Young women seek red-carpet-worthy gowns for prom

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, March 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The dresses hanging in zipped, plastic covers represent every style imaginable.

Some have head-to-toe sparkle, others less embellishment. Fabrics range from silk to chiffon. Colors range from the brightest orange, pink and blue to the darkest black, wine and emerald green. There are short and long versions, as well as the combination — the high-low. Gowns come in strapless, one-shoulder and halter styles.

The young women who will wear them to prom are just as diverse.

“There are so many choices,” says Gina Kelly, fashion director for Seventeen magazine. “That is what I love about prom. You can choose a dress that's sweet in pastel lace or one that is more edgy in red or neon pink with sequins. Go all-out glam or more subdued. It's all about the girl and what she likes.”

Some girls arrive at a store with a photo of the dress they want. Sometimes, they leave with that style, and, other times, they choose another, says Natalia Zavodchikov, president of Babette's in Bridgeville.

“It is our job to help them find the right dress, because we want them to be happy on prom night,” Zavodchikov says.

Buying a gown is a way of expressing a girl's style and wardrobe personality.

Today's young women aren't afraid to wear all-over bling, which is on trend this year, Zavodchikov says. Sparkles are everywhere from bedazzled bodices to the entire dress giving off a sheen when the girl walks in it. Dresses come in gold, silver and other metallic finishes. Some will choose short dresses, but the long styles are most popular, experts say.

The all-over beaded look is very popular, says Jennifer Mason, manager of MB Bride in Greensburg. Some are smaller beads, while others include the bigger, chunkier crystals.

“I think a lot of the bling comes from seeing celebrities on the runway,” Zavodchikov says. “We aren't seeing as many poufy dresses as in years past.”

Something that's new this year is the sheer fabrics added at the bottoms of dresses or even at the midsection to create an interesting illusion.

The average dress price is $359.

Many girls have been looking for the perfect dress since early January. Some have dates, others will get dates, and there are those who go to prom as a group of friends.

“They do their homework, because there are so many websites and magazines where they can get ideas,” Mason says.

Prom shopping is not just about the dress. Accessories, most likely, will have lots of shine, too, Mason says, from cowboy boots and sandals with silver sequins to chandelier earrings and cuff bracelets designed from mosaic beads. In addition to dresses and shoes, these girls go all out with nail art and fun hairstyles.

They decide on the accessories after they've made the dress decision.

“It is so important to choose the dress that is right for her, because this is her night to feel like a princess,” Kelly says. “This is their time for their red-carpet moment.”

During the decision process, girls might try on everything from the ball gown to a fish-tail style, which fits closer to the body. Lace is popular in all styles, Kelly says.

The girls like to choose early to get the dress they want before anyone else gets it. Most stores will register the dress so no one else at the school can buy it.

Linda Scolieri, owner of One Enchanted Evening in Pine, says some of the more-popular styles feature touches of lace, bodices with embellishments and rock-star beading. “Girls also like chiffon dresses with empire waists and heavily encrusted beading.”

Julie Durocher, design director for Jovani, who was featured at a trunk show at One Enchanted Evening, helped girls find their dresses and answered questions. She says there is a dress for every girl. “And you can tell it's the right dress when her face lights up.”

“The girl who wears this line is confident, because it has a little sex appeal to it,” Durocher says. “Buying a prom dress is competitive, in that girls will post the dress they've bought on Facebook so no one else will buy it.

“There is a lot of sophisticated lace and lots of jersey material because these girls are used to wearing clothing with some Lycra or Spandex,” Durocher says. “And the blush and champagne colors are really popular.”

She says girls don't want to feel like they are trapped in a dress. “They want the gown to be comfortable and to be able to move with them.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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