This year's prom theme: 'Do your own thing'

April 23, 2002|BY KIM DEBARGE

Prom themes are always kept secret from seniors until the last minute, but one of them for 2002 proms is evident: Diversity.

From fashions to students' ideas about prom, this year there seems to be no standout trait, other than individuality.

Stuffy dresses for girls are no longer a must-have - two-piece dresses, summery knee-length gowns, and pantsuits are all popular this year, though the formal gown still reigns supreme. Some girls are even wearing tuxedos.

Though guys are probably still stuck with the basic black formalwear, they too have more leeway than before.

Scott Sullivan, manager of Menswear and Juniors departments at Hecht's in Frederick, says that this year there is "no particular dress style that stands out." However, he says that classic formalwear - "the long, one-piece dress" - is still a bestseller.

If you're worried about being original, light blue seems to be the most frequently purchased color of gown in the department store. Dresses with corset-style tops have also been popular. Hecht's prom gowns sell for $89 to about $170, with some more expensive styles available.


Cathy Cline owns a store in Greencastle called The Hitching Post, which deals exclusively in formalwear. She says that prom styles are "really split down the middle," between classic formal gowns and really daring, risqu styles. And that "it really depends on the girl's personality" what kind of dress she will buy.

Cline has done almost no business thus far in shorter styles, but has sold a few dresses with short trains on the skirt. One theme is constant in Cline's eyes, though, and that is that everyone wants their shoes and handbag to match their dress.

Cline has sold a lot of dyeable shoes for prom, as well as shoes made to match specific dresses. Other than dyeable shoes, she sells mostly "basic black, white, and silver shoes" because one of the three colors usually matches most dresses. "A lot of people are going for Cinderella shoes," she adds - shoes that are fully or partly clear plastic.

She, too, has found that pastels like blue, lavender and light pink have sold exceptionally well this year. The dresses she sells range in price from $29 to $89, with a few priced at $99.

Another option that seems fitting for the graduating class of 2002 is Internet shopping. Shopping online, through chain stores, catalogs, or Internet-only shops, is convenient, offers the world's biggest selecton of dresses, and many websites offer matching accessories.

Speaking for DEB stores and, their Internet counterpart, Karren Pinney says that "shops are our primary source of income. The Web site is more of a service to our customers, so that brides can show their bridesmaids' dresses online and girls can shop for dresses."

The Web site does not offer returns, but allows an exchange policy. If a dress doesn't fit, it can be sent back and exchanged for the correct size, or a new dress. Also, there is a toll-free line for questions during normal business hours, if the Web photos don't fully explain the dress. The dresses at range in price from $49 to $170, and plus sizes are available in certain styles for a little extra, usually around $20 more.

As far as dressing in a tuxedo goes, plenty of formalwear shops make prom easy on guys. Premier Formals, a formalwear shop in the Martinsburg Mall, rents tuxedos between $49 and $99, with the $99 tuxedos from designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Claiborne.

Wendy Heffner explained that tuxedo rental includes "the jacket, pants, and shirt," but that this store also rents shoes, vests, and other accessories. "Usually, most guys are matching their vests to their date's dress," she says, which is traditional.

Shoes rent for $15 to $24, and vests with matching bow tie rent for $15. The store also sells prom gowns for "on average, $100 to $160, but some dresses cost more." Dresses can be bought on site or ordered, but most formalwear stores - including this one - do not rent dresses.

The reason? "Too many alterations," Heffner says with a laugh.

Since girls can't often find a place to rent prom gowns, a logical option is to borrow from friends. Though you may have to buy shoes or accessories, the overall cost of prom is greatly defrayed when the most expensive part is free.

Many girls have an extra prom gown from junior or senior year going to waste in their closets, and borrowing a dress is painless and free. For instance, you and five friends could get together and bring prom gowns from any previous year. If one of you finds the dress among them, wear it. Prom doesn't have to be an expensive nightmare.

As for the pre-prom festivities, it's not completely necessary to go all-out for dinner, and many couples split the costs down the middle. With dinner, transportation, prom tickets, and whatever else your evening involves, prom can get very expensive.

The fashion is also changing about having a date to match your outfit. Some people go without a traditional date at all. It's no longer a necessity to have a date for the prom. People are going alone, and even more are going with groups of friends.

Kelly Eckenrode, a senior at Boonsboro High School, asked her sophomore friend Jordan Lessig to prom this year.

"It's just more fun that way," she says, "because you can have a good time and not worry constantly about your date."

Kelly will be wearing a plaid suit for her 2002 prom. Jordan has not yet decided on her attire, but isn't too worried about matching Kelly's plaid.

Kim DeBarge is a senior at Boonsboro High School and an intern at The Herald-Mail. You can e-mail her at

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