What Not to Wear

Necklines plunge, dresses shrink at this years proms

One of the two big trends in prom dresses this year, recent high school grads (the OC Weeklyinterns) and dressmakers alike tell me, is basically not wearing a dress.

Oh, there are prom dresses this year, but they don't really cover a whole lot of skin. And those are just for the guys. Wait, no, they're not. Guys are still in tuxes, and apparently, they still have the option of wearing powder-blue tuxes with flared pants and ruffled shirts. And I say good for them.

But barely there is what the ladies are into right now: short dresses, plunging necklines, backless, nearly frontless, with keyhole slits, teeny straps—the polar opposite of the whole princess thing (though, perversely, the princess dress refuses to die).

I've even heard of girls wearing tube tops to prom—I suspect you'd have to match your own separates in that case—when you know they just stole that idea from Britney Spears. Everything else they stole from Jennifer Lopez, apparently—double-sided tape and all.

"Right now, it's popular to be sexy," says Marisa Bolanos, co-manager of the Caché store in South Coast Plaza, in what may be the year's funniest understatement. "I think it indicates the trend right now. A lot of designers like Versace have the low, low-cut dresses." As goes Versace . . .

In fact, the model on the Caché flier I got in the mail is wearing a low-cut dress—I think it's actually pretty modest by comparison—that dives in front, then teases with keyhole slits letting me see that, no, she doesn't have a pierced navel. I guess, at about 35, she's too old for one; she could be a runner-up for the Stacy's Mom part in that video. I wonder if I'll be seeing her soon at a high school near me, for that's the other big trend.

No, it's not B-list models showing up on campus. It's the high school prom-dress fashion show—which, along with after-hours prom parties at stores like Caché, is how retailers are reaching out to Orange County girls.

To, you know, take their parents' money.

"We have a lot of people in Orange County who aren't concerned with price points," Bolanos says cheerfully. "We range [in price] from $200 to $400, and in comparison with some vendors in the mall, we're about in the middle. But we don't have too many girls concerned about that."

And so, stores like Caché are bringing in doe-eyed seniors, their moms and their girlfriends on weekends this month, when the store is closed, the better to sequester them and hypnotize them by waving a bunch of tulle in front of their eyes.

They're also taking it to the streets, holding real, live, mini fashion shows with models in prom dresses, the better to woo the senior class. The latest was on a recent Saturday at Fountain Valley High School, which I wouldn't have thought was that into prom. I know nothing.

Except for this: $400 buys two new sets of tires for my car. But try telling that to a senior girl.

"We have tons of girls who see this as something huge in their lives," Bolanos tells me. "It's something huge, even though it's not a wedding, it's similar to a 16th-birthday or a 15th-birthday celebration. They'll remember it forever."

My date scarcely remembered it the next day—thanks for nothing, Seagram's wine coolers.

Moms with credit cards, on the other hand, will remember it once a month as they slowly pay off those prom dresses. And the circle of life spins on.

For information on Caché, contact its South Coast Plaza store at (714) 540-0979.

 
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