Prom pro still in style
Villa Roma's owner has helped choose dresses for decades
As the owner of Villa Roma for 41 years, Audrey Fu has seen prom styles come and go but never tires of helping girls pull together a look that will make them feel special -- although she says they're more likely these days to know what they want.
"Whatever they see influences them. You can look at the Internet, red carpet, TV and magazines and kind of know where it's heading."
Punahou senior Kelsie Gomes said she knew she wanted to wear a floor-length gown, preferably in a green or chartreuse that would enhance her hazel eyes, and found one in satin at Villa Roma after "trying on more dresses than I wanted to."
She headed to Villa Roma after learning the boutique carries a brand she discovered on the Internet. Her search took her to several boutiques, but she tried to stay away from the biggest mall stores, knowing many of her friends were heading to the same places.
"I didn't want to see a dress I love and find out my friend has it," she said.
Gomes' classmate Alyson Omori also found her way to Villa Roma, where they were surprised to see each other. Omori also started with the nonmall route, seeking out private vendors and Internet outlets, but said, "Nothing appealed to me. I wanted more of a simple dress than a typical prom dress."
She also wanted to keep the cost down but fell in love with a fluid blue Niteline gown with a light chiffon train, at $308.
"I told my parents I would wear it again and get my money's worth. I can take the train off later."
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The adhesive NuBra is a must for prom-goers confronting an array of styles that make it difficult to wear a traditional strappy bra. Alyson Omori and Kelsie Gomes are ready for the Punahou senior prom in gowns from Villa Roma. Their earrings are $26 and $24, respectively. CLICK FOR LARGE
During senior year, Fu said, money is often no object to parents who have the final say. "When it's their last year, they want their child to be happy; they go for it."
Because both girls chose gowns with open backs that make it impossible to wear a bra, Fu recommended the NuBra Aphrodite ($32). The adhesive bra is light compared with the older silicone NuBra, ensuring it won't budge on the dance floor and or come off with perspiration, one of the main problems of the original NuBra.
Fu is accustomed to giving advice. Forty years ago she ran weekly newspaper advertisements in a column format, sharing style tips, trends and the latest items at Villa Roma. She was the equivalent of today's blogger.
Villa Roma was a leader in treating teens with respect, offering alteration services and starting a registry for prom dresses to ensure that no two girls from a single school would ever appear at prom in the same dress, as big a faux pas at 16 as 60.
"When I started, all I had was an idea that there should be a place where young people could go, because I was young back then and there was nothing here. There was only Liberty House and Carol & Mary, and Carol & Mary was for old people.
"I was so excited about fashion, and I wanted to say more than what you could do in an ad. When we no longer did the ad, people really missed it, and to this day people ask about it."
Over years of dressing girls for prom, you'd think she'd seen her share of fashion don'ts, as in the Big '80s, for instance. But she never scoffs at past fashion and doesn't believe anyone should be ashamed to open up their high school yearbook and reveal what they wore "back then."
"Now it's really glamorous, but whatever we wore in the past, that's what the taste was at the time. The '80s were the time of big shoulders because of Alexis on 'Dynasty,' and if you lived back then you loved it because the big shoulders made your waist look so small. It was power dressing. It made a statement."