When Bay Shore High School junior Lily Erb was invited to the senior prom this year, she headed to Lord & Taylor to pick a dress. She ended up with a purple floor-length gown, accentuated by small flowers.
Everything was all set leading up to the big night on June 21, but there was a slight bump on the road a month before the prom: Erb found out that her friend had already purchased the exact same gown.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Erb said. “It was already kind of late; prom was coming up quick. I needed to get my own unique dress.”
So, Erb went back to Lord & Taylor and bought a similar-looking royal blue gown, sans flowers. She added those herself.
The 16-year-old used a mixture of acrylic paint and textile medium to decorate her dress with lilies -- a nod to her first name.
She also added lily pads and a wavy water effect throughout the design. Erb pulled the look together with a crown made out of real flowers.
"I wanted something simple and pretty," she said. "And that's what we decided on."
With the help of her mother, Catherine Stapinski, it took Erb the whole month to complete the gown. She had to paint in it sections, giving time in between for each part to dry.
The dress was pinned to her bedroom wall throughout the process, and Erb said she was still painting on the morning of prom.
“It was stressful,” she said. “I was like, ‘Have I made a horrible mistake?’”
Erb said that once she added tiny gold accents to the flowers and lily pads, she knew her creation was complete.
She was ultimately happy with her look, saying that during pre-prom photos, people asked if she had been inspired by Monet’s “Water Lilies” series.
“Everyone at [the pre-prom photo event] thought I was going to be an art major,” Erb said. “It’s just a hobby I have and I’m really grateful to be able to pull together something like this, but I don’t think I can make a career out of that.”
Erb said she hopes to go into journalism when she graduates from Bay Shore High School in 2018. Regardless, she says her creative flair will always remain intact.
“Never be afraid to take risks and express yourself,” she said.