Today's young celebrities span many styles. There's Jennifer Lawrence, who has come to awards shows dressed both sporty and sleek, and like a princess; Taylor Swift, who moves seamlessly from vintage to ethereal; and sometimes funky, sometimes artsy Chloe Moretz.
There are also Rihanna and Selena Gomez, notes Gina Kelly, fashion director at Seventeen. “You've got Selena Gomez, who's a little sweeter, and Rihanna, who's edgier. Within that range, you've got a lot of options.”
Coming just off the Hollywood awards season, all the options are fresh in girls' minds, she says, and they've gotten ideas on how to put a whole package together. Lawrence, for example, wore a bona fide ball gown — and there are girls who want that — but her delicate jewelry and loose updo added youthfulness, Kelly observes.
Georgina Chapman, designer of red-carpet favorite Marchesa, is now offering a significantly less expensive version of her party looks at J.C. Penney Co. under the Pearl label. With a toddler daughter at home, a brand new son born last week, and teenage stepdaughters, she was itchy to do something for the younger crowd.
For even her older teen stepdaughter, Chapman says she felt like Marchesa's dramatic signature might have been a little too much. “You want to look vibrant. You've got that young glow, work with that!”
She hopes Pearl adds a little “more tongue in cheek” than Marchesa, with the same level of attention to details, and you'll have the embellishment and ruffles.
There are looks that hit the right note between risk taker and risqué. The Grammys this year came with an edict that outfits couldn't show too much skin, so some stars, including Rihanna, worked around it with sheer illusion fabrics and peek-a-boo cutouts, both compromises that also might follow mom's rules.
Even if girls don't want to hear it, a dress that will allow them to stand, sit and dance will be more fun in the end. “You don't want to have to worry about falling out of your dress every time you move,” says Seventeen's Kelly.
Comfort also can fuel confidence.
Mandi Line, costume designer for TV's “Pretty Little Liars,” encourages girls to try on as many prom dresses as possible. Then, she says, “go with your gut or you won't be happy at the dance.”
“What do you want to show off? Your legs, your arms? Then look at your favorite star. You might not be like them, you might not look like them. But it's a good start for ideas,” Line says.
Even with seasoned celebrities who seem edgier or more experimental, you'll notice they usually take time to figure out what makes them comfortable — perhaps a signature silhouette — and then they'll go wild with accessories or color, says Line, who is meeting with teens across the country at prom events at Macy's stores.
She says the colors of persimmon, sort of an orange-red, and mint green are everywhere this season, often paired with black and white.
But, adds Kelly, don't put too much emphasis on the outfit. The dress is just part of what should be a really fun night, she says.
Her last-minute tip to pull it all together: “Stand up straight and don't slouch your shoulders. You're always going to look better that way.”