Even though prom is months away, girls looking for the perfect dress have been keeping area bridal shops busy. And given the wide assortment of dress styles this year, girls may need the extra time to make up their minds.

Fran Cersosimo, co-owner of Magic Moments Bridal & Formal Wear in Rapid City, said prom dress traffic began in January, with girls mostly looking to see what was out there before committing to a dress.

“Once you pick, it’s your dress. So they do a little pre-shopping, and then they get Mom or Dad to come in,” she said, noting that the next five weekends will be busy with serious shoppers.

Cersosimo said ball gowns are as popular as they have ever been.

“The girls really like the pick-up skirt on the ball gowns,” she said. The skirts are pulled up and tacked with beading.

Charmeuse dresses with elegant beading on the straps and the back are also trendy this year, in prints as well as in solids. The prints can be anything from a floral to “geometric, swirly, fun designs.” Even the colors are fun this year, she said.

“Our very first year in business, 13, 14 years ago, everybody wanted red, black or silver. Then for a few years, everyone wanted light pink and turquoises,” she said.

This year, bolder colors — such as violets, plum, red and royal blue — are getting a lot of attention. And most girls are going for full-length dresses rather than short.

Cersosimo said girls who know exactly what dress they want do not wait too long to decide because they know that the bridal stores that sell prom dresses register the dresses by school.

“We will only sell one style of gown per color to a particular school so they are exclusive,” she said. “If someone is trying on a dress, we can tell them that that dress is already going to their school and tell them ‘you could do it in a different color,' which is not the exact dress."

Stevens High School senior Ariel Diamond said the registry is an important part of the prom gown selection. Having a dress that no one else at your school is wearing makes the occasion even more special, she said.

"I've always gone with large groups, and you definitely don't want you and your best friend out in the same dress," Diamond said. "Everyone compares their dresses, and you want something unique that no one else will have."

Diamond already purchased her prom dress. She chose a black and white short, strapless dress for her third and last prom. She said she went with long, formal dresses in her sophomore and junior years and wanted something that was fun and different.

"And plus, long dresses can be hard to dance in," she said.

Audra Sayler of Audra's Bridal Gallery in Rapid City said she has noticed that Rapid City senior girls are requesting short styles more than anyone else. She said the short dresses are being paired with high, stiletto-type shoes. High heels, she said, are definitely the thing this year, even with ball gowns.

"Last year it seemed like it was the wedge. This year it's stilettos," Sayler said.

She said the prints and color selections are "awesome" this year. As examples, her store has a purple leopard print short dress and a black and white leopard print dress with turquoise running through it. She said the prints are popular in the long gowns as well as the short.

A big item at market for prom season this year is hair pieces such as big flowers or big feathers. Sayler said they add a little more to the

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There is also some bling this year. Sayler said the short dresses usually have some type of bling on the midriff and ball gowns will definitely have something on them, "whether it be beads or rhinestones, which can be sporadic or cover the whole bodice part," an adornment she calls blizzard beading.

Sayler said it is not necessary to travel out of the area to find your dream prom dress. She said girls who do travel out of the area lose that assurance that local registries can give that no one else at their school will have the identical dress.

"If they travel, they can sure find a dress, but more than likely one of the bridal stores probably has the dress or can get it," she said.

Julie Herr, co-owner of Bridal Boutique & Proms II in Spearfish, said another popular style this year is the mermaid style. But the top trend she sees is the well-cut, well-defined dress with big exaggerated beads or laser-cut prints.

"The well-defined styles fit the body so nicely," Herr said. "They're beautifully cut and beautifully tailored."

Douglas High School senior Chelsea Edwards of Box Elder chose a long, form-fitting white dress with a floral pattern in magenta and turquoise with some green.

She said she knew she did not want a "puffy" dress.

"I got a puffy dress last year," Edwards said. "I think the ball gowns are really pretty, but they are harder to move in."

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