by: Blake Kritzberg
Prom: it's loaded with expectations. For some, it's merely a dance. For others, it means that first great step into adulthood, while savoring one's position at the top of the grammar-school food chain. And for some, it means a night of pure Cinderella magic. Combine all this with a youth-oriented culture, and you have an event that demands a serious fashion plan.
So what fashion forces are driving Prom 2004? The answers are: curves, glamour and loads of color.
"Prom 2004" is actually a bit of a misnomer, as most dresses tend to follow Fall 2003 styles. This make sense: prom dresses are high-ticket items, and retailers need a chance to test out trends in the shopping malls. (Hair is more adaptable, so prom hair is more attuned to the present).
As for fashion in general, it's still reeling from the ultimate anti-fashion incident: the 9/11 attack. You may recall that the industry stopped in its tracks. Major fashion shows were cancelled, or scaled down to a roomful of attendees on folding chairs. "Can fashion still matter?" was the question no one could ignore.
But of course, fashion didn't die. As always, it reflected the newly-altered world view. "World views" contain many interlocking strands, as does fashion, but strong themes emerged and are still in play. Here are some of the best-articulated trends in Prom 2004:
// The Solidarity Uniform
Dressy, formal looks from the 30s and 60s. Think Hollywood glamour, and Jacquie Kennedy. Beneath this trend is the new focus on attending family events and dressing up for them.
Expressing the 30s are the curvy, Screen Siren prom gowns: smoky mermaids in luxurious ruched satin, and Latin-style ruffles and trains.
Reviving the 60s are Grace Kelly/Jacquie-O A-line skirts, sometimes tea-length, with crinoline slips. These classic beauties are updated with simpler, more natural hair and makeup, not to mention some mod-style colors (bold black and white, bright red, or submarine yellow). Gloves and a small shiny pocketbook are must-haves, but for 2004, you don't have to stick to ordinary colors!
Timeless prom queen gowns are fully *au courant* as well -- no amount of beading, boning, crinoline or shine is over-the-top, so enjoy the license for glamour. Perhaps this is the right year to indulge in a delicate tiara!
You'll be surprised by the number of strapless gowns on offer. Every one of these "solidarity" gowns lend themselves to classic strapless glamour.
// The Eastern Bloc
Fashion influence is drifting, and the East is gaining ground: Londoners do their best to dress like Persians, and Bollywood antics make the global radar more often. You'll see the lovely outcome in those 2004 prom offerings with an elegant sari look and extraordinary hand beading.
// Sporty Spice
J. Lo lives on in the sporty side of Prom 2004, where two-piece gowns (some midriff-bearing) continue to make a splash. This look is not only fresh but practical; those beautiful bodices can be paired with jeans long after prom night's become a matchbook and a memory. "Sporty-prom" fashionistas can augment their costume with sparkling navel gems and exotic paint-on body tattoos.
// Celebrity Fashion
Can it go any lower? The prom world's not immune from red carpet antics, and several sultry 2004 offerings call for double-sided tape. This year's 'necklines' sometimes plunge so far that there's nowhere else to go; look for 'backdrift' to follow (no pun intended) in the next few years.
// In Truth, 2004
The dresses genuinely in sync with 2004 runways are the ultra-feminine pastels, with delicate ruffles. Think "prom dress meets the park." Don't be afraid to go with soft green, coral and pink paeons to girlhood, simply because most offerings are jewel-toned and sizzlingly seductive.
Soft, shiny waves are new for spring (think lovely Charlize Theron at the Golden Globes); Aniston-straight is out. Whatever you do, don't torture your hair into some unnatural confection; it's simplicity and naturalness that updates these retrospective looks.
Clunky is dead. Open-toed stilettos are red-hot. Sure, the gorgeous silver (or transparent) sky-high creations on the market are the ultimate in impracticality. The romantic prom-goer will buy them anyway, get a great pedicure, and slip them off halfway through the night for a 'best of both worlds' (if not 'best for the pocketbook') experience.
// Jewelry and Makeup
With all those strapless fashions, take care not to over-accessorize. Unless you're going for a vintage look, don't spoil that beautiful expanse of clavicle with a necklace; don sparkly, dangling earrings instead to create a long line. If the Nicole Kidman look is more to your taste, consider one of those retro multi-strand chokers (in black, of course), or a slim black ribbon paired with a silk rose. Chandelier earrings might be "outre" at the Oscars, but they're definitely not a done deal at
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