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Village Fashion

You shall go to the prom!

Posted on February 20 2007 at 3:26:05 0 comments

Staci and Fran

Liz Dove on a boutique that takes the pain out of the big school event.

With so few opportunities for putting on the ritz these days, it’s no wonder that one particular social event causes more teen tension than perhaps any other. Yes, we’re talking Prom Night. And it’s sooner than you think.

When your daughter arrives at what has come to be the glittering highlight of the school calendar, she will want to look and feel like a million dollars.

And while, for many parents, it might feel like we’ve actually spent that amount on providing the dress/shoes/hair/nails/make-up/jewellery and accessories to turn our Cinderellas into the Belles of the Ball, we probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fortunately, you don’t have to fork out a fortune for a dress that will only be worn once. Neither do you have to traipse around every shopping centre in the Midlands to find the ideal outfit for this sartorial rite of passage. There is another way.

At Continental Collection in Barnt Green, glamour is dripping from the walls. And among the rails of gorgeous gowns and decadent dresses, you are sure to find something that won’t just fit the bill but will take you straight to fashion heaven.

Best of all, you don’t have to have Victoria Beckham’s bank balance to secure the dress of your dreams. If you don’t want to buy, you can hire an outfit, take it home, wow them at the Prom and then (if you can bear to part with it) return it the next day when it will be professionally laundered and put back on display.

This season’s Prom dresses are now in stock at the Hewell Road boutique, rubbing satiny shoulders with the hundreds of other outfits in every size, shade, style and label, from figure-hugging silk to sequin-studded lace.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the highly successful business started by couturier Diane Carr has a large and diverse client base.

From its infancy selling and hiring other people’s desirable cast-offs, it has mushroomed – in both size and reputation – into a place that stocks both well-known and independent UK designer labels, being the main supplier in the area.

Women seeking the perfect outfit for a special event, from weddings and parties to Royal Ascot, are assured of success. And manageress Rachel Meller and her assistants are happy to welcome new faces.

If you can’t immediately find what you want, don’t fret. Swatches of fabric attached to many of the gowns means you can order them in a particular shade and size.

“With the Prom dresses, we have ten main suppliers and we try to stock items you won’t find in the big high-street stores,” Rachel explains.

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. There is no pressure to parade in public, hurry through quick changes or make any snap decision.

Women sometimes feel intimidated by small boutiques but there are no pretensions here.

“We try to be chatty and informal so our clients feel at home,” Rachel explains. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously and like to have a bit of a giggle.”

Without wishing to denigrate the menfolk, Rachel tactfully suggests that girls try to avoid shopping for a Prom outfit with their dad – unless absolutely necessary – sticking to the company of female family or friends.

“Most dads tend to get slightly less carried away about the whole thing than we do! They can also be a bit protective about what might be on show!”

Dress sizes start at 6 (an American size 2) and go up to 22 and, in some ranges, 28.

With its tasteful lighting and sumptuous furnishings, unlike so many high-street changing rooms with their skimpy curtains and garish lighting, Continental Collection is a place where you can linger over your fairytale frock before choosing, if required, the right bag/shoes/accessories.

Rachel has some pearls of wisdom for this summer’s Prom queens (see below), including such essential common-sense tips as making sure there is someone around to zip you up on the night, putting your dress on before your make-up to avoid clown-like results, and not spraying perfume on to a dress “because it WILL stain.”

She also points out that it’s sensible to avoid overkill.

“You can make more of an impact with just one quality accessory rather than having matching shoes, bag, gloves, earrings, necklace, etc.”

Have a great Prom!

The Village asked South Bromsgrove High School students Fran Peach and Staci Marshall (right) to swap their uniforms for some of the dresses on the rails at Continental Collections and give us their impressions.

Their verdicts:
Fran: “The dresses are lovely. There is a huge range of colours to choose from and you don’t feel under pressure; you can try on as many as you like, which we did!”

Staci: “The staff are really helpful and give you advice about the most popular styles and which colours will suit you best.”

Rachel’s top tips for Prom Night:

1. Have a rehearsal. Try on your entire outfit in a relaxed atmosphere well before the event, complete with make-up, shoes and accessories. Ask yourself the following questions:
• If going strapless, can I keep my dress up securely?
• Are my shoes the right height for my dress?
• Does my make-up and jewellery complement my outfit?
• Can I get in and out of a car with dignity?
• Will my dress train (if you have one) trip me up? If necessary, attach a hook and eye to secure it while dancing.

2. Find out what your best friend is going to be wearing so you don’t clash or – horror of horrors – turn up in the same outfit.

3. Check the weather forecast. Do you need to take an umbrella if you are waiting outside for a lift? Would a pashmina/wrap be useful?

4. Think ahead. If you’re choosing an outfit soon, the weather could change significantly by the time Prom Night arrives. There’s no point opting for a heavy, black satin affair if you’ll be wearing it on a balmy June night.

5. Don’t forget: the best thing you can put on is a smile. Be happy and enjoy yourself!


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