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Prom: A coming of age story

In a world full of options, which dress is the perfect fit?

In the next few weeks there will be a distinct shift in the air around Rochester. From as early as April until as late as June you will find high school juniors and seniors all across the area buzzing with excitement as the biggest dances of their school career arrive: Junior Prom and Senior Ball. For many, this will be the first time they’ve ever had the opportunity to choose and wear formal attire. For others, this may be their last big celebration before they walk the stage at graduation and head off into the greater world. No matter which end of that spectrum you are on, there is no forgetting the intoxicating thrill of finding the perfect dress and embracing a night of elegance with your closest friends. 

Of course, this isn’t just a Rochester phenomenon—all over the U.S. teenagers are on the hunt for a dress that will make them stand out amongst the crowd. With TikTok, Instagram, X, and Threads pushing the latest trends at all hours of the day it can seem impossible to narrow down your dress choices. But while prom is often a reflection of what is popular, it’s also deeply informed by the area where you live. If you head down to NYC, feathers and glitz are the champions of prom night. Go to the South and you’ll find incredible custom gowns in every color you can imagine. But here in Western New York, bold and bright are not the priority—the true style that every girl is after is one that accentuates her figure while also prioritizing comfort.

Gone are the days of accepting that if you want to look your best you need to wear itchy dresses that poke and scratch your skin. While these dresses, unfortunately, continue to exist, they’ve been pushed to the side by soft fabrics that are light, breathable, and easy to dance in. Complementing this move towards comfort, you’ll find fit-and-flare and ball gowns reigning supreme as the silhouettes of choice. The difference in these two looks are substantial, but there is a reason they are considered classics. While both styles allow for movement and freedom, they are also incredibly comfortable and easily adapt to a variety of body shapes and sizes. 

Ava wears an ivory fit-and-flare dress from House of Wu. With a shift from intentionally adding beading to soft shiny satin that glows under the right kind of lighting, the wearer is granted the wonderful opportunity to let her natural beauty take center stage. It features an adjustable corset top, making it perfectly adaptable to any body shape as well as allowing for a dreamy, form-hugging fit. The dress steals our breath with an incredible open back—all the rage this season—complemented by a small gathering around the zipper to accentuate the wearer’s curves. Finally, we top the look off with some silver platforms and teardrop wire earrings that feature gorgeous hand crafted flower details. 

In a beautiful black ball gown from Colors Dress, our model Paige absolutely radiates. Starting from the top, Paige rocks an elegant high bun and sparkling rose gold drop earrings that frame her face perfectly. As we meet the dress, we are greeted with thin spaghetti straps that complement her neckline and a gem-encrusted bodice. This bodice features soft tulle, boning, and a high back, allowing for the perfect combination of comfort and support. Taking a look at the skirt, we are greeted with a waterfall of tulle that carries the dress from formal to fun. This style also features a subtle side slit which, while keeping you cool as you dance the night away, gives the wearer permission to show off a stunning pair of shoes. We’ve paired this dress with a gold sparkle heel, but you can easily swap this out for any shoe that helps to complement the look while also reflecting your personality. 

Posed together under the backdrop of the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, it is hard to ignore the potent excitement that fills the air. These girls are coming into their own and getting ready to embrace their futures. While these may just seem like pretty dresses to some, these gowns are a statement of who they are now and how they want to be seen. So, when you see that crowd of teens in formal dresses running through Wegmans on Saturday night, let a little of their excitement rub off on you and send them a mental cheer as they head out to one of the biggest celebrations of their high school career. 

Models: Paige O’Malley & Ava Gits 

Photos: Greg Hollar 

Dress & Jewelry: provided by Under the Arbor Bridal 

Makeup: Fe Fadigas 

Hair: Katie Quigley 

Location: The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery

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