High-school fashionistas, let the shopping and preening begin.
Prom season, ripe with a palate of new fashion trends, has descended upon Lawrence once again.
"This year is no different," said Amy Nelson, assistant manager at Maurice's downtown clothing store, "in that prom dresses are flying off the rack in every style and size."
Some local students of style started scouring area stores and boutiques as early as January; others, Nelson said, began their hunt for cutting-edge prom couture in recent weeks.
Anne Dinsdale, an 18-year-old Free State High School senior, said she and her friends were starting to feel the prom-dress shopping heat.
"It's crunch time for picking out your outfit right now," she said.
Free State High School will have its senior prom May 1 at Abe & Jake's Landing, while Lawrence High School students will get gussied up to dance May 8 at the Kansas University Union.
Dinsdale, who has yet to select her prom attire, said she hoped to find "something strapless with an empire waist in a sheer overlay design."
"Maybe with a little sparkle or glitter to it, too," she said.
Nelson said Dinsdale's dress description ranked as a classic choice among prom-goers. However, she also said a fresh crop of dress variations had begun making headway in the hearts of teenage style mavens.
"This year we're seeing a lot of bright colors -- pink, red, even lime green," Nelson said. "There is definitely a movement away from black formals."
Nelson said some popular dresses in 2004 also were less traditional in cut and fit. "Tighter dresses, tons of strapless and halter tops are what seem to be selling best," she said. "And we even had a ballerina-style dress with lacings and a belt go really fast."
Nelson said most dresses at Maurice's, 739 Mass., cost between $79 and $119. Some girls, however, may lower their prom dress tab by altering their fashion source. Free State senior Amy Lavaveshkul, for example, decided to commission her mom to make her gown for this year's big event.
"I've known all along that I want a yellow dress, and I tried on lots of them in that color," Lavaveshkul said. "But they just weren't quite what I wanted, and they seemed overpriced anyway."
Lavaveshkul, 18, said she was excited to have a dress made especially for her. "Custom-fitting and control over design are things you just can't get in a store," she said.
Nevertheless, teenage girls in Lawrence cite several local stores as promising prom dress lairs, including Maurice's, JC Penney and Weaver's Department Store. Other students report flocking to Topeka and Kansas City malls in hopes of expanding their shopping pool.
"You usually get to the point where you'll go anywhere there might be a dress," Lavaveshkul said, laughing.
But what about the guys?
"Hey, we've got it pretty easy," said Tyree Payne, a Free State senior. "In and out with a tux rental -- we're all set."
Karen Baker, manager of Randall's Formal Wear, 815 Mass., said Payne's attitude was representative of most teenage males, though every year seemed to bring a few more fashion-minded men into her store.
"Some guys are really into style, and they like to push the envelope a little bit," Baker said. "This year the trend is pink jackets and bright-colored ties."
Payne, who said his most daring foray into formal fashion was a silver-and black checkered tuxedo vest his freshman year, wasn't sure how he felt about the popularity of certain pastels.
"I don't know about pink," Payne said, "but I think I could go for a little baby-blue retro action."
Baker said a basic tuxedo rental package, which includes shoes and accessories, costs $59.95 at Randall's.
"The mad rush is right around the corner," she said. "We're ready."