Monday, March 14, 2005

Kapolei High School senior David Illenado escorts Jeremi Guillermo, left, Ashley Madela, Haydee Tolentino and April Pacpaco as they try out their formal prom attire.

Prom priorities

The rush is on to make that
special night a perfect event

Spring is when young people's thoughts turn to prom season. For some the preparation began months ago. Others prefer to get swept up in the moment.

Adding it up

Typical prom expenses:

For the couple
Tickets: $120 to $150
Photo packages: $40 to $100

For her
Dress: $100 to $300
Boutonniere for date: $10 to $25
Manicure/pedicure: $30 to $50
Up-dos: $35 and up

For him
Tuxedo rental: $40 to $120
Corsage for date: $10 to $15; wristlet $20 to $30

Business is just starting to pick up at tuxedo rental shops because proms are being held later this year, according to Maria Orta, a manager for Tuxedo Junction. Students are beginning to trickle into the store's Pearlridge location for the Aiea High School prom on Saturday.

"Some guys put in a bid first before they firm up the date, but some guys tend to be shyer," said Orta. "They want to find a date first before they put in that bid and order a tuxedo."

She said the guys are starting to experiment with color, seeking bright colors as opposed to traditional black tuxedos. Think shades of green and yellow.

"Sometimes people want to look different," said Orta.

But the desire to be unique is appealing to both sexes.

In one quick hour last year, Ashley Pagaduan-Crespo sketched out an original design for her senior prom for Kapolei High School.

After flipping through magazines and browsing in stores, Pagaduan-Crespo wasn't satisfied with the prom dresses she saw, and she also didn't want to risk wearing the same dress as another girl. So she had her dress custom-made, based on her rendering.

The result is a body-hugging brown dress with a tube-style top for her senior prom, "Our Destiny Awaits," on April 30.

Pagaduan-Crespo and about eight of her friends have already purchased their $70 prom tickets. Although she is confident in her style, she is less sure about going stag.

"Some of our boyfriends are on the mainland, and some of us didn't have boyfriends," says her friend Tiffany Ramelb, 17, of the girls' decision to go as a group.

Ramelb said the prom isn't a big deal at Kapolei, which is still a fairly new school. But last year, about 350 of the 400 kids in her class went to the junior prom.

Ramelb and her mother shopped together and bought a black prom dress with a halter-style bodice and full skirt; it was the first and only dress the teenager tried on because she liked it so much.

For teenagers who aren't as sure of their attire, several schools host "prom bash" fashion shows in February or early March to give students options and ideas. Chic looks for girls at Kapolei this year are pastel, fitted, tea-length or shorter dresses that are either strapless or have thin straps, while colorful suits in red, teal or black -- the school's colors -- are popular with boys.

At Pearl City High School, long, flowing gowns in bright colors such as fuchsia are in style, as are up-dos with loose tendrils. For boys at Pearl City, white suits with metallic ties or vests are favored, along with edgy, razor-cut hair that's artfully messy.

Stephanie Gamiao's halter-style gown has back-baring crisscross ties.

LIKE MANY HIGH schools in Leeward Oahu, Kapolei is hosting a used prom-clothing sale on March 21, with the organization Project Graduation. Students can bring in previously worn outfits, and other students can bid on garments that have usually been worn only once before.

"Maybe it's a dress that sits in the back of the closet ... people can bring it in and look for other dresses," said Daniel Simeon, a Kapolei teacher and senior class advisor.

"Kids tell me, 'I can't afford to go to the prom,' so I tell them, 'Why not get a (used) dress for $25?' But our kids are not into wearing something that's been worn before," said Margaret "Mike" Ishihara, student activities coordinator at Pearl City High.

"Kids go all out because it's their last year," said Simeon.

While the desire for an original outfit can be stressful for teens, it can be a pull-out-your-hair experience for adults in an advisory capacity. In addition to their usual duties, teachers take on the extra burden of rounding up paperwork such as permission slips and late bids from students. And advisors are still charged with enforcing school rules, making sure those gowns are sleek without being too sexy.

"Our VPs check for dress codes," said Lisa Gonzales, a co-advisor for the Kapolei senior class, "to make sure (the kids) cover up, make sure the shawls are on."

"Dress code is the biggest problem," said Mark Oda, a college and career counselor at Pearl City. "Students don't always want to follow the dress code, so we have to come to terms when someone wants to wear something too revealing."

"Sometimes the students just want to look different," he said. "There was the 'wing thing' -- students wearing Victoria's Secret (angel) wings. Some people have dressed in medieval costumes."

April Pacpaco and David Illenado are ready for prom night.

Both Ishihara and Oda say that sometimes prom dress-code rebellion is not necessarily about bad judgment, but more about what a teenager can get away with. Both Kapolei and Pearl City have dress and conduct codes to avoid disruptive or illegal behavior -- such as students bringing alcohol, party-crashing and keeping a volatile couple separated.

Despite the challenges, "It's nice to see them in a different setting," said Oda. "It's nice to see them in something else besides their T-shirts and their shorts. When you dress differently, you act differently."

Gonzales said the Kapolei prom committee began meeting in January to pick the prom theme and colors: pearl, midnight blue and silver. Now Gonzales gets to see the 2005 senior prom come together.

"As advisors, this is fun for us," she said of the three supervisors and 40 chaperones. "We get to watch them dress up and prepare for the prom. It's their moment."

Gonzales remembers the prom trends from her high school years at James Campbell High School. "It was Cinderella-type dresses. They were chiffon and green or purple. It's different now. The outfits are a lot prettier, with the sequins and the rhinestones instead of the chiffons and velvets."

Simeon recognizes the brightly colored men's wear. It's similar to what kids wore when he went to the prom in the '80s.

Despite the beautiful setting and the formal clothing, there's one other thing that can be counted on every year.

"There's always a boyfriend-and-girlfriend spat," said Oda. "Someone always ends up crying."

Pearl City holds a "date change" period before the prom. "Relationships are so intense, too serious," said Ishihara, who has chaperoned about 50 proms. "They might have been going together, but by the time the arrangements are made, they are no longer a couple."

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