Forget poofy gowns and bad accessories. Today's prom fashion is all about style and well-chosen details for a look that's pure Hollywood.
"Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Dakota Fanning are red-carpet role models for a lot of girls," explains Mary Kate Steinmiller, senior fashion market editor for Teen Vogue. "These are girls who all own their personal style and continually look fantastic when it comes to dressing for the spotlight."
Whether it's Swift's princess gowns, Stewart's edge or Lively's red-carpet stunners, these celebs' styles are a fit with lots of teens. Designers are meeting this demand with dresses that are stylish and budget-friendly.
"You want to be age-appropriate and on-trend," explains fashion and beauty expert Stacy Cox, who cites actress Sarah Hyland as an example of someone who dresses classy and youthful.
The dress that singer and actress Selena Gomez wore to the 2011 People's Choice Awards inspired a prom look for the Hollywood by Hailey Logan Collection for David's Bridal.
"Selena Gomez has more of a sophisticated taste in gowns," says Cassandra Morris, David's Bridal prom expert who is also the prom and formal dance expert for About.com.
Morris notes Gomez also has a famous boyfriend: "She also usually has Justin Bieber on her arm for awards shows, so it's almost like they're going to Hollywood's version of prom all the time."
Prom dress styles range from short and sassy to long and sleek. Hems can vary, including knee-length, high-low and floor-length.
While strapless gowns, V-necks and halter styles are popular necklines, for prom, extra touches are necessities.
"Beading, sequins, feathers and ruffles are all the rage," says Morris. "They add glamorous details that, when combined with luxurious fabrics like satin, chiffon and soft tulle, turn a regular dress into a prom-worthy formal gown."
Cox has been seeing lots of lace. "A lace overlay creates a beguiling illusion because the skin is peaking out through the lace," she says. "It can be very classy, and it's on trend. Plus it sends a very feminine message."
Steinmiller notes the popularity of two signature looks, which she calls "Fairytale Fantasy" and "Flapper Girl."
She describes the "Flapper Girl" trend as "reminiscent of a luxurious girl of the Roaring '20s," featuring "highbrow glam with lots of beading, fringe and metallics."
The dreamy "Fairytale Fantasy" trend, which is inspired by 2012 runway shows, is "a frothy and delicate mix of lace, eyelet, crochet, broderie anglaise and subtle shine," Steinmiller says.
*Bursting With Color
This season's prom fashions are all about color.
"I see a lot of brights in prom dresses," says Steinmiller, noting colors like red, royal blue and magenta. "More feminine girlie girls love the pastels, too; baby pink is very popular."
A black gown is a classic look that can be accented with a pop of color. Cox suggests adding one of this season's "it" colors: tangerine or mint green.
Neutral colors are also fashionable. "They're very feminine and can easily be embellished with sheer overlay, sequins and feathers," says Morris.
One of the big changes for prom? Printed gowns with lots of color.
"Printed gowns featuring colorful abstracts, watercolors, ombre (when the color fades from one into another) and florals in eye-catching red and blue hues are back for prom this year," says Morris. "It's a nice break from the traditional monochrome dress."
From shoes to jewelry to hair, your prom look needs the right accessories. Costume jewelry, including chandelier earrings, is trendy.
Morris recommends a jewel-encrusted headband or a rhinestone clip for the hair, as well as "bejeweled and glitter shoes."
Still, you don't want to overdo your look.
"If you do a strong eye, do a pale lip," says Cox. "If you do a strong lip, do a lighter eye. You've got to pick one and create balance."
*Prom Fashion Advice
Whether you've been dreaming about prom for years or just a few days, finding the right dress can be stressful.
Steinmiller advises looking for a dress you can wear again.
"A dress that can be worn again usually is something that truly reflects the girl's personal style, and isn't something too trendy or out of her comfort zone she is trying to make a 'statement' with because its prom," she explains.
Try on different styles and colors to see which ones flatter your body and your skin tone. Pick a dress that makes you look and feel amazing.