Showing up in the same dress as someone else is the ultimate prom nightmare for most high school girls. And with area proms only a couple months away, many girls are already out in full force, searching for that oh-so-perfect yet unique gown.
A junior at Dexter High School, Sara has shopped around in Dexter, Cape Girardeau, Jackson and now to Sikeston, but she still hasn't found the right dress for her prom, which is April 17.
"She's so particular and picky," noted Sara's mother, Lisa Britton. "This has been kind of stressful. She's probably tried on 15 dresses and has found something wrong with each of them."
Sara is the first of her siblings to go through the prom experience, Lisa Britton said about her daughter. Sara's brother, Michael, is 14, and her sister, Krista, is 13 so their mother is also learning the ropes.
But Jean Winston of Steele is a pro. She was shopping with the younger (a sophomore) of her two daughters who are going to South Pemiscot County High School's prom this year.
"Both of them want yellow dresses so that's not good -- but I think the senior is going to win this fight," Winston noted.
For Winston's daughters and friends, a method is involved when shopping for the perfect prom dress.
"We went shopping a few weeks ago -- with five girls -- my daughters' friends, and they tried on the dresses," Winston said. "We take pictures and develop them. Then they look at them and decide which dresses they like best."
Meghan Raines was also out combing through the large selection of prom dresses. A junior at Scott City High School, Raines said she has no clue what kind of dress she wants for her April 17 prom.
"If I see one I like, I'll try it on," Raines said. "And if it fits, it fits. I'm just going to go with what I like -- I don't care what people think."
Picking out the dress is just the beginning of the prom experience -- not to mention the most vital step of the process. Everything else revolves around the dress -- the hair style, shoes, jewelry -- and the date's tux.
"I think the biggest part of it is finding the dress," commented Peggy Barks, owner of the Bunny Patch in Dexter. "The girls enjoy looking and shopping and trying them on is fun."
So what's hot this year?
"Citrus colors like the bright lime greens, or kiwi, and mandarin oranges are popular," said Joy Gooch, owner of Joy's. "Last year it was the blues, pinks and pastels. This year the trend is more vibrant and fun."
Lime green and lemon yellow has been wonderful, agreed Barks. The traditional black and bright corals are popular, too, she added.
As for style, ballgowns, mermaid skirts and strapless dresses are the top picks by teenage girls, Barks said.
Multiple fabrication and multi-colored beading are also in this year, Gooch added. The one-shoulder strap dresses and high-low hems are sought-after styles as well as the "J. Lo dress," which resembles the ombre silk chiffon gown Jennifer Lopez wore in "Maid in Manhattan," Gooch noted.
In the shoe department, a lot of the girls are getting the "five-inch heel, sort of Fredericks of Hollywood-type shoe," Gooch explained. Clear shoes and dyeables also remain favorites.
And for the boys?
Colored shirts, Windsor ties, vests and square-toed shoes are popular in the tuxedo department, Gooch said.
"Longer jackets are in and the boys are into the vests and long ties and shirts with a lay down collar," Barks explained, adding that she's been having more inquiries about white tuxes.
According to Gooch, the average cost of a tux is around $80 or $90, and that doesn't include the price of shoes. The average cost of a dress is $225-250.
"It's not a cheap experience," admitted Sara's mother. "But proms are once-in-a- lifetime events -- and the first one is very special."
Girls (or their parents) can plan on spending an additional $40 on shoes. Handbags, of course, range from the teeny tiny that hold lipstick to the larger and start at $20, Gooch said. Jewelry is another category all on its own and these costs don't even include what the price to get their hair and nails done as well as a great tan -- via bed or spray.
Girls start searching for their dresses as early as January and continue right up until the week of prom, both Gooch and Barks noted.
"The girls are shopping earlier and earlier because they want first choice at it," Barks said.
Meanwhile, Sara Britton has finished trying on another dress and steps out of the dressing room to get a peek.
"I feel like Cinderella," said Sara, admiring herself in the mirror for a moment. "Yeah," she said in a soft voice, nodding her head. "This is what I want. This is the one."