Project prom: Teens go for classic looks

Today's prom trends are channeling classic looks of fashion's past. Local teens share their plans, dreams and tips for how to turn heads.

From ancient Grecian style all the way to the grunge of the ’90s, fashion trends of the past are making their way back to the high school prom.

Some teenagers are even digging out their parents’ old photos for inspiration and finding ways to give the looks a modern twist.

“My mother looked famously ’80s,” said Kali Mann, a senior at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. “She had blond, feathered hair. And she made her dress — it was baby blue.”

Bloomington Jefferson senior Emilee Hassanzadeh also did her homework on Mom’s prom-wear.

“Apparently, Gunne Sax dresses were all the rage in ’83, so that’s what [my mom] wore to prom,” she said. “Her date had a baby blue tux … classy!”

Although trends come and go — and come back again — prom remains a defining moment of high school. Despite its changing styles, the evening provides a rare opportunity to dress like royalty, teens say.

Baby blue tuxedos and feathered hairdos might not get you crowned king and queen, but a peek into the past offers some insight to the trends of the moment. Tanning is out. The Roaring Twenties are in. Heels are optional, the ’50s rock ’n’ roll vibe is cool. And bohemian statement jewelry is a must.

These days, rather than fit in, however, most teens insist on self-expression, said Sara Rogers, trend specialist for the Mall of America. “Just about anything goes for prom-wear,” she said.

How to maintain individuality without ending up with an awkward prom photo? That’s the tricky part.

Mann’s advice? “Express yourself, but don’t dress in something that you’re going to look back at and cringe.”

To get a grip on this year’s dos and don’ts, we chatted with Mann, Hassanzadeh and St. Paul senior Sophie Heyman. They tell us — and show us — how to pull off a fabulously modern prom look with a nod to the past.

Old Hollywood: Emilee Hassanzadeh, senior, Jefferson High School, Bloomington

Voted by her classmates as “most likely to end up in Hollywood,” Emilee hopes life after high school takes her to the opposite coast instead — singing, acting and dancing on Broadway.

Prom... “Is all about the hype and the buildup leading up to the dance and who you are with.”

Self-expression is... “Key on prom night. What you wear is a representation of who you are.”

Best prom stores: BCBG, Free People, Caché, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Rent the Runway and the MAC counter for makeup.

Budget: “$500.”

Tips for short girls: “Splurge on a fun pair of heels.”

Getting ready... “Is an all-day affair! I usually go out with my girlfriends for breakfast and then we start getting ready around 10 a.m.”

Dream date: “Actor Josh Hutcherson or a nice Jefferson guy.”

Do: “Swap your heels for a pair of Converse after your pictures.”

Don’t: “Forget lipstick. It totally pulls your whole look together.”

Emilee’s look: One-shoulder mint embellished gown, $199, rhinestone heels, $119, bracelets, $30-$44, all from Macy’s; clutch, $298, Caché; floral hair clip, $10, Chapel Hats.

Grecian goddess: Sophie Heyman, senior, Central Senior High School, St. Paul

Sophie is known around the halls of her school as being the most dramatic and having hipster style. She plans to study psychology and writing with a pre-law influence at an East Coast college.

Prom... “Is something that everyone should do once.”

Self-expression is... “Very important. You have to stay true to yourself or you won’t have fun.”

Trends I love: “Emerald green dresses with gold jewelry. Concentrated sparkles, around the neckline usually.”

Best prom stores: “Department stores for jewelry and dresses. DSW for shoes. Etsy.com and promgirl.com are good websites for dresses.”

Dream date: “Ryan Gosling. If he’s too old, then Liam Hemsworth.”

Tips for tall girls: “Pick a long dress that covers your shoes and wear flats. I’m 5-foot-9, so heels are a hazard.”

Getting ready... “Takes about three hours. My hair takes the long­est, but makeup and nails are a close second.”

Budget: “Under $200.”

Do: “Get a unique dress, wear jewelry and take pictures.”

Don’t: “Get a tan; order a dress without checking the details.”

Sophie’s look: Ivory chiffon dress with gold beading, $550, earrings, $32, Nordstrom; bracelets and headband, $12-$20, Aldo; DSW shoes, $50.

Girlie-glam grunge: Kali Mann, senior, St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, St. Paul

Kali has an eclectic style and loves to mix and match vintage pieces with comfortable basics. She plans to attend Columbia College Chicago to pursue a degree in theater and costume design.

Prom... “Takes time. I started looking for my dress around Christmas.”

I’m most excited about... “Dressing up. Teenagers don’t get to do that very often.”

Self-expression is... “Part of the fun. The most unique prom look I think I’ve ever seen was a short knee-length leather skirt and a white blouse. It was very beautiful and simple, but not at all a traditional prom look.”

Trends I love: “Vintage. I would love to have a long gold dress — a little ‘old Hollywood.’ ”

Best prom stores: Modcloth, Anthropologie and Free People.

Budget: “$100-$150.”

Getting ready... “Takes four to five hours. I love to do hair and makeup and I want everything to look perfect, so I will take my time. Last year all my friends came over and we had a little spa day.”

Do: “Get a facial the day before; wear your shoes at least once before prom — your feet will thank you for it.”

Don’t: “Wear a large ball gown that’s going to get in the way; dress so fancy that you’re going to be uncomfortable all night.”

Kali’s look: Black tulle and lace dress, $218, Caché; Dr. Martens boots, $149; Aldo earrings, $20; Caché clutch and bracelet, $98 and $78; Henri Bendel hair clip, $38.

Styling: Sara Rogers, Mall of America
Hair and makeup: Progressions Salon, Mall of America

Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715

  • related content

  • Ready for prom, from left: Kali Mann, a senior at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists; Sophie Heyman, a senior at St. Paul Central High School; and Emilee Hassanzadeh, a senior at Bloomington Jefferson High School.

  • Sophie Heyman, a senior at St. Paul Central High School.

  • Emilee Hassanzadeh, a senior at Bloomington Jefferson High School.

  • Kali Mann, a senior at the St. Paul Conservatory for Parforming Artists.

  • Did you hang on to your retro prom photos? E-mail us your best one from decades past for possible inclusion in a future story. Send to tellus@startribune.com — include your full name, prom year, prom location and phone number.

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