The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


April 27, 2014

Everybody Prom-enade!

With a couple of area junior/senior formal events down and several more to go, Prom 2014 is in full swing. Gatsby to Vegas themes prevailing, styles can be described as colorful nods to the past, reinvented in red-carpet wear as expressively unpredictable as teenage personalities.

Debbie Ballard with Harvey’s Fashions and Bridal, knows prom — she has lived and breathed it in the annual steady stream of customers beginning each January, prime prom prepping month.

Serving a statewide base of formalwear-seekers, Ballard and her Harvey’s peers organize literally thousands of prom gowns each spring, wading through trends to offer the most current styles. Often, points out Ballard, prom themes dictate styles.

Although more ambiguous “Night in Paris” and “Enchanted” classic prom themes still exist, Mardi Gras and Vegas/casino-style settings now abound, making it more of a creative challenge to match ensemble to theme for each attendee and also explaining the explosion of multi-colored, sequined confetti dresses and mesh style bodices with lots of sparkle and sheerness, tastefully done.

“Nude colors are also popular this year,” explains Ballard, for a dress to blend with any theme.

Themes can also require accessories; Masquerade Ball themes are so popular, at present, Ballard has only a couple of masks left for sale. Another theme influencing dress styles and accessories is Great Gatsby a.k.a. Roaring ’20s, and an attending resurgence of lace — rather than on a fringed flapper dress, most likely to appear floor-length, in a punchy shade like tangelo with a see-through bottom.

While starting to look for a dress now is not ideal, Ballard empathizes with those last-minute prom-goers, whether the final decision to attend was recent or whether procrastination played a role.

“There are no advantages to being late — but it’s still not too late,” Ballard comments.

Harvey’s keeps a large in-store selection of styles on hand and on promotion; many are discontinued styles still stylish — makers just won’t replicate the exact same design next year. Others may make an appearance in 2015, but not at the current promotional price — they’ll be back to suggested retail.

“At this point, you’d need to choose a dress in the store instead of ordering, but we have two very talented seamstresses in case there are last-minute issues with the fit,” adds Ballard.

Last-minute buyers still benefit from Harvey’s governing prom policy to keep detailed records of dresses bought, selling no two of the same dress to students from the same school and averting the second most classic prom nightmare this side of Carrie — being “accidental matchers” with another girl on the dance floor.

“The only way she can have the same dress at the same school is if she bought it somewhere else,” Ballard assures.

Ballard also says savvy customers capitalize on after-prom sales each year, especially if they had a hard time deciding between two dresses. “I have several who decide on two, then put one on layaway for next year.”

- - -

April Taylor, Conference Sales director for Tamarack and host of a number of area prom events, is also one to take note of prom’s evolution.

“What I’ve noticed is a lot of girls wearing sequined cowboy boots instead of traditional shoes and there are a lot of shorter dresses,” she stated.

Preparations for prom vary from year to year, with Taylor and her staff preparing seating for around 300 attendees each event.

“Woodrow almost always has more students than that,” she said.

More than theme or style, Taylor pointed out the amount and duration of energy girls put into prom and how it is much more today than she remembers it being back in the day.

“I think people get prepared more and earlier now — they get more into it. They get their nails and their hair done professionally — when I went to prom, we just did those things ourselves! Now, girls spend months preparing. I’m sure they probably spend a lot more money than we did, too.”

Some things never change — like the compulsory pre-prom dinner. A consensus of students and the weekend flash mob of gowns and tuxedos unofficially crown Japanese steakhouses as the most popular pre-prom destinations. Maybe it’s the sushi or it could be the tactical marketing driving most to Asian fare.

Mintra Poole, general manager for Kimono Kin of Beckley, admits she’s already hosted swarms of prom attendees at her restaurant.

“We are advertising prom specials for couples from each school,” she says, explaining that Kimono’s 2014 Prom Special is a dinner for two including an appetizer, two entrees and a dessert for $30.

- - -

Last but not least, there are the gentlemen to consider. What can create another, less savory kind of “fit” is finding the right tux for the occasion — especially for those with girls lax in making up their minds about a dress. Luckily, Harvey’s has “My Guy is Wearing …” reference cards to spell out exactly what tux, color and style he should get to go with the dress she said “yes” to.

“Once we know what style and color, we can order and have it here within the week,” says Ballard.

After trying on, guys generally relax into their role as dressy date. In her 12 years at Harvey’s, this year Ballard experienced a first with one boy who discovered his inner Fred Astaire after seeing his refined reflection in the mirror.

“I said, ‘OK. You can take it off now.’ He said, ‘No, I’m wearing it out; you never know… I might have a date tonight.’”

Where basic colors and tails fail to impress the gents, another popular option for 2014 is rumored to go with just about anything.

“We do offer two serious Duck Dynasty tuxedos in camouflage,” Ballard states.

Wild, wonderful West Virginia theme, anyone?

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