From left, Brittany Snow, Dana Davis and Jessica Stroup star in "Prom Night."
Teen thriller film’s prom costumes blends Yank and Brit styles
You would think that designing prom dresses would be a cinch for any costume designer, but the American teen's right of passage was foreign territory for "Prom Night" costume designer Lynn Elizabeth Paolo.
Promeire Dress Drive
Accompanies advance screening of the film "Prom Night," which opens in wide release tomorrow:
» Place: Ward Theatres 16
» Time: 7:30 p.m. today
» Note: Donations of gently used or new semi-formal and formal dresses, accessories and shoes will be accepted toward assisting low-income students with their prom needs.
"Sadly, I'm English," she said during a phone interview during a break from the set of "The Stepfather."
"We didn't have proms, but have a whole different tradition back there, formal cotillions after you finish university, where we would wear old-fashioned, proper ball gowns."
By the time she moved to the United States more than 20 years ago, she was past prom age, and what she discovered while researching American prom dresses was mostly "ghastly," she said. "Not all of it. Some were very Jean Harlow with 1930s glamour, bias cut; others were Cinderella princessy. I had a fantastic time doing the research and had a blast trying on dresses, sometimes falling down laughing. Some of the dresses were very froufrou. They looked like giant meringues."
Strangely enough, considering the film's genre as a teen thriller/horror flick, when it was time for Paolo to get serious, her inspiration came from a 1959 photograph of an English ball.
"It was a beautiful black-and-white picture of girls dancing in beautiful ball gowns, very Christian Dior," she said. "I believe it was taken by Cecil Beaton.
"I tried to, in a modern way, create a vision of innocence, of youth in the beginning of life. The palette is colorful without being garish."
Of course, in every teen thriller, there must be clear delineation between the good girls and the bad girls, and in the film, Paolo chose to dress her bad girls in "acid-wash, bright neon colors," while the rich, spoiled kids wore black and the innocents wore soft hues.
She said she had the most fun dressing the boys due to the challenge of trying to create a distinctive look for each character within the parameters of suits and tuxedos, which tend to make them look alike.
Most important to her was making the actors look as if they were at a real prom.
"I didn't make any person perfect," she said. "I think I got it all. There are punks, Goths, the whole variety of students, like you would get at a real high school."
It was enough to make Paolo, who has a summer home in Maui, wish she could have attended an American prom. "I wish I'd have the chance," she said.
Although her favorite period of dress was the 1940s, and she would love to work on a film based in that era, she said, "I wouldn't mind another prom film. All us girls like to dress up."