Under the stars: Proms trends & tips

Just around the corner is one of the biggest nights of the year for area teenagers as high schools across the Mid-Ohio Valley hold prom. From masquerade balls to New York-inspired decor, prom nights promise an evening for girls to step out in bejeweled, formal gowns alongside boys in traditional-and sometimes not so traditional-tuxedos.

Historians date the concept of prom all the way back to the late 1800s when universities held the banquet-style event for graduating classes, an idea that in the mid-1900s became the adolescent event we know today. However long its history, however, prom trends are ever-altering with pop culture movements, everyday fashion trends and social changes.

A big night

Many students still follow the tradition of a boy asking a girl to be his date for prom, a moment that can cause nerves to set in.

“It depends on if you’re single or not, because if you are, you have to ask a girl and you’re worried if she’ll say yes or not,” said Lee Wittekind, 17, a junior at Waterford High School. “There is pressure there.”

That pressure can be alleviated if high school students decide to make the occasion a bit more casual.

“A lot of my friends, if they’re single they’ll just all go out as a group to dinner and then go hang out at someone’s house after prom,” Wittekind said.

But if you do decide to pluck up the courage, Wittekind’s classmate Hope Schilling, 18, said that much like proposals, asking someone to prom has become a big affair.

“I’ve been seeing the flashy kind of stuff,” she said. “A lot of the guys are doing really cute ways of asking girls.”

Making up elaborate riddles or leaving notes inside a box of candy are ideas she has seen recently, Schilling said.

At Waterford, where prom is open to juniors, seniors, and underclassmen if they are invited by a junior or senior, there are usually a few groups of friends that will all go together, she said.

A Dress for 2014

Just like when bell-bottomed pants returned to popularity or when girls starting flocking to clothing stores for the big sweatshirts and leggings their mothers might have adorned in their own days, some prom trends are taking a page from the book of previous decades.

Old Hollywood styles and vintage flare have found their way back into stores specializing in prom dresses and formal wear to meet the demands of the high school students doing the shopping. Shop owners say the recent release of a revived 1920s-era movie could be the reason.

“High-beaded necklines inspired by ‘The Great Gatsby’ seems to be really popular this year,” said Kristina Snider, co-owner of Elizabeth Michaels, a bridal and prom store in Vienna.

Julie Morgan, owner of J&J’s Personal Touch in Parkersburg, agreed that the Gatsby trend is a force to be reckoned with this year.

“Illusion bottoms that are nude and see through where you can see the legs through it are big,” Morgan said. “We’re back to the Great Gatsby, and old Hollywood-style blacks, reds and golds.”

Morgan said many of the dresses that are flying off the shelves are reminiscent of her own time in high school.

“I’ve seen trends come back in fabrics or colors, but it’s funny that it’s all coming back from when I was in high school,” she said. “It’s like we’re back in the 80s.”

Much like the celebrities walking down the entrance to an awards show, girls attending prom want the red carpet look.

“The girl either wants the big ball gown or the sleek stuff you see on the red carpet. There’s not a lot in between,” said Joyce Young, owner of Klothesline of Caldwell, which specializes in consignment dresses that feature up-to-date styles.

Stocking about 600 prom, bridesmaid and formal dresses, Klothesline works around the clock to alter and fix consignment dresses to have them all ready for a new owner, something Young said is important for the prom customers.

“Girls know their dresses, and they do their research,” she said. “They want them sleek, and they want them tailored.”

Both Morgan and Snider agreed that the heavily-beaded, sleek dresses are what girls seem to want, and shop owners cite mint, pink, and red to be popular colors, along with lots of chunky rings and big earrings that highlight the color of the dress.

J&J’s Personal Touch will even customize shoes to fit a girl’s dress.

“Shoes that are jeweled that go with bead work are popular,” Morgan said. “We’ve glittered them, added beads, put in bows, all to match the dress.”

But from sporting Chuck Taylor sneakers to flip flops, any shoe seems to be fair game.

“With shoes, girls always do their own thing,” Snider said.

Whether you want fun and quirky or a sleek, Hollywood style, Young said it’s always a fun experience.

“Every girl is different, and you can see it in her eyes when she knows what she wants,” she said.

The hair

With anything from a complicated up-do to a simple set of curls, Jenna Boley, owner of Jenna’s Salon in Marietta, has been doing hair for 10 years, and prom is no exception.

“A lot of the girls typically go with things from the celebrities. They watch the Grammys and Oscars and they come up with these pictures and want us to recreate it,” Boley said, whose salon typically has appointments from every nearby school district for prom.

“In the last decade, we’ve gone from the tight Shirley Temple curls that used to be traditional for prom to more relaxed, flowy curls that are simpler,” Boley said.

Though girls may be wearing a jewel-heavy dress with lots of embellishments, when it comes to everything else, the trend is going toward “less is more,” with many just opting for keeping their hair down with minimal additions.

“Girls still do the crystal accessories, between headbands and barrettes, but many are just doing a couple braids to give a little more accent and texture change,” Boley said.

And a tux to match

It comes as no surprise that picking out a tux to match your date or to enjoy the night with friends is not quite as much of an affair as the girl’s dress, but it’s still an important part of the process.

“The camo vests and ties seem to be really popular, and we can order quite a bit of them,” said Nate Bonnett, a sales associate at the Workingman’s Store. “It’s a lot to do with being in our area, and it’s something I’ve seen the past couple years.”

Bonnett said besides that trend, boys still prefer the traditional black tux, usually with a tie or other accents that match the pinks, purples and blues in their dates’ dresses.

Elizabeth Michaels also rents out tuxes, as do many other stores that specialize in prom dresses.

“Gray tuxes are a big thing now for weddings and for prom,” Snider said. “If the girl’s dress is more Gatsby or vintage-looking and they want something a bit more hipster, the gray fits.”

Picking out a gray tux that has a bit more flare to it than traditional black makes the shopping experience a bit more unique for boys.

“I like them, because it’s like a happy medium,” Snider said. “It’s a cool trend because guys don’t get to have as much selection, so it’s more fun for them to do something different.”