By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ethan Williams and Kendra Buchele are prom pros. The couple will go to their fourth prom next week at McDonald Co. High School. This year, Buchele took the reins for picking outfits.
“I wanted a fairy tale dress; a big, poofy gown,” Buchele, of Neosho, said. “So, I made him get a traditional tux with tails, top hat and a cane.”
Williams, of Anderson, said one of the toughest things about prom was easier this year -- picking the color of the tux was harder than picking the color of the tie.
As prom season approaches, the responsibilities of planning the perfect date loom large, and none more so than the selection of the outfits. Williams and Buchele said clothing is the biggest selection, even more important than the dinner.
And when it comes to clothing, there is one cardinal rule: The guy’s tie must match the girl’s gown. It’s one of the things a guy must get exactly right, said Rebecca Gubera, manager of the Men’s Wearhouse location in Joplin.
“It’s the one thing we stress,” Gubera said. “People come in with some crazy colors that make the odds of matching hard. But as long as it’s color coordinated and accents her dress, it’s good.”
But not good enough for some.
Some girls come in with fabric samples or swatches. Others bring the dress or shoes. Others are very picky about the colors matching. Gubera said that some girls have taken tux-wearing mannequins outside just to check matches in sunlight.
On Tuesday night, one girl brought in her shoes to make sure the tie was the exact color of copper, she said.
“I’d say about 90 percent of the time they want an exact match,” Gubera said.
Many teens today use cell phones to aid the color coordination.
Kourtney Ziercher took a picture of her dress in the store to send to her date, Michael George, for her prom last year at Barat Academy in Chesterfield, Mo.
“I told him it was burnt orange, and he got the tie to match,” she said.
“She knew that it was not a typical color, but the tie I got even had a little design on it that matched the design on the dress,” Michael said, referring to a light tiger stripe print on the fabric. “She was really excited about it. The girl’s dress is a big deal. If the outfit doesn’t go perfectly, if the guy isn’t matching, it’s a problem. I made sure it worked.”
But with so many dresses store-bought these days, and with cell phone photos sometimes producing unreliable hues, stores often provide physical swatches to assist in color coordination. David’s Bridal, which expects to sell 110,000 prom dresses this year in 300 stores, sells fabric swatches for $1 with dress purchases.
David’s Bridal also has a partnership with Men’s Wearhouse that makes it easy for young men to get accessories in coordinated hues for their dates’ dresses. Guys can order ties, vests and cummerbunds from Men’s Wearhouse using the same terms David’s Bridal uses to identify the dress colors -- names like “watermelon pink” or “Malibu blue” -- and be guaranteed an ensemble that works.
“Since the beginning of time, everyone wants a tie that matches,” said Jennifer Ellis, assistant manager at the Joplin branch of David’s Bridal. “A customer the other day had a dress that was a melon, reddish maroon color. She had to take her dress there to match.”
Amanda Nohrenberg, store manager for David’s Bridal in Eugene, says “90 percent, if not 99 percent” of her prom customers want their dates to match. “If they aren’t coordinating, it’s because the guy is wearing a neutral color like black or white.”
Many couples also plan matching corsages and boutonnieres. “The girls are saying, ‘This is what I’m wearing and I want it to match the flowers,”’ said Pennylyn Kaine, owner of Blossom & Bee Floral and Event Design in Newfoundland, N.J.
Sometimes the boys come in “either with their phone picture or a physical swatch, but now what’s happening more often is, the girls are coming in and picking it out in advance,” said Kaine. “They’re actually saying, ‘This is what I want. I’m going to send my boyfriend in and he’s going to pay for it.’”
-- Beth J. Harpaz, of The Associated Press, contributed to this report.