Prom planning for '04 starts now

By Marylin Johnson

Cox News Service

ATLANTA -- Prom gowns in September?

As teenagers started juggling homework worries and Friday night football games, the newest prom gowns made their debut during the 2004 Prom, Pageant and Special Occasion market recently at AmericasMart in Atlanta.

"I buy now so I can have gowns in the store starting in late December," said Thomas Tolbert, owner of Legends, a Roswell, Ga. shop catering to prom and after-five looks. "That's when girls start to look for the perfect dress.


"Then, for the next several months, I turn the entire store over to prom looks," he said, despite the fact that proms don't kick off until March. "And in the South, prom is huge. For many girls, it's a rite of passage into adulthood."

Carolyn Clark, owner of CC's of Rome in Kennesaw, Ga., also brings prom gowns into her store before Christmas. "Last year, I had 15 dresses on layaway in December," said the retailer. "Girls shop early because they want to get something that no one else has.

"And they think everything is picked over in February."

For many teenage girls, prom is the social highlight of the year.

In a joint 2003 Seventeen Prom/Teen Prom reader survey, 77 percent of 1,510 girls nationwide said going to the prom is special because "it's a great time with friends and the biggest event of the school year."

Teens also spent time and money to achieve that fab look. Those surveyed shopped an average of 13 weeks for their dress, visited more than eight different stores and tried on about 24 dresses.

Ninety-nine percent of the reader respondents bought a new dress and nearly 90 percent bought new shoes. And 79 percent purchased makeup. Overall, the girls spent an average of $616 on prom, with about $208 for the gown and $45 for shoes.

During the market, editors from Seventeen Prom and TeenProm revealed the trends for the 2004 season.


Shape of things to come

The full-skirted tulle ballgown will always sell and is sweet. But also look for A-lines, since they are flattering on most figures. Vintage dresses, a la the '20s, with their beads and handkerchief hemlines, are in demand, too.

In addition, said Jane Fort, editor of TeenProm magazine, there will be tons of "sexy, slim dresses with halter necks, sometimes with deep V necklines." She also feels that modest, more covered-up looks will win over prom-goers -- their parents, too. These dresses will have "higher necklines, sometimes cap sleeves."

Color is key

Bright on are the lime greens, acid yellows and oranges. Pink is also a strong color. "It goes from sweet to funky," said Fort. "And pink is so wearable for all skin tones." Look, too, for champagne-colored gowns, a more sophisticated shade. Black-and-white is another hot duo for prom night.

"Girls can't go wrong with this combination," said Alexandra Parnass, editor of Seventeen Prom magazine. "It's represented in all types of dresses and prints. Plus, it's more versatile than some color combos. A girl can actually wear a black-and-white dress again, not just to the prom." Look for black to also be paired with pink, blue or one of the neons.

Pattern play

Florals are everywhere and look pretty. Other designs include polka dots, animal prints and stripes.


Necks, hemlines, fabrics

Strapless and sweetheart necklines are big. You'll see lots of uneven hemlines, often with ruffles. Tea-length hems, which hit right above the ankle, are gaining in popularity. Fabrics range from chiffons to tulle and taffeta. Laces and beads abound.


Gloves will be important and can match or contrast with the dress. Bows will trim dresses or appear as hair ornaments. In jewelry, chokers are big, as are vintage pins on dresses. Earring styles run the gamut, from drops to tiny studs.

Girls can wear fresh flowers on the wrist, pinned to their waist or on an elastic band around the upper arm.

What To Read Next
Get Local