No excess pounds.
No frizzy hair.No pimples.
The best-looking date in the school.
And . . . the prettiest dress in the world.
You probably can find these wishes listed in every teen's diary close to those magic words, "Junior Prom" and "Senior Ball." Every girl wants to look sensational on the night of the biggest formal dance of the year. For the boys - well, let's face it. Looking great's an easier proposition. All a guy has to do is dab on some sweet-smelling after shave, put a few bucks in his wallet (quite a few - it can run $50 or so to rent a tux with the trimmings) and head over to King's Row or some such formal wear shop. But for the girls - young ladies on the brink of womanhood - it takes a whole lot more. More planning. More fussing. More worrying. More dreaming. It's a major production to find just the right dress, whether you buy it or make it. And often the quest for stylish perfection involves the entire family, not just the teenager.
Consider Doug and Janet Osborn, for example. When their pretty blonde daughter Jenni, a sophomore at West High, started planning for her date to the Junior Prom aboard the Riverboat, they worked 'round the clock to outfit her like a princess.
In between homemaking duties and her job at the Newspaper Agency Corporation, Mom sewed up a storm, turning out a beautiful dress with an emerald green moire taffeta skirt - 9 yards wide - and a top of ecru lace. Janet estimates it took about 10 hours to sew the gown. And then came the beading - so intricate and time consuming that it became a family project.
Finally, though, the dress was completed, with its long sash that fell nearly to the floor in back and lace-appliqued bodice twinkling with seed pearls and crystals. (Many of the beads came from Grandmother Osborn's old sewing box.)
"If we'd bought the gown ready-made, it would have cost us a fortune," Janet says. "We saw one in a local specialty shop that was similar, although not beaded, and it was $800. Sewing was really the answer for us. There's another thing about sewing, too. You're never going to see yourself at the dance. We took a pattern and then adapted and changed it making the dress a real original."
To accent the Osborn Original, Dad (he works at the Deseret News) couldn't resist buying a green satin evening bag he spotted in a nearly-new shop and some special grownup jewelry - Austrian crystals. And when his daughter went out of the door to her first prom with her beau Richard Russell, who's a junior at West - well there couldn't have been a prouder papa.
"These events cost a lot in both time and money," Doug says, "but they're really worth the investment. You know, we parents send our kids to school for academic education, which is very important. But these proms teach them the social skills, which are equally essential. Dressing up, going out to dinner, really having a special evening and putting those social skills to the test - I think you can't underestimate what that kind of an experience can do for a young person's self-esteem. "
Getting all dressed up. There was a time, more than a decade ago, when it wasn't considered cool by the high school crowd. Kids were demonstrating against the Vietnam War; they were marching for civil rights, and it often seemed they were trying to look as scruffy and unfashionable as possible. As for formal dances - well, to many of the young protesters of that era, they were symbols of superficiality.
So, for a while, a lot of kids missed out on the special magic of prom night. When they went on dates, typical clothes were jeans and old T-shirts. Their mothers sighed, saddened that their daughters weren't getting corsages. They remembered their own high school years and the thrill of that special invitation. How times had changed!
But there's one thing about changing times. They're inclined to keep right on changing. And in the case of proms and formal dances, the pendulum began to swing back the other way a few years ago.
Dresses for proms and formal dances are big items now, local retailers report. Indeed, with virtually every high school in the Salt Lake area having at least one major formal dance a year and often three or four, it's hard to keep an adequate selection in stock.
"You have to really go shopping early if you want to find a pretty dress or everything gets picked over," says Holly Austin, who did shop early and found just the right off-the-shoulder pink taffeta to wear to the Woods Cross Senior Ball. (Her date was John Reed.)
According to Holly, a Kearns High graduate who's now attending the University of Utah, romance is all the rage in party clothes. And sophistication. Nobody's much interested in gimmicky stuff. As for lengths, Holly and most of the girls who've been dancing their nights away at proms the past few weeks here in Salt Lake City, seem to prefer mid-calf or floor-length. Minis might be fun for the hop or the disco. But they just don't make the scene when you're out to make memories. At the prom, most young ladies want to live out their fairy-tale fantasies. And do you know many princesses of old who wore short, short skirts?
A lot of princesses, though, used to receive roses from their prince charmings - and the custom's still going strong. The corsage is a big part of that big evening for high school kids. John (a son of Jerry and Linda Reed) presented Holly (a daughter of Fred and Peach Austin) with one made of pink roses and white carnations. It matched her dress perfectly, and it also looked right with his gray tux accented with pink tie and cummerbund.
Add up the tab for the corsage and the dance tickets and dinner and everything else and you're into a lot of money for the evening, says John, who works as a custodian at Centerville Junior High when he's not in class at Woods Cross. "It's really hard for some of the kids to afford it. I'm glad I have a job."
John Madsen, son of Calvin and Sherry Madsen, agrees that prom-going can be a mighty expensive proposition for a fellow. For his big Murray High Junior Prom date with Veronica Allen, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Allen, the bill looked something like this:
- Tuxedo rental, about $45.
- Dance tickets, $14.
- Junior Prom picture with date, $20.
- Tip to friend who acted as van driver, $5. (John and his brother Craig, with whom he double-dated, hired a driver to take them to dinner at Snowbird and to the dance at the State Capitol in high style.)
- Dinner. ("Just put that it was expensive," says John. "VERY expensive. Most kids these days go to fancy places to eat before the big dance, and it always costs a lot of money. Maybe $35 to $75 by the time you've had dessert.")
- Corsage, $12.
- Carriage ride after the dance, $25 for half an hour. ("But it was worth it," says John. "VERY romantic.")
Veronica, who designed her own black satin dress in a Victorian style for the prom because she wanted something unique, agrees that it was a romantic evening. Special in every way.
Even the way John invited her to attend the dance was special.
"Most of the boys don't just call and invite you," Veronica explains. "They do something really neat. John brought over a ladder, knocked on my window, serenaded me and gave me a rose."
How could any girl refuse a dance invitation like that?