NEW YORK - Girls, be warned. There's a chance that your prom date will show up at your door on the big night not in a classic tuxedo but in a velvet suit. Or even jeans.
Who's to blame for the breaking of a generations-old tradition? All the young fashion fans who mimic what they see on the red carpet.
Teenage boys are taking cues for prom fashion from their favorite singers and bands who take certain liberties with formal dress codes, says "American Idol" stylist Miles Siggins.
Siggins put together an online fashion show for AOL Red, a teen-targeted service, offering prom outfits in three categories: edgy, glam and classic.
"The normal prom look is a traditional tux in white or black, a wing-collar or regular shirt, bow tie, cummerbund and rental shoes which are a horrible plastic," Siggins says. "Up until recently, it was the only choice they had. For a while, guys thought it was too feminine to be into fashion but now they've realized it's the best way to get the girls."
Siggins points to the male stars who really pay attention to their wardrobes, particularly Jamie Foxx. He wore dark jeans with a green velvet blazer, striped button-down shirt and a pocketsquare to the Grammy after-parties earlier this year.
"Denim is such a big part of people's lives," says Siggins. "They can be dressed up, especially if they're darker, slimmer. A great pair of simple denim jeans, with shirt, jacket and good pair of shoes looks good... but the girls might not like it."
Susan Schulz, editor in chief of CosmoGirl, says a better expression of personal style might be a cool vintage T-shirt under a tuxedo. "It shows a little flair but is still pretty polished."
She'd also applaud a teen in tails - it's ideal for someone who wants to be both traditional and individual - but only if he's tall enough. "Otherwise, you'll look like a penguin," she says.
It's considerate for boys planning to go an untraditional route to consult their date first. Remember, these girls probably have been planning their outfits for months.
"If she's going funkier, she'll be more open to him having his own ideas," says Schulz.
Most guys appreciate some style guidance from girls, Schulz says, as long as they aren't bossy. "At this point, girls might know their dress, so just do parameters. Say, 'I'm wearing peach, so red might not look great with that.' I'd encourage the girl to show him the dress. He won't remember it that well but this way he'll understand the difference between peach and red."
Singer Carrie Underwood told CosmoGirl Prom magazine that her junior prom date showed up in white sneakers. "I was so mad at him!" she says. "I made him take his dress shoes along in a bag for the picture."
To some girls, the prom picture is just as important as the prom. "For those girls who want to be picture-perfect, they're going to want the guys to look more traditional or at least really polished," Schulz says.
Instead of copying Foxx's look, actors Orlando Bloom or Jake Gyllenhaal might be better role models. They're the ones really making girls swoon right now, Schulz reports.
Boys emulate musicians and their look, while girls are more likely to be fans of movie-star fashion, says Siggins.
Either way, guys have more male fashion imaging available to them, which might encourage a little more creativity in their wardrobe, he says, pointing to Target, Zara and H&M as fashion-forward yet affordable resources.
But if a boy is going to go with a rented tux, Siggins has a few ideas to make it a bit more stylish: Try a jacket with one button or a peak lapel, or wear a skinny tie. Some of the best ties come from vintage stores and have either a 1960s' sculpted, shorter shape or an '80s' straight look. And a nice watch adds a mature touch.
But the single most important thing is the fit of the suit, according to Siggins. "I always think slimmer is better but not too tight. Don't go for big, baggy homeboy suit; it's out of style and not flattering."
On the Net: www.red-prom.com