Guys in ties, girls in pearls

Prom style makes a welcome return to modest elegance

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published March 26, 2014

 Corsages, like other classically elegant prom trends, are still in style for 2014.

Corsages, like other classically elegant prom trends, are still in style for 2014.

Sure, the camera technology has changed, but the image stays the same: high school seniors crowded together in their tuxes and gowns, grinning as proud parents snap one of the most important photos of the students’ young lives.

High school prom has been an exciting rite of passage for generations. Over the decades, the styles of formal wear have morphed from elegant to edgy and sometimes downright risqué. But according to some experts, the trends in prom fashion have come full circle, and this year’s “in” look is back to classic elegance.

“This year it’s very much about being a lady,” said Linda McIntosh of Somerset Collection in Troy. “There was a time in the ’90s and early 2000s when there was a little more sex appeal. But even the hairdos are very soft and feminine this year, with a lighter makeup pallet and a darker lip. It’s very reminiscent of proms in the ’50s and ’60s.”

To honor the old-is-new trend, Somerset Collection is currently showcasing a number of vintage prom dresses, some dating back well into the ’50s. McIntosh said the display has been a lot of fun for families to admire together.

“The young girls are really enjoying it, and it’s great to hear moms and grandmothers saying, ‘That looks just like my dress,’” she said.

The “old-world elegance” trend, with long gowns, higher necklines and more modest designs, is making a comeback, McIntosh said, in part because of the looks seen in Hollywood, particularly on the recent Academy Awards broadcast. As starlets opt to leave more to the imagination, so, too, do teens across the country.

“It’s an exciting time to be a parent of a young lady going to prom,” said McIntosh. “It’s the same thing for the guys. No baggy pants anymore — (the suits are) more of a tailored, European cut. Just a lot more fitted.”

Vintage looks and feminine accents are all the rage in stores over at Lakeside Mall. Regional Marketing Manager Amy Stanton boasted of all the resources the mall offers students getting ready for their big night, including hair and nail salons, costume jewelry stores and more. But it’s at fashion-forward stores like Lakeside’s Cache where ladies can find the most up-to-date looks that, at the same time, take a look back in time.

“Let’s break the stereotype of pink. These gorgeous colors are warm, feminine and rich, without being too girly,” said Cache Brand Ambassador Louise Roe in promotional materials. “Rose tones and metallics can offer a really high level of sophistication.”

Lots of this year’s gown designs feature lace, beading and sequin detail, while others feature ladylike floral elements.

McIntosh said things like flowers are especially important this year to complement the “ladies and gentlemen” trend.

“Again, we’re going back to old-school gentlemen. And there’s bonus points if he brings a bouquet for mom. That should get you at least a couple of extra hours on curfew,” said McIntosh with a laugh.

Steve Coden knows a thing or two about formal flowers. For the last 53 years, he’s been carefully creating corsages at his Southfield shop, Steve Coden Flowers. Like fashions, corsage style has changed over the years, but the tradition of presenting a young lady with a fresh corsage for prom has never fallen away.

“First, everything was a pin-on. Now, almost everything is for the wrist. They’re more comfortable that way,” said Coden. “Sometimes, we make handheld little nosegays, too.”

Coden said that corsages have evolved, just like fashion, to become more delicate and feminine. Just a few years ago he was creating corsages with full-sized roses and lilies, while now the popular style is to create corsages with several smaller flowers.

“(Customers) try to coordinate with the color of the dress, and they’ll get miniature roses or little orchids. Sometimes we’ll put in baby’s breath, heather or seafoam statice to enhance the flowers a little bit. But they’re all petite, miniature flowers that are lightweight,” he said.

Just like prom itself, Coden said, the corsage and boutonniere tradition is one that’s hardly new — but it’s new to each generation experiencing the excitement of the occasion for the first time.

“They’re still popular. I still get a kick out of it,” he said.