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What are the hot trends in Charlotte for Prom 2013?

By Olivia Fortson
ofortson@charlotteobserver.com

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    What’s In: Solid, bright colors including neon shades. Strapless. Low backs. Long gowns with a sheer skirt that show either shorts or shorter skirt underneath. Big, chunky “rock star” beading, rhinestones or sequins. Hi-low dresses that are short in front and long in back. Fitted shapes, or flowing with lots of chiffon.

    What’s not so in: Popular last year, but not as in demand this year, are patterns and one-shoulder silhouettes. Short party dresses – most girls want the glamour of a long dress. Ball gowns.

    Don’t forget:

    • No matter what your size or how much you spend on a dress, it’s not going to look right if it doesn’t fit. Have it altered if needed.

    • Test drive your dress in the fitting room by bending over, sitting down and moving around in it.

    • Your dress will most likely be all over Facebook or Instagram. Have someone take your picture in it so you’ll see how it photographs.

    • Proper undergarments are key. Even if you’re a Size 0, you’ll most likely need a great strapless bra or a pair of smoothers.



What do teen girls want for prom 2013?

Edgy dresses that are bright, bold and fun.

Armed with photos of their favorite celebrities on the red carpet, they’re walking into stores knowing exactly what they want.

“Everyone definitely wants something stunning – a showstopper,” says Arlene Goldstein, Belk’s vice president of trend merchandising. “This prom season is about statement making dresses in eye-catching colors. These dresses are not for the faint hearted.”

Goldstein, who helps shape what is seen in Belk’s 300-plus stores across the country, says what’s being shown on fashion runways and on celebrities is inspiring prom trends nationwide.

Tori Colozzi, manager of the new 15,000-square-foot Charlotte Prom store at 4618 South Boulevard, describes prom dress shoppers as fashion forward. “Celebrities have become such an influence, and the fashion world influences celebrities, so I’m not sure where one starts and the other ends.”

One new style Charlotte Prom offers this year is a gown with sequined shorts that can be seen underneath a sheer, flowing skirt.

“There have been a few girls attracted to that,” says Colozzi. “It takes someone who’s confident and wants to stand out.”

Colozzi knows that many dresses are a little funkier than they were in the past, but she describes the vast majority as appropriate. “You need to see them on. What people don’t realize is that in the ads for the dresses, they’re being worn by adult models, which is why they can look too sexy. On real bodies they look more modest than the pictures from the designer’s collections online.”

Goldstein knows that some of the girls want to look sexy. “Modesty is relative. Show what you want to show while wearing the dress that flatters your figure. If you’re strategic and work with your figure, then you’ll feel comfortable. Don’t buy a dress you’ll be tugging at all night.”

Most girls shop with their mothers or an adult parental figure. “Believe it or not, most girls want their mother’s approval,” says Colozzi.

If you’re more demure, but want something on trend, try a new style that’s a short skirt underneath a gown that has a sheer skirt. “It’s fun and it provides a touch of peek-a-boo in a very safe place,” says stylish teen Carson Goodwyn, who blogs about fashion for the Charlotte Observer (read her picks for her favorite prom dresses at www.charlotteobserver.com/style).

Still high on hi-low

A trend that debuted last year, and is even hotter this season, is the hi-low gown that’s short in front and long in the back. “It’s all the rage and allows more freedom when you’re walking and dancing,” says Goodwyn. “It also gives you a chance to show off your footwear.”

Patterned gowns, which were popular last year, have been usurped by bright, solid colors – including neon orange and neon pink. And many girls are looking for glitz, which is reflected in lots of sequins, rhinestones and big, chunky beading on gowns.

“We call them rock star beads,” says Colozzi. “Some are as big as a quarter. They’re heavy, but a little more fun and sassy than they have been in the past.”

One-shoulder silhouettes, which have been hot over the past few years, are not as in demand. What’s rising are lower backs. Girls want their dress to turn heads coming and going.

“The interest now is all about the back,” says Pam Funderburk, manager of Dar-Lynn’s Bridal and Formal Wear on Independence Boulevard, which has been selling prom dresses for 29 years. “Plunging necklines aren’t as popular. The skin they want to show now is their back.”

She added that some high schools have a rule that the back can’t dip lower than two inches below where the bra line falls.

We checked with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and were told that although the system has a dress code, prom attire rules are left up to individual schools. Funderburk says most girls come in with an idea of what’s acceptable.

“We did have a girl who found out the slit in her dress was too high, so we had our seamstress stitch it in a little bit,” she says. “We’ve been doing this for so long that when we’re at the market ordering dresses, we think of what’s going to work here.”

Funderburk says that girls who are a size 18 want the same style dress as the girls who are a size 6. “They don’t want a frumpy old dress and these prom dress companies have finally come to grips with that, so many of the gowns go up to a size 24. We sell a lot of plus-size prom dresses.”

What ‘the dress’ costs

At Belk, the majority of dresses are in the $150 to $220 range. At Dar-Lynn’s, they run $350 to $600. Colozzi says Charlotte Prom’s dresses range from $250 to $900 with the average girl spending $400 to $500 on the dress alone, which aligns with prom spending nationwide.

That may shock some, but for prom store owners, it’s part of a trend that’s grown over the past 10 years.

“You wouldn’t believe the effort and the money – the dress, the hair, the shoes the nails,” Funderburk said. “It’s a huge deal. You would think with the economy that parents would cut back, but they find a way, or girls work so they can pay for it themselves.”

After 29 years of selling prom dresses, Funderburk still loves it.

“The biggest joy is when you help a girl find that dress they love. When they find that perfect one and they’re so excited and they’re hugging me and thanking me, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson
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