Text, Vivian Kelly
Twenty years ago, dressing as if it were one’s wedding day for one’s High School Prom was not even imaginable. Back then, prom was a rather SILLY EVENT WHERE IT WAS OKAY TO WEAR A LITTLE COCKTAIL DRESS that was probably purchased at a bridal boutique, and most likely an ugly shade of pink or teal.
Take the 1986 John Hughes classic, “Pretty in Pink”.
Remember? In it, ‘Andie’ slashes the beautiful vintage dress her alternative friend, Annie Potts, ‘Iona’ gives her and combines it with the ugly pink one Dad gifts her. The result = the most memorable prom dress ever. At the time, the reworked dress was unique and daring. Most girls, lamentably attended prom in candy confections like the pink creampuff Andie ripped-up.
The stakes for promwear have gone up, aided and abetted by such seminal events as the Wills-Kate wedding. The R.W. contributed to prom fever, but prom as pre-wedding has been a reality for quite a while.
A few weeks ago, I wandered into **VINTAGE!, an upscale vintage and consignment boutique in Bedford Hills, NY to find some sunglasses, and walked out in a state of shock, and the concept for this post.
The newsflash: Well-to-do private school girls were dropping a couple of $$thou on vintage Oscar de la Renta. Vintage! gets its clothes and accessories from Hollywood – namely celebrities and film sets. For prom? Was the owner joking?
Not at all. From January – June, Laura Herlihy, a former Oscar de la Renta staffer, is booked solid [sometimes even double-booked] Monday – Friday for “prom appointments”. I dawdled, in hopes of witnessing the appointment, prolonging my debate between the rectangular blue D&Gs or the red ovals. [I left with the D&Gs but am returning for the reds as they’re right on trend now.]
The two girls arrived, on time, for their appointment.
Question: Since when do privileged American teens arrive on time for anything?
Answer: When it matters to them. Prom, I concluded, mattered.
Both girls sported short shorts, long starlet hair and bodies and designer handbags. They each needed 2 gowns for prom – 1 for the actual prom, the other for the after-party. Cocktail dresses were not an option. The jewelry seemed to be fairly understated, perhaps a pair of the Carolee* faux diamond clip-ons for that vintage Cartier-Old Hollywood look that’s so popular on the Red Carpet now. The shoes would be Red Carpet worthy: Louboutin, Manolos, or Choos.
Not everyone though, can spend on this level though.
A few days later – down South – Fifi’s Designer Consignment Shop, Durham, NC. Although prom is “huge” here too, the girls here wear cocktail dresses, according to the Manager. My candidate and theirs’ – ***a champagne ombre BCBG cocktail dress with some sparkly paillette work on the front – no extra bling needed. This little dress reminded me of Hailee Steinfeld, in her Marchesa dress at the Oscars. The girl who wears the BCBG to her prom will look elegant but “her age”.
Last stop, The Fashion Exchange, in Newtown, CT, on the Northernmost reaches of Fairfield County. Here, the look was gowns as well, two on average, for the big night. The choices were less elevated, think BCBG rather than Oscar. The owner, Janet, emphasized the importance of “blingy accessories”. The case and wall next to the register was as dazzling as the Caribbean noontime sun. The most in demand pieces were hair ornaments to decorate updos, big cocktail rings and Harry Winston-like bracelets of faux ice. Although the F.E. is an upscale shop, a dress can run in a reasonable $100 price range, topping out around $600.
One big resemblance with a first wedding, Janet notes, is that the Mother is often the more excited of the two. This was eerily similar to big first weddings, in which Mom typically takes over and inflates a “small wedding” to a huge spectacle with a cast of hundreds and a final price tag bordering on 6 figures.
Janet and I ended our conversation, talking about what else – the Royal Wedding. Kate, did it right, and used her long-time stylist James Pryce of the Richard Ward Salon, and allegedly did her own makeup.
She took it up a notch by applying makeup that was just a shade darker, for the biggest [at least, public] day of her life. How many girls do you know who would do that? Love it!
“She looked like herself,” said Janet. THAT girls, is the key. Fine to book an appointment with your favorite hair and makeup team, but if you don’t usually wear an up do in your day-to-day, better to stick with a more polished version of your usual look, as Kate did.
Lastly, take a cue from one of fashion’s most legendary icons, Coco Chanel
Before you go out, look at yourself – hard – in the mirror. If something looks ‘too much’ take it off. Maybe even take one more thing off.
To think of it, the only jewelry Kate, a real live Duchess and Queen to be, wore was the nature-inspired Robinson Pelham earrings, the Lady Di Sapphire ring, and the diamond Cartier “Halo” tiara, borrowed from the Queen. Bling like this is acceptable for her one and only wedding.
Tiaras for the prom – NO. Reserve that thrill for your wedding.
*Did you participate in the Carolee Prom earring give-away? If not, I’ve still got 1 pair left to gift.
HINT: These, BTW, make for a spectacular Mother’s Day gift if you haven’t gotten one for Maman yet.
**At this time, Vintage! does not have a website. It is a division of the Antiques Marketplace, Inc.
***This is not the BCBG dress at Fifi’s as no photographs are allowed, but it’s similar.