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Fashion 87 : Proms Bring Out Seniors Schooled in High Style

May 15, 1987|ROSE-MARIE TURK

If the $1,700 designer dress you dreamed of owning is no longer available, if your favorite limousine driver can't whisk you to the airport, if your hairdresser is booked every Saturday for weeks to come, the problem could be youth.

Not yours, but that of hordes of high school students who are buying the dresses, renting the tuxedos, hiring the limos and flocking to the hairdressers as they put on the ritz for the senior prom.

Although just beginning, this year's prom season has already proved dazzling. For one thing, there hasn't been so much lame used by so many since the heyday of Hollywood. And in recent memory, it's hard to recall as many decolletages and bare shoulders, such a prevalence of floor-length, seductive gowns or quite the number of long, sexy hairdos arriving at hotel ballrooms across the city.

Whether they buy them, borrow them or have them made, girls are turning up in dresses that leave little to be desired and much to be envied. If stores, such as Judy's, Nordstrom, JW Robinson's or the Shoe and Clothing Connection in Encino (former home of the $1,700 gown) can't provide the effect, mothers (even some who haven't sewn for years), sisters, friends or dressmakers come to the rescue.

For boys, the look boils down to smug sophistication, and it's both hard to imagine and hard to find anything as kitschy as sneakers with a tuxedo. Instead, some executives of tomorrow like the unexpected formality of gray shadow-stripe tails or white gloves with a black tuxedo.

At the Agoura High School prom in the Biltmore Hotel's Bowl, Anthony Baratta could have taken the prize for most outstanding tuxedo, had there been one.

There was a definite designer look to his blouson-style jacket, the full trousers that narrowed at the ankles, the pleat-front shirt decorated with rhinestone studs and the pink satin cummerbund and tie, tastefully sprinkled with rhinestones.

Wendy Kehl, his date, wore a black dress with similar touches: pink satin bows and a sash, rhinestone buttons, a billowing skirt supported by visible laced-edged crinolines.

The designer of both outfits was Baratta's sister Michele, a student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, who had worked close to the deadline.

"She finished them today," Baratta said, beaming with pride.

In the newly renovated Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel, waiters were careful not to step on the train attached to Shindana Neal's dress. The Los Angeles High School senior, attending "A Night of Enchantment," explained her lavender gown was created in exactly three days by a family friend.

While she had to have a train, Neal said, she tried not to overdo it. "We used a bridal pattern and made it only one-half as long. After all, I'm not getting married."

School counselor Ruth Harris was watching as, two by two, the 340 students signed in and cast their votes for the evening's king and queen.

"They're really dressed to kill," she murmured approvingly.

The seniors had reduced their prom fees to $40 per person, Harris said, by staging money-raising events on campus and by choosing to eat duckling a l'orange rather than prime rib.

"Actually, they like the idea," she said of the entree. "They think it's very classy. "

Frances Flores was one girl who braved the prom on her own, more or less. Dressed in a short, white strapless dress and a black hat, she was all smiles.

"I was asked, but I decided to come by myself and be with my friends." The hat, she explained, was important, because "I wanted something to decorate my head, and I knew I would get a lot more attention this way."

It's a trick Dustin Hoffman, a graduate of Los Angeles High School before he became "The Graduate," might have tried.

On the night of his senior-year bash, Hoffman wasn't with his classmates.

"I didn't go," he said in a recent interview, flashing a trademark grin. "I couldn't get a date."

However, in retrospect, not every girl turned Hoffman down: "My mother offered to go with me," he recalled.

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