Sew ready for prom: Crafting memories for the big dance
By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 4/2/2014
It’ll be worth the nearly year’s worth of work to know Tobie Roberts’ prom dress truly is unique, she said.
“I’m going into fashion design for college and I love sewing and designing my own dress,” Roberts, who’s been sewing since she was in seventh grade, said. “And it’s cheaper because you can buy your own fabric and make it yourself and it’s like five bajillion times cheaper.”
Roberts is set to attend her third prom Saturday, though the event typically is for juniors and seniors at West Franklin High School, she said. Not only will this prom be her last, but it also will be the third and final time she’ll be making her own prom dress.
With the big day just around the corner, she said, she’s getting down to the wire on last-minute changes to her dress, even though she started the project about this time last year.
“Right after prom ends, I start the next one. I don’t start making it, but designing it,” she said. “This year, it was designed before December and I bought the fabric during winter break and made the pattern over winter break, and during spring break is when I finished it pretty much, but I’m always behind on that. Usually the day of prom I’m still hemming it. Every year that happens.”
Her taste and style in dresses has changed through the years, Roberts said, but this year’s dress has been done with a high-end, fashion designer’s mind set.
“I’ve done a ball gown my first year [at prom], and the second year I did more of an A-line kind of mermaid style, and this year it’s really different, more like couture, runway kind of stuff because that’s what I want to go into,” she said. “I usually start designing it whenever it comes to me. Before, I’d seen other dresses and based my design off that, but this year I’ve done my own design.”
Having experience with runway shows, Roberts said, she’s been around a lot of different dress designs, but her most recent dress inspiration came from fashion blogs.
“This year, I started getting into fashion blogs and following a lot of them and seeing more different cuts and styles and I was inspired by that,” she said. “I started making a design kind of edgy but glamorous. I really love low-back dresses and I got [inspiration] from that, so my train this year is three feet long and it’s probably a really big hassle.”
For many high school girls, a significant part of prom is shopping for the dress with friends, Roberts said, and that’s something she’s missed.
“I always feel like I’m left out when it comes to that, but I’m never pleased when I go to try on a dress ’cause I’m like, ‘I would’ve done this different,’” she said. “I still get the feeling when I put [my dress] on the first time that it’s perfect, it’s done. I don’t really have the feeling of ‘I don’t like that part I wanna change it’ and if I do get that feeling, I change it because I made it.”
Not only does Roberts make her own prom dresses, she said, she also does her own hair and makeup, but won’t try her hand at doing her own nails.
‘A FUN ENVIRONMENT’
A dress for prom is just one piece of the puzzle, Amy Richardson said, but many girls attending prom look to area shops for help with getting their hair, nails and makeup done before the big night.
To help offset some of the costs that can quickly add up when prom season rolls around, Exclusive 3rd Street Spa, 110 W. Third St., Ottawa, offers prom specials on their services for hair, nails and makeup, Richardson, owner of the spa, said.
“Prom is very important to teenage girls. It’s a big event in their life and we want it to be memorable for them and the atmosphere to be something to remember,” Richardson said. “We wanted to have specials because prom can be expensive and on average they spend money on dresses, going to dinner, maybe if they’ve rented a vehicle to come to prom in — it adds up fast, so we wanted to cut them a deal and throw them a break on different services we can offer to help with that day.”
Prom services are offered the week before prom and the day of prom, Richardson said, so if girls would like, they can get their nails done before the big day and save some time.
“Prom day is usually pretty crazy,” she said. “I always have to hire in another hair stylist to do hair and make sure that I have plenty of people to do nails. Usually the people that I have working down here come in a little early and get everything ready.”
The typical soothing sounds played throughout the spa are changed out the day of prom to a more upbeat tune to help get prom-goers in the mood, Richardson said.
“We have snacks and refreshments for them to eat on and drink because they like to schedule appointments with friends, and teenagers like to have each other’s opinions on everything from nail color to hair to makeup,” she said. “It’s fun and we try to make it a fun environment.”
‘IT'S A LOT OF WORK’
Prom at all high schools in Franklin County is a big deal, but at Ottawa High School some might say it’s the event of the year.
Not only do the juniors, seniors and their dates get to attend prom, which is set for April 12, but the parents of juniors at OHS throw the students an after prom party, Patrice Peoples said.
“A group of junior class parents every year organizes a safe and fun after prom party from midnight to 3 a.m.,” Peoples, whose daughter is a junior at OHS, said. “We try to have activities and prizes so the kids want to come so it’s a safe environment for them to come and hang out with their friends after prom.”
The after prom party is organized by the parents so all the fundraising for the event lies solely on the shoulders of the parents in charge of putting it together, Peoples said. Since after prom is a recurring event each year, parents from previous years have pretty much written the book on how to put the event together — literally.
“The [parents] who planned [after prom] last year, they’ve created books they hand down with information and letters and who was contacted and donated, and those are very helpful,” Peoples said.
The group of parents rent out inflatable obstacle courses, photo booths and sumo wrestling suits for the party, Peoples said, as well as prizes to give away such as gift cards and electronics.
“We are giving away food certificates, little prizes and grand prizes at the end of the night,” she said. “Things like electronic items, TVs, Beats headphones — a lot of businesses have given us gift cards, hair products.”
Setting up for after prom is done by the parents in the high school’s gymnasium, but prom itself is left to two high school teachers, as well as anyone else they can get to help with set up, Brian Hutton said.
Planning for prom starts before students leave for winter break, Hutton, a teacher at OHS, said, and starts ramping up after spring break.
“Several companies we order from, if we want to order any type of decorations, has to be done before spring break in order for us to get it in time,” Hutton said.
Set up begins the Sunday before prom and goes well into the evenings of the nights leading up to it, Hutton said.
“Sunday we’ll start in the afternoon and work ’til the evening, and that week we start about 4 [p.m.] right after school and work until 9 or 10 [p.m.] and we do that pretty much all week,” he said. “It’s a lot of work.”
The day of prom is hectic, Hutton said, since juniors also attend the dance, and many of them also have to get hair and makeup done. Once the big day has come and gone though, Hutton said, he looks forward to a little relaxation.
“There’s lots of planning up until the night of prom, then it’s done,” he said. “Then it’s smooth sailing until graduation.”