By Sharon Naylor

March 11, 2013 6 min read

Can't choose between three different shades of blue for your prom gown? Have them all! One of the hottest trends for vibrant, colorful and fashion-forward prom gowns and dresses is ombre, which means a color is shaded or graduated from light to dark. For instance, an ombre dress might be a light blush at the top and then gradually ease into a dusty rose and keep darkening in tone to the rich dark pink at the bottom. But ombre isn't Popsicle-looking horizontal blocks of color; the shades blend smoothly for a beautiful effect.

Celebrities are wearing ombre at red-carpet events, awards shows, premieres and parties, and the top fashion designers and prom gown style-makers say this is one of the looks for the 2013 prom season. Alyssa Wanjai, Seventeen magazine's Prom Committee fashion expert and blogger at That One Golden Girl, says that ombre is one of the top trends for a unique and artsy look. While all the other girls at the prom are wearing solid colors, an ombre dress is an eye-catcher for its expensive-looking high-fashion style.

*How to Wear It

The ombre color effect can be worn in any style of prom gown, such as an elegant silk strapless full-length gown in a straight silhouette, an A-line full-length or cocktail-length gown, a long gown with a single-shoulder neckline, and other chic, classy floor-length looks. Wanjai selected a fuchsia ombre chiffon single-shoulder sweetheart neckline prom dress from as her pick in illustrating how to go chic and classy with pure glamour.

The long dress itself may be entirely ombre, with color shading from top to bottom, or the dress may have a vertical ombre effect in flowing fabric panels that flutter behind you as you walk. Or Greek-inspired fabric "wraps" could crisscross over the gown's bodice, crisscross over a bare back and then flow downward into a romantic hang behind you.

There's no limit to how designers are incorporating ombre elements into long prom dresses. When you have a full-length gown, there's more space to provide a shaded look with the fabric color.

But ombre is for short, fun and flirty prom dresses, too -- with the color grading progressing from top to bottom on a strapless party dress, or from a high neckline (another top prom gown pick that Wanjai names for 2013) to the hem. Since there is less space to work with on a shorter dress, it's best to keep the entire dress in ombre, although you could make a statement with a solid-colored bodice or top and an ombre skirt.

*Ombre Sparkle

It's not just fabric that can show off the color-shading effect. The ombre effect can be created in a more dramatic gown or dress by having the hand-sewn beading or sequins on the entire dress done in a color-progressive style, with white or blush-tone sequins up top and subtly darkening shades of sparkle progressing down the length of the dress.

One variation on ombre, in fabric or in sparkle, is to have the top two-thirds of the dress in one color -- whether it's a vivid shade, black, white or pastel -- and then have the ombre effect only on the lower third, just giving your flowing skirt lengths or the bottom of your column dress a dash of this unique and trendy color effect.

*The Hot Colors

Wanjai chose fuchsia as her spotlight shade for the ombre trend, and other fashionable bright shades include orange, chartreuse and vibrant shades of green and blue. Or mix the green and blue for a true fashionista look, with the two shades adding extra personality and style to your dress. Other color pairings are pink and purple, orange and yellow, and red and hot pink. Black-and-white ombre is also a stylish look, with slate or silvery gray as the middle shades. And for an edgier look in metallics, progress from a light cream to copper or bronze and then to a rich metallic brown.

Stick with the same color and its progressive shades. Using too many contrasting colors or a rainbow effect could make you look more costumey than fashion-forward.

*Additional Looks

Accessorize with an ombre clutch, or with a clutch in a solid shade included in the gown's color variation, or wear a solid-colored wrap in a color from within the dress. An ombre wrap over an ombre dress is too much of a good thing. However, if you chose one of the two-thirds solid-color gowns with the ombre effect at the bottom only, an ombre wrap would look divine.

When you get your manicure, consider a special ombre effect to match your dress.

And for a dash of that wow factor, ombre is a hot look for hair color. You might dip-dye the ends of your hair in a fun pink or blue to go with your dress, or follow the celebrity trend of color-grading your hair from darker at the roots to a gradually lightened look at the ends. This dark-to-light natural hair color effect is known as surfer strands, inspired by surfers' natural, sun-lightened highlights.

Your prom flowers also can be ombre. It's a trendy look for the new wristlet, with color grading from dark to light extending the look of your dress to your wrist.

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