Prom meets new age, traditions change

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson and Elaine Rackley


Prom season is upon us. But, some students are on the hunt for that special dress -- students like 17-year-old Vanessa Hill, who wants a black-and-gold gown.

Unlike a growing number of students, Hill will not order from online catalogs. The high school junior said she is not confident an ordered prom dress would arrive in time for the Woodland High School Junior and Senior Prom, on April 15.

"We looked online," said Hill, also a member of her school's prom committee. "That's how most people do it, buy their dresses online. Nowadays, people don't go for the traditional prom dress look. A lot of people have said they want short, and 'poofy' this year, instead of long and elegant. People still do that, just not as much as before."

Young ladies start searching for prom dresses around Valentine's Day, according to Kathy Montgomery, supervisor of the women's department at JCPenney-South Point in McDonough.

"In the next two weeks, we will probably sell out of these dresses," Montgomery said. "This is not an item we carry year round, in the store. Most of them are available online. I always suggest getting your dress early," she added.

The price for prom dresses, ranges from $70 to $200, she said. "We are doing a promotion now, for the prom dresses," she said. "The customer can donate a gently used dress and receive 20 percent off of the new dress, in addition to the sale price."

Some things have changed in the rush of prom season, and some things have remained the same, acknowledged 21-year-old Tiffany Roberson, a lingerie supervisor at JCPenney. The Lovejoy High School graduate said she attended her school's prom in 2005 and in 2006.

"Everybody wore floor-length dresses to the prom back then, and now all, of the short dresses sell out faster," said Roberson.

"Proms used to be at the high schools or hotels," she continued. "We did ours [in 2006] at the Georgia Aquarium. Now, I have heard of proms being held at Stone Mountain, the Fox Theater, or at Turner Field."

No more do teenagers trim crepe paper, or fill their school gymnasiums with colorful, inflated balloons, according to Tonya Holmes, sponsor of the Woodland prom committee. Some are no longer buying dresses to keep for life, as they choose to buy at consignment stores, or shop online.

"Because the shorter dresses are more versatile," interjected Montgomery. "You can wear them on more than just one occasion."

Holmes recalled the time, years ago, when students prepared differently for their prom. Hand-made decorations and in-house catering are a thing of the past. Students, these days, plan their proms like high society balls.

Woodland's prom will not commence in a sweaty gym or in a dank meeting hall. Instead, students have leased space at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. It was booked several months in advance.

"The students are as excited about it as they've ever been," Holmes said. "It's still one of the biggest nights of their high school experience."

Youths are partying in Atlanta, and riding around in rented limousines from companies based in Stockbridge and Morrow.

"Last year, some kids had prom activities the entire weekend," said Montgomery. "Five years ago, it was a one-night event."

Roberson said she and her former classmates chose a more economical approach in their travels to, and from, the prom.

"When my sister, Alicia, [in 2004] went to the prom everybody did a Party-Bus," said Roberson. "We did a limousine one year, and everybody went Dutch, we all chipped in. There were five couples in one limousine. They picked up each passenger."

Action Limousines, Inc., in Stockbridge, is gearing up for the prom season by offering a special deal. It includes sodas, water, a red carpet roll-out, and a bottle of sparkling white grape juice, according to Lyndsey Deiters, who works as a reservationist and dispatcher at the company.

The company offers a trip to the prom for 10 passengers, at a cost of $750, for six hours. Deiters said customers typically pay to rent a limo, from 6 p.m., until midnight.

"The prices have changed a lot, just because of the prices of fuel," said Deiters. Still, there is no limit to the distance drivers for Action will travel, to help people celebrate their prom.

"If they want to get picked up in Alabama or Mississippi, we do that, but we do charge drive time," she added.

--Staff writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.