Going to prom gets pricier every year. The average cost per promgoer last year was $1,139, according to a Visa Inc. and GfK Roper OmniTel survey of 3,000 parents whose teens went to prom.
Prom has a steep price tag for being a one-time event, so more teens and parents are looking for ways to cut costs without compromising a great prom experience.
That's why taking a do-it-yourself approach to prom fashion is becoming so popular.
Consider the annual Stuck at Prom promotion from Duck, which challenges students to create their prom attire using duct tape.
Now in its 14th year, Stuck at Prom awards prizes, including a $10,000 college scholarship for the first-place winner, to winning participants. Since the contest started, over 6,000 students have participated.
Recent first-place winners Caden and Ashton spent 250 hours and used 120 rolls of duct tape crafting their red, silver, black, white and chrome-colored Victorian/modern-day attire, which included shoes, a top hat, vest and corset.
Second-place winners Josh and Liz created their prom looks with a flame theme in mind, spending 217 hours on the project and using 24 rolls of duct tape in six different colors, including red, yellow, aqua and black.
Crafting projects, like designing your own prom dress, has taken duct tape from "tool to cool," says Ami DeWille, senior category manager of Duck at ShurTech Brands, the company that manufactures the duct tape.
Those personalization options have gotten bigger. Duck tape is now available in over 250 colors and designs. Popular tape styles include the mustache trend, a "galaxy," cosmic design and a gummy bear motif.
"It totally sucks to show up to prom and have three other girls matching you," says fashion designer Evey Rothstein of EveyClothing.com, a custom prom dress and wedding gown maker who hosts free DIY prom dress classes in her California studio.
"We are really limited when we try to buy things off the racks," she says, noting make-your-own clothes fit the promgoer's body type, personality and style. "When we do DIY or custom, it can be exactly their dream dress."
Rothstein's focus is on wearable art using a variety of tools, techniques and untraditional materials. For example, she made a dress "completely out of romance novels." She also repurposes fabric from clothing purchased at thrift shops. For instance, she cuts men's dress shirts into strips, which she then sews together for a textured dress.
At Rothstein's prom dress classes, she and the girls work together on the dresses' shapes, fabrics and textures. The students then sketch their designs and buy supplies. "I let them know how much material to pick up," she says, "then they bring the material to class, and I help them bring their vision to life."
*Time and Money
Going the DIY route is a match for crafty students, especially budding fashion designers, but it can be time-consuming.
"A lot of students start planning the summer before their senior year," says DeWille. "It becomes a yearlong project."
So how does making a DIY dress or tuxedo compare to buying retail?
For the Stuck at Prom contest, each participant used an average of 24 rolls of duct tape, which at a price of $4 to $5 a roll, means a prom dress or tux costs about $96 to $120 in supplies, not counting labor, which adds up, too. In 2013, couples entering the Stuck at Prom contest spent an average of 100 hours creating their prom attire.
"DIY can be cheaper, but it can also be a lot more expensive," says Rothstein. "It all depends on the materials they want to use, and how much is needed, and the complexity of design."
While promgoers can buy "really inexpensive prom dresses" at trendy chain stores for young adults or at thrift shops, "the reason to do a DIY gown is more about having an idea for a dream dress and wanting to make it real," Rothstein explains.
*Want to Craft Your Prom Fashion?
--Get inspiration from magazines and websites such as Pinterest.
--Watch DIY videos on YouTube that show you how to make a dress and accessories.
--Be creative! Use unconventional materials to build your look. One promgoer made her dress out of candy wrappers.