ATLANTA — Prom and social occasion dresses are becoming synonymous, as the classifications adopt styles from each other, said buyers at the Atlanta Apparel Market’s World of Prom held here Aug. 4 to 7 at AmericasMart.
Prom designs are more elegant with limited beading, while social occasion dresses are adopting the high slits, cropped tops and floral prints found in prom.
Lizandra Palma, owner, Forever After in Laredo, Tex., said, “Dresses can transcend from prom to special occasion.”
She especially liked Jovani, her top brand, because she finds its dresses more sophisticated.
Lisa McSherry, president of Lex’s of Carytown in Richmond, Va., said much the same of her top brand, Sherri Hill. In general, she said prom dresses have clean lines with limited beading.
While World of Prom dominated this market, general specialty retailers shopped for fall, holiday, resort and early spring. Trends, said Morgan Ramage, fashion manager at AmericasMart, included tropical fabrics, pinstripes, nautical looks, polka dots, off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder designs, and ruffles around necks, sleeves and hems. She also noted thick belts, choker necklaces, bomber jackets and fun handbags with designs such as animals and fruit.
Other trends noted by buyers included flared denim, long sweater vests and cold shoulders.
Mary Sullivan Harper, senior vice president of leasing, AmericasMart, said the Mart opened 14 new prom showrooms. Caron Stover, vice president of apparel trade-show sales, said the temporary exhibitor area increased 21 percent over a year ago and added 85 exhibitors.
At Jovani, Abraham Maslavi, owner, said his business has doubled from last year.
Julie DuRocher, design director, said designs this year have less beading, include floral and border prints, styles with low fronts, backs and sides either combined or individually, high-low dresses and removable skirts.
“The girls want to look sexy — like Hollywood movie stars,” she said.
Designer Sherri Hill said many of her dresses have few or no embellishments, floral prints are strong and overskirts are popular. Her sales also doubled more than a year ago.
U.K.-based Forever Unique, which entered the U.S. market two years ago, opened a 5,000-square-foot showroom just before the show. Cofounder Seema Malhotra said the dresses can be worn for prom and for social occasion.
Lex’s of Carytown’s McSherry said patterns and florals are strong, and two-piece dresses should be even more popular next year. Top colors are champagne, blush and merlot. Her sales increased about 35 percent this year, and she’s increasing her inventory next year by 10 to 15 percent.
Jill Jones, owner of JJones Evening Wear in Weirton, W. Va., moved into a 10,000-square-foot store a year ago, up from 1,200 square feet, and she is doubling sales every month. In addition to other trends, she booked chiffon trims on shoulders and backs.
Jessica Shevel, owner of Jessy’s Boutique in Lebanon, Tenn., focused on fall apparel with holiday in mind, as she booked transitional pieces, including layering items. Shevel opened her store about eight months ago, and business has tripled every month, she said.
Kathy Johnson, co-owner of Rose Tree Boutique in Ceredo, W. Va., shopped for early spring, focusing on “junior and misses’ from Johnny Was to Frank Lyman,” she said.
Pete Brooks, manager and buyer at M. Robinson Ladies Fine Clothing in Roanoke, Va., shopped for holiday and resort with an eye for velvet and glitz for holiday, skinny and wide-legged pants, tops with cold shoulders, casual dresses and spring cashmere.