Prom — By Design

In the cult classic movie “Pretty in Pink,” main character Andie Walsh doesn’t have the financial means to buy a new prom dress. Fortunately, she knows her way around a sewing machine and has a fierce sense of style. Put the two together and you have John Hughes’ version of Cinderella.

Fashion students at International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT) in Henderson know their way around a sewing machine. Their Pretty for Prom clients are local at-risk girls who don’t have the financial means to buy a new prom dress. Put the two together and you have a modern day tale very similar to “Pretty in Pink.”

Amber Tipton, a junior at Las Vegas High School, never thought she’d find herself contemplating what color prom gown would best flatter her. Part of the Title One HOPE program that makes it possible for homeless teenagers to stay in school, the 17-year-old has other things to worry about. But, she’s more than happy to add a dress, accessories and makeup to that list.

Tipton is in her school’s Color Guard and maintains a 3.5 grade point average. She’s been dating her boyfriend six months — seven months the 27th of this month, she’s quick to point out — and he’ll escort her to her first prom.

Tipton’s gown, a floor-length burgundy gown with rope detailing, designed by Lauren Lanford, was inspired by the dresses she saw on the red carpets during awards season. Without the aid of Pretty for Prom she couldn’t afford to buy a dress like the one she’ll be wearing, much less all the extras that inevitably come with it.

“My friend spent $200 on her dress. Another girl’s cost $400,” she says. “I was hearing other girls trippin’ about someone else copying their dress. I was like ‘Ha, ha!’ ”

Tipton won’t have that problem. Similar to the process a Hollywood actress experiences before a red carpet event, she and the other 12 young ladies benefitting from Pretty for Prom will wear custom-made gowns on their big night. The National Charity League donated the money for materials, General Growth Properties (owner of Fashion Show mall, Meadows mall and The Boulevard) donated $100 gift cards for shoes and accessories, Euphoria Institute of Beauty Arts & Sciences is donating hair and makeup and Studio J Photography is donating glamour photography.

To top off the Cinderella experience, the girls will don their complete looks down the Fashion Show runway at 2 p.m. Saturday.

It’s not just the girls who get something out of the program. Everyone involved takes something away. “The fact that I made a dress for someone who probably wouldn’t have gone to prom without it makes me feel really good,” says Mike Martinez who, with Christine Bustos, designed a dress for Janae Neuville.

For Neuville, a senior at Chaparral High School, it’s not just going to prom that marks a first. Wearing a dress is a new concept, too. A self-described tomboy, she plays point guard for her school’s basketball team and averages 20 points a game. In fact, during her final dress fitting, Neuville’s more comfortable talking March Madness brackets than makeup and accessories.

When her counselor approached her to take part in Pretty for Prom, she knew it would be a change of pace, but that’s what she liked about it. Since moving to Las Vegas from Milwaukee, the 19-year-old’s life has done nothing but change and she wants to keep it that way. “When I was in Milwaukee I didn’t care about grades. I didn’t care about anything,” she says. “I thought I was grown and I wasn’t.”

Now she’s playing in All-Star games and making plans for college. She’s looking forward to attending prom with a friend and wearing her first dress (a plum dress with corset top and bubble skirt), but once it’s over Neuville will no doubt get her head back in the game. Not the game of basketball, but the game of life. The new and improved one she’s made for herself. “I’ve grown up a lot,” she says. “I’ve learned that life isn’t about materialistic things. It’s more about life itself.”

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