When it comes to prom, it's not what's fashionable - though fashionable is good; it's what's unique.
"I just want something different, something nobody else got," said Yolanda Bryant, 18, while flipping through a book of satin and chiffon prom dresses at Victoria's Bridal and Formal Wear on Washington Road.
The T.W. Josey High School senior is like many teens who value the uniqueness of their prom outfit over style and color.
"Everybody wants to be different," said Augusta State University freshman Tabitha Crawford, 18, who was shopping with Yolanda. "It kills the mood if you walk into prom and somebody has on your dress."
To avoid such disaster last year, Tabitha ordered a sky-blue, Cinderella-inspired gown that matched her date's tuxedo from a formalwear catalog. By the time she arrived at the prom, she had spent $500.
"It was worth it," she said. "I got prom queen."
There are some safeguards against girls coming face to face with a "twin" at the prom. Some boutiques offer custom designs, one-of-a-kind dresses and logs of who buys what dress and where they plan to wear it.
"Being in high school and going to prom is a big deal, and you don't want to go to prom with the same dress as the girl you don't like, or your boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, or even your best friend, for that matter," said Jennifer Perkins, the assistant manager at Victoria's. "We have a file with all the prom dresses we sell. It has the girl's name, what school they go to, the date of prom, other events they are going to wear it to."
Brittany's House of Elegance on Davis Road also has a list of the dresses sold and where they will be worn.
"This is a special time, and you want it to be special," said Charlene Bagwell, the owner. "Most of (my dresses) run $200 and more, and you don't want to pay that much and then see yourself."
Schools want to keep their proms unique, too.
Bekki Matthews, the Lakeside High School prom coordinator, said that two years ago an idea to use some of Evans High School's prom decorations for the Lakeside prom fell flat.
"It didn't turn out that well," Ms. Matthews said. "The students really didn't like it. They like things fresh and new and - it wasn't."
Ms. Matthews said the junior class already has started planning a prom that will be as original as possible. From deciding on the theme to the colors and even the class song, Ms. Matthews said, the students main goal is to be different.
At Hephzibah High School, prom coordinator Mary Jo Godfrey works almost year-round to ensure that prom night is as unique as it can be.
"Nothing that was done last year will be done this year," she said. "It's something totally new because each class is unique. It's a time to make it really special."
Mrs. Godfrey will be traveling out of state to find just the right decorations, spending thousands of dollars on entertainment, venue rental and food, and working almost in secret to make the night a surprise for the students.
"The kids want their year to be special. They want it to be different, they want their class to be remembered, that this prom is something that was created just for them."
Prom shopping tips:
Start early to ensure your rentals or orders arrive in time for the big day.
Pick out more than one must-have dress or tuxedo just in case the one you like is unavailable.
Shop where you are comfortable and get the best prices and treatment.
The big night is coming up, and we want you to share your prom photos with Xtreme readers. Each week through prom season, we'll print prom photos in the Xtreme section. Send e-mail digital images to email@example.com in the .jpg format, or mail your photos to PROM PICS, Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. Please include the names, schools and ages of who is in the photo; the day and location of the prom; which school played host to the event; the name of the photographer; and your telephone number. To have your photo returned, include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Questions? Call teen reporter Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223.
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.