Today's prom girls are looking to the red carpet for inspiration more than ever -- much to their parents' dismay. Take A-list ingredients like jewels, organza and lace, and tie them all together with a designer label, and what do you get? A tab that will rival that first semester college tuition bill.
Some high-end designers -- among them Marchesa's Georgina Chapman, Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier -- offer evening collections that take some of the sting out of that price tag.
"Prom in my mind is about having fun," says Chapman, who designed Pearl, a collection of formal looks for J.C. Penney costing from about $70 to $180. "If a girl is looking for a more formal option, we offer floor-length gowns that are feminine and whimsical," says Chapman. "For a more fun and flirty look, we have a range of cocktail dresses where we've added special details."
Though Marchesa gowns can go for upward of $4,000, Chapman says Pearl doesn't sacrifice quality or style. "I approach designing for both Marchesa and Pearl with the same level of respect and the same intention: to help women look and feel beautiful," she says. "I pay close attention to detail to make sure that both collections embody my signature style and design sensibility."
And the same is evident in other designers' creations -- from the wistful floral appliqués in a White by Vera Wang tulle dress ($198) to the stunning silhouette of a black lace and chiffon floor-length ML Monique Lhuillier gown ($298).
Here, some of our picks that are sure to turn high school girls into Hollywood head-turners, if only for a night. -- By Nina Ruggiero
Known for her coveted wedding dresses, Vera Wang started White by Vera Wang to offer lower-priced special occasion options. A chartreuse satin sash adds a modern pop of color to this classic crepe bodice and flowing charmeuse skirt; $188 at David's Bridal and davidsbridal.com.
This red chiffon White by Vera Wang gown features Wang's signature draping in the bodice and a flowing sash; $178 at David's Bridal and davidsbridal.com
This White by Vera Wang one-shoulder number is elegantly draped and tied with a bow, and also comes in amethyst, charcoal and ebony; $178 at David's Bridal and davidsbridal.com
This White by Vera Wang bubble dress is girly and delicate with cascading organza petals in a soft blush tone; $198 at David's Bridal and davidsbridal.com.
This White by Vera Wang matte crepe column dress features an open cowl back and removable ribbon sash; $178 at David's Bridal and davidsbridal.com.
Though she's known for designing high-end gowns for Hollywood's hottest stars, Marchesa's Georgina Chapman says she has always wanted to design for teens. "I want to offer young girls special occasion pieces that allow them to dress up and feel elegant and glamorous without spending a fortune," she says of Pearl, her line for JC Penney. This romantic gown is tiered with airy layers of a soft watercolor floral print; $140 at select JC Penney stores and jcpenney.com.
The muted gray tone of this Grecian-inspired gown from Pearl by Georgina Chapman of Marchesa leaves all eyes on the detailed bodice, with artful draping and rhinestone detail; $110 at select JC Penney stores and jcpenney.com.
This drop-waist dress from Pearl by Georgina Chapman of Marchesa stands out in its bold red and hot pink color combo, but up close it's the details in the embroidered bodice that really shine; $140 at select JC Penney stores and jcpenney.com.
This deep purple dress from Pearl by Georgina Chapman of Marchesa is draped with romantic chiffon and cinched with a jeweled belt; $70 at select JC Penney stores and jcpenney.com.
Celebrity stylist Kate Young has dressed a long list of classic Hollywood beauties, and she celebrated her new line for Target with a star-studded, prom-themed bash in Manhattan last month. This column evening dress is simple black and white fun in front, but an oversized bow adds drama to the back; $89.99 at select Target stores and target.com.
This flowing red one-shoulder gown by Kate Young for Target is cinched at the waist with a simple black belt; $89.99 at select Target stores and target.com.
Love Kate Young's retro-glam touch? Try this Kate Young for Target strapless dress, with its refined floral print, girly silhouette and fun bow accent; $59.99 at select Target stores and target.com.
Nothing shows off Kate Young's signature retro edge like this Kate Young for Target polka-dot evening dress that's cute in front and wows in back with an unexpected cut-out and cascading ruffles; $89.99 at select Target stores and target.com.
A red carpet and bridal couture designer to the stars, Monique Lhuillier's more accessible line, ML Monique Lhuillier, includes cocktail dresses and a collection of special occasion gowns for Nordstrom. This twist-shoulder chiffon gown has all the elegance of a Lhuillier design for a fraction of the price; $238 at select Nordstrom stores and nordstrom.com.
Lace embellishment and a ruched bodice flatter this ML Monique Lhuillier gown's floor-sweeping chiffon skirt; $298 at select Nordstrom stores and nordstrom.com.
This ML Monique Lhuillier flared frock is tons of fun with its sunny hibiscus print; $398 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
She'll feel pretty in pink in this one-shoulder ML Monique Lhuillier chiffon gown with ruffled detail at the waist; $215 at select Nordstrom stores and nordstrom.com.
In this ML Monique Lhuillier look, feminine lace is punched up with a figure-flattering shape and bold berry hue; $398 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and saksfifthavenue.com.