, try “a little chubby jacket that's fuzzy or faux fur, and cropped,” says Ms. Rogers, cautioning against a knee-length coat with a floor length gown because “it's not flattering.”
For those committed to the shawl concept even if it's cold outside, try one in wool. “If she's creative, put a bead detail on it to make it dressier,” Ms. Rogers advises.
For guys, not much has changed in the last year or so. Longer jackets, popular with men at the Academy Awards, have caught on with teens, too. And forget cummerbunds - it's all about vests.
Ms. Rogers says color is creeping back into the black-and-white world of tuxedos. “We do have a powder blue tux . it looks great!” she says, adding that “it does take the right guy to wear it.”
As for powder blue tuxes in Toledo, don't bet on it, says Judy Kanag of Judy K Formal Wear. Colorful jackets do well, but guys here want black or white pants to go with them.