Today’s teens are looking to make their prom night perfect, from the dress to all the details, in part due to the pressure exerted by social media.
Jennifer Babich, Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle
It’s a springtime ritual across America — the preparations for prom. But in this age of social media, the quest for prom perfection is more intense than ever.
“Everything is social media-driven,” said Lisa Forest, owner of Wedding Belles in downtown Clarksville, a shop that also caters to the prom crowd.
For most girls, the perfect prom experience starts with finding the perfect prom dress.
Forest stocks hundreds of gowns in a rainbow of colors and a range of styles, catering to girls of all shapes, including plus sizes.
Her best advice is to buy the dress that looks best now, not how you think it will look after you’ve tanned and toned up.
“I try to tell girls not to change their body to work with the gown, but to pick the gown that works with their body,” said Forest.
Wedding Belles owner Lisa Forest displays one of this season’s hot styles, jersey gowns with cut-outs. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
The top trends she’s seeing this year?
Ball gowns with pockets are hot, along with gowns encrusted in small iridescent or mermaid sequins, and lots of glitter.
Two-piece gowns or faux two-piece gowns with illusion cut-outs are also still trendy, as are gowns with criss-crossed backs.
Also big this year are tight-fitted, jersey knit gowns with cut-outs, and anything that’s simple but sparkly and a tad sexy.
Wedding Belles owner Lisa Forest shows off one of the hot dresses of this year’s prom season, a jersey gown with a metallic sheen. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
A new look for this year: Unembellished dresses that are dressed up with metallic threads woven into the gown.
Gowns that feature the dip-dyed ombre look are also top-sellers, like the sequin-covered ball gown that Houston County High School junior Allie Steele settled on when she visited the store.
“I like the Cinderella ball gowns,” she said, noting that the extra sparkle of this dress made it perfect for both her prom and an upcoming pageant.
“I put it on and I was just like, ‘I love this dress,'” Allie said of the rosy-hued ombre sequined gown. “It’s shocking because it’s a lot more color than I usually wear.”
Houston County High School junior Allie Steele shows off her sequined ombre prom gown at Wedding Belles in Clarksville. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
Forest said she’s also seeing more dresses with sleeves, including the off-the-shoulder look, and gowns with more lace embellishments.
As for dress silhouettes? Ball gowns and sheath gowns are in; mermaid or trumpet-style gowns and flowy, chiffon gowns are mostly out, although there are exceptions.
“Ball gowns are the big thing this year,” said Forest, who notes the selling point for many girls are pockets where they can easily stash their phone.
That’s part of what drew Callie Sasser, a senior at Houston County High School, to the lavender ball gown with jeweled pockets she purchased.
“I had a screen shot of the dress I wanted,” Callie said. “I was really praying they would have it in my size.”
Callie was in luck, and said she felt relieved to have found her dress.
Callie Sasser, a senior at Houston County High School, shows off the pockets in the lavender ball gown she picked for the prom. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
“I love the ball gown look. The fact that it has pockets is a bonus,” she said.
Forest says one trend that went from “hot” to “not” are gowns with big, bold stones and crystals. Instead, she’s seeing lots of tiny sequins and more subtle sparkle.
The hot colors this year include soft shades such as blush, champagne, lavender and pale blue and yellow. There are exceptions, however, with the bold hues of wine and forest green making a big splash on this year’s prom scene.
Wedding Belles owner Lisa Forest shows off a ball gown in one of the hot hues of the season, forest green. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
For those looking to kick their prom dress shopping up to the next level, Forest offers what she calls “The VIP Prom Experience,” where girls can schedule an appointment that comes with a bridal dressing room and refreshments like cake pops and sparkling grape juice.
Forest said her gowns range in price from $75 up to $500. She said most girls she sees will spend around $200.
While it’s fine to start the hunt on Pinterest, she advises clients keep their minds and hearts open to new ideas once they’re in the store.
Wedding Belles owner Lisa Forest shows off one prom gown trend, a metallic jersey gown featuring a strappy back. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
“Pinterest is sometimes difficult to deal with,” said Forest, and clients often come in with their heart set on one dress. “Sometimes they’ll try it on and it’s not right for their body type. And sometimes, even if they hate a dress online or on the rack, when they try it on their eyes light up.”
That’s what happened to Mara Ferguson, a Rossview High junior who’d brought her boyfriend Samuel Thornton with her to try on dresses.
Mara tried on several before she agreed to try a yellow-striped ball gown that she wound up loving.
“I saw this one on Facebook, and I did not like it,” said Mara, who admitted that once she had it on, she loved it.
Mara Ferguson of Rossview High tries on a yellow striped ball gown that was a favorite among the dresses she tried at Wedding Belles in Clarksville. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
“I have a whole Pinterest board of just prom and wedding dresses,” Mara said with a laugh.
But she didn’t walk out with the dress that day, in spite of how much she loved it.
Forest said that’s also a sign of the times that can be attributed to the internet: Girls unwilling to commit to a dress until they’ve exhausted all their options.
“I think the internet has given girls the illusion of so much variety,” said Forest. “So now, they want to try on 50 dresses before they decide. And even if they try it on and love it, they still have to ‘snap’ it to get second opinions.”
“I always think that maybe I can find the right dress in the next store,” agreed Mara.
Mara Ferguson tries on a gold ball gown with strappy details at Wedding Belles in Clarksville, as owner Lisa Forest assists. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
Forest warned against websites selling gowns where the deals seem too good to be true, as they are oftentimes just cheap knock-offs.
“There are many websites out there that are not even reputable,” said Forest, who explained she fixes 15 to 20 online disasters each prom season.
She said she sees everything from awful dress designs that look nothing like the photo online to dresses that don’t fit or that haven’t even been finished.
“One girl got her dress along with a bag of beads that still needed to be sewn on,” she said.
A girl’s prom attire decisions don’t end with the dress.
There are still shoes, jewelry, make-up and hairstyles to consider, not to mention trendy new details like prom garters, which can be personalized to match the dress color or the school colors, and can be stamped with such things as “Prom 2019.”
“That’s new for this year,” said Forest.
Garters which feature a pocket are one accessory option for prom. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
Another garter trend with a practical twist is a lace garter with a pocket big enough to hold a phone.
“Also, a lot of girls are getting nosegay bouquets instead of corsages,” said Forest.
Another floral trend: Incorporating other botanicals into arrangements, including succulents and airplants.
Erica Smith, the manager at Hilldale Florist on Madison Street, said they get some ridiculous requests.
“Kids come in with these pictures off Pinterest that are not realistic … that are mostly silks or artificial flowers, or even something like a carved radish, or simply flowers that won’t hold up in a corsage or nosegay,” said Smith.
Smith recommends sticking to hardier florals, like spray roses, carnations, alstroemeria lilies or rananculus. Orchids and calla lilies are also popular, although pricier.
Popular flowers for prom include such choices as spray roses, mini carnations, alstroemeria lilies, and rananculus, shown here by Erica Smith at Hilldale Florist. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
Color is in when it comes to tuxes this year, with burgundy, navy and gray being especially hot choices, along with indigo or cobalt blue, Forest said.
For those wanting something even more eye-catching, there are paisley print jackets in a variety of shades from red to royal blue.
Slim-fit pants are another tux trend worth noting, along with monochromatic looks where the vest matches the tux. Pocket squares are also big this year.
Of course, it can all cost a pretty penny to get the full prom experience.
Houston County High School junior Allie Steele smiles at her reflection as she shows off her sequined prom gown at Wedding Belles in Clarksville. (Photo: Jennifer Babich)
A 2015 survey from Visa showed American families were spending an average of about $919 on their prom-goers. That was down slightly from $978 in 2014, and $1,139 in 2013.
For prom-goers like Ferguson, it’s all worth it, no matter what dress she winds up wearing.
“I think the occasion is important,” she said, anticipating a prom night to remember.
Reach reporter Jennifer Babich at email@example.com or 931-245-0742.
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