Quest for the dress

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LEWISTON – It’s prom season.

If you’re a high school girl, or have one in your family, panic could be setting in if it is not yet hanging in the closet.

It is the gown that’s just right.

The one that, with heels, done-up hair and makeup, transforms school girls to women.

Most high school proms in Maine are held in May. Some consider the shopping flurry that went on this week of April vacation late.

No matter.

The stores had plenty of supply. The girls had plenty of energy.

On Thursday, Jennie Dubuc, 16, and Amber Auger, 18, started their day-long quest at the Deb Shop at the Auburn Mall. Jennie attends Poland Regional High, Amber goes to Lewiston High.

On Tuesday, Alyssa Plourde, 16, and Chantel McLellan, 17, were at Caldwell’s Wedding Plus in Auburn. Plourde goes to St. Dominic Regional High School, McLellan attends Lewiston High.

Like toddlers staring at the tree Christmas morning, girls gaze at the loaded racks with wide eyes.

There they hang: glistening, glittery, razzle-dazzle dresses and gowns in all the colors of the rainbow: coral, turquoise, sparkling white, baby blue, bright blue, sea green, yellow, hot pink, gold and brown. Styles run the gammit from sophisticated snug fits to romantic taffeta layers.

Jennie and Amber

This year will be the first prom for Jennie and Amber. Jennie is going to the Edward Little prom with her boyfriend. Amber to Lewiston’s prom.

Jennie was looking for a dress she’ll be able to easily dance in. “A loose, flowy dress.”

Color is important. “Whatever color looks good on me.”

Amber is staying away from strapless. “I want something you can move in all night and not worry. I don’t want anything too glittery. I want simple and classy.”

Price is important, both said. Some girls spend $200 or $300. That’s too much, Jennie said. “You only wear it one time.”

The girls hit the racks, swiftly moving hangers. Within 20 minutes each had an armful. They headed toward the dressing rooms.

Jennie popped out wearing an ivory, clingy gown with Egyptian-styled trim. Amber modeled a pink flowing gown with a halter top and trail. Each cost $70, a price that made the girls smile.

They turned in the mirror, giggled. They went back and tried on more.

Within an hour both had one they favored. But it wasn’t time for the final decision. “We’ll go more bargain shopping,” Jennie said. If they don’t find anything better, “we’ll come back.”

Alyssa and Chantel

This year will be the third prom for Chantel, the second for Alyssa. That makes them seasoned gown shoppers.

Alyssa was looking for a brightly colored dress “to stick out.” Not pink. She wore that last year. She was leaning toward strapless.

On this preliminary shopping trip, neither girl said they had a budget. They were trying on everything, regardless if the tag said $150 or $280. Figuring how much would come later, Alyssa said.

This year all kinds of bright colors are in, said bridal shop owner Linda Gelinas. So is red. “I’ve never seen red as much as this year. … This year they’re into power colors.”

After sorting through gowns on hangers, the girls’ arms were overflowing. For the first try-on session they had 13. “We’re good for now,” Chantel said with a giggle. “I love trying on dresses!”

Alyssa modeled a striking, bright orange gown with a laced-up back. “I like this one. I like the trail.” Next up: red with silver accents, also with a trail. She smiled as she turned in the mirror.

Chantel modeled a snug-fitting blue-toned gown with a ruffled slit, followed by a two-toned pink gown, followed by many more. She paused with approval when admiring a yellow gown with taffeta layers that poofed out like a southern belle. “It goes with my hair.”

Deciding is the hard part.

Both said they look forward to the prom, but the best part is the shopping and getting ready.

After trying on 20 gowns, Chantel liked the two-toned pink. Alyssa was thinking of putting the red dress on hold.

She’d be back, she said, with her mother.

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