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THE RIGHT GOWN What to wear, what NOT to wear to prom

For as long as I can remember, the high school prom has been the epitome of one's high school career; it is the debutante ball of the public school, so to speak. At shopping centers around the country, prom dresses begin to make an appearance after post-holiday season sales and prom editions of teen magazines hit stands around the same time.

Girls dream about what their prom dresses might look like the same way that they dream about what their wedding dress might look like; there is no doubt that the perfect dress is the key to a successful prom. This season, the waters of the prom dress market become a little murky as the winds of style take a sharp turn. There will, and always will be, the dress that will make you look like the Barbie figurines that used to come in Happy Meals and there are the dresses that everyone has (the empire waist, halter sateen dress in some neon hue or the black "cocktail dress" with bright blue polka dots and a cinched waist) and then there is the dress that will part a crowd like a stink bomb, but in a totally good way.

>BAD TRENDS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE:

1. The neon-colored dress: There is nothing wrong with having a dress of bold hues, there is no reason to wear black your whole life. However, what might compel someone to wear a dress dyed "key lime" or "mango madness" is beyond me. Stick to gem tones, such as Kelly green, cobalt blue or canary yellow; steer clear of fiber-optics.

2. The short halter dress in ballet slipper pink: If Lara Flynn Boyle can't pull it off, then, frankly, neither can you. Though there is something tempting about a somewhat dainty dress that reminds us of "The Nutcracker," most renditions are gruesomely unflattering, in the same way that anything Britney Spears wears tends to be gruesomely unflattering. If you're going to go for the dainty balletic frock, steer clear of her disease-ridden cousin, the Las Vegas showgirl.

3. Metallic schmetallic: This season, a few sequin embellishments here and there are simply not going to cut it. In terms of going in a gold or silver dress, go big, or go home.

4. Go long! (or short): There are gorgeous frocks of both lengths, as was demonstrated by Renee Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon at this year's Golden Globe and Oscar ceremonies. However, if you weren't blessed with a pair of killer stems, I would advise very strongly against the mini-dress. Do NOT, under any circumstances, wear tights with your Edie Sedgwick-length frock!

5. My dress is my jewelry: Bejeweled dresses is a trend that simply won't go away. J.Lo represented her block in a fabulously encrusted Marchesa gown, but it's crucial to note that her dress was not sateen. In fact, what made her dress so fabulous was that the gown itself was of a matte fabric, so as not to generate any sort of glare that often comes with an obnoxiously shiny frock.

6. The couple that matches: A couple in coordinating outfits is ultimately two people who fail to function independently of each other. Red carpet couples never show up in matching garb (with the exception, once again, of Britney Spears and JT in their matching Canadian tuxedos), so it was always puzzling that people insist upon wearing identical hues as their dates.

Hopefully this short list of frequent prom faux pas will set you on a better track. This year, don't allow yourself to appear assembly line-generated; go big or stay home.

Alyssa Hong is a senior at Nichols.

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