Sunday, March 30, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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How to dress for the prom

Seattle Times staff reporter

Think pink — all shades of it.

Think ties, not bow ties, to complete that tux.

And think stretch-SUV this year.

Prom. It's the major party of your high-school career. And it's the event that truly marks your entrance to adulthood. Although standards such as rose boutonnières and corsages remain ageless, dress and tux styles are ever-changing as are newer — and bigger — limousines. Here's a guide to help plan for your big night.

But first, it's up to you to snag a date.

The dress

Pink — or such shades as fuschia, raspberry and watermelon — is the color of this year's prom dress, said Nordstrom spokeswoman Amy Jones.

"This color trend is influenced by the spring designer (collections) in general," she said. "The good news is that there's a shade that's flattering to every skin tone."

Satin and other shiny materials are popular, as are dresses with beads, said Bon Marché spokesman Rob Campbell.

Knee-length and long dresses are the rage and clingy cuts — versus poofy skirts — are in. And while soft, draped necklines are classic, one-shouldered dresses are cutting-edge.

Prom dresses at the Bon are $99-$218. At the Fremont boutique Les Amis, dresses cost $128-$300. At Nordstrom, Brass Plum dresses are $78-$174.


When deciding on a necklace, consider the neckline of your dress, said Jones.

"If it is fairly simple, you can make a bigger accessory statement with a double-tier rhinestone necklace or a dramatic pendant," she said. "If your dress is fairly ornate, you may want to confine accessories to the hair or earrings."

Jones suggests rhinestone hair clips or antique-inspired chandelier earrings.

At Claire's, accessories cost $4-$14. At Les Amis, they are $30-$150. At Nordstrom, they run $12-22.


Platform shoes that aren't chunky describe the style of the year, said Jones. And ribbon ankle straps — think ballerina — are in vogue.

At the Fremont shoe boutique Lola Pop, they are $120-$280. At Nordstrom, Brass Plum shoes cost $34-$59. At the downtown boutique Ped, shoes cost $150-$350.


Ponytails are in, but softer and fuller rather than sleek and spiky, said Aria Salon stylist Tamara Hamry. Getting a haircut can range from $30-$125 depending on the type of hair you have and where you go. A special-occasion style costs about $45.

Since pink is the color of the season, it is also reflected in makeup, said Hamry. Special-occasion makeup application costs about $40-$45. A manicure runs about $25-$30.

The tuxedo

While tuxes can be personalized with Mandarin-collar shirts, "phat pants" that are wide-legged and sit low on the hips, and retro pastel colors, the most popular tux includes a three-quarter-length coat with a standard-collar shirt, a vest and tie, said Winters Men's Formal Wear general manager Sue Cohen-Anderson.

"Some kids are more conservative and some are just out there with the trends," she said. "There are different tastes for different people."

Tux rental packages usually include a coat, pants, shirt, cufflinks, studs, a cummerbund and bow tie. They cost $20-$120. Prices vary depending on styles and add-ons such as vests and ties.


Top hats, gloves, scarves and canes add flair to standard tuxedos. Most can either be rented or purchased for $2-$10.


Square toes describe the shoes of this year's rental-tuxedo wearer, said Cohen-Anderson. But many prom-goers wear their own shoes to personalize their look.

"A lot of times they come in with a new pair of Nikes and they'll want to match tuxedos to their shoes," said Brocklind's Formal Wear sales manager Jim DeAmbrosio.

Shoes can be rented for $15-$30.


The corsage (given to the girl and worn on her right wrist) and the boutonnière (given to the boy and worn on his left lapel) remain classically rosy — one or two roses for him and three or five roses for her.

"Roses are pretty," said Avant Garden Florist assistant manager Kati Hanson. "And they are very durable so when you're dancing and hugging, they won't break."

Although roses are the most popular, some choose orchids, gardenias and even the oft-sneered-upon carnations.

Corsages cost $15-$25. Boutonnières cost $6-$15.


This isn't your grandpa's limo. The luxury transport of choice these days is a stretch Lincoln Navigator or 18-passenger Hummer.

"Everybody has a stretch, but not everybody has a stretch SUV," said Blackstone Limousine manager T.J. Anderson.

Depending on the type and length of rental, limos cost $60-$350 an hour plus a standard 20 percent tip. Companies have anti-drinking policies for underage passengers and most require that their drivers call parents in case of inappropriate behavior.

Dinner and hotel

Views seem more important than the food for prom-night dinners, said Seattle Times restaurant critic Nancy Leson. Sky City atop the Space Needle is a popular choice as are waterfront spots such as Palisade and Salty's, she said. Italian restaurants are always a wise pick.

Some prom-goers rent hotel rooms with their friends for a place to go after the dance. Most hotels require the renter to be at least 18 and many require credit cards. At the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, rooms are $265-$1,100. At the Lake Union Courtyard by Marriott, rooms cost $119-$129. At the W Hotel, rooms cost $169-$279.

What to do

The first rule of etiquette is to invite your date early enough so he or she can make plans — at least three weeks before the prom, said etiquette consultant Dawn DeGroot, owner of the Wallingford Charm school.

The one doing the inviting should pay for the ticket ($5-$60 depending on the school and success of the fund-raisers), and it would be polite for the other person to offer to pay for photographs ($15-$50 depending on the package), she said.

And while the boy should always open doors, help a girl with her coat and walk on the outside nearer to traffic, the girl should not order the most expensive item on the menu and should never, ever criticize the corsage, said DeGroot.

"If the girl really thinks it's a poor color or really ugly, she may never express that. That's really, really impolite," said DeGroot. "If she really doesn't like it, she can put it on her handbag."

What not to do

Prom is an important evening. Don't blow it on stupidity, said Rainier Beach High School intervention coordinator and senior-class adviser Betty Patu. Patu identifies the top three reasons prom-goers get sent home. They are:

Being drunk or high is a sure reason to get booted. But at Rainier Beach, this hasn't been a huge problem in past years, Patu said. "They know the rules and they know me," she said. "They know what my expectation is and they know I don't play."

Wearing clothing bordering on the obscene. "We have girls come who have practically everything hanging out," she said. "We send them home to go change."

Talking trash. "We'll send them home if they're cussing and using improper language," she said.

On a budget

To cut costs:

Borrow clothes and accessories or shop at offprice stores such as Loehmann's or Marshall's. Bargain hunters can also comb secondhand stores such as Goodwill or Value Village.

Do your own hair, makeup and nails.

Have willing parents host dinner.

Drive yourself to the prom or have a willing sibling chauffeur.

Host a sleepover.

Gina Kim: 206-464-2761 or


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