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Memories At A Price High Cost Of Senior Dances Sees Some Students Skimping And Scraping - And Others Stealing

Fri., May 3, 1996

Robyn Scarth, a Lake City High School senior, didn’t want to fork over 100 bucks for a prom dress she’d wear only once.

So instead, she borrowed a dress from a friend.

Valerie Whatcott, a 17-year-old Post Falls High School senior, figures she’ll save money on prom night by eating only a salad for dinner.

Plus, “I don’t want my stomach to poof out,” she added with a laugh.

Prom night - it’s both a milestone and a money pit.

And with four proms scheduled this weekend in Kootenai County, teens have been trying to find ways to save as much cash as they can.

And although most teenagers try to find honest ways to save money, some aren’t so scrupulous.

Three teenage girls tried to swipe two prom dresses this week from a dress store.

Many others try to return their expensive gowns for a refund after the big event, claiming they didn’t use them.

“It’s not just the students; it’s the students’ parents,” said Ted Hansen, manager of the Emporium at Silver Lake Mall.

Take a quick look at the cost of a prom and it’s no wonder students are worried about their wallets.

For the girls, dresses cost between $80 and $140. Shoes are another $25, while jewelry is $15 to $20. Add at least $20 for a haircut and styling.

A boutonniere for the boyfriend will cost her about $6.

For the guys, the basic tux rental costs between $40 and $50. But since most guys don’t usually have the necessary extras - dress shoes, cuff links, pocket hanky and vest - they often spend between $70 and $80.

A corsage for his date will run $12 to $30.

Fine dining on the big night will cost around $60. At Post Falls and Lakeland high schools, prom tickets cost $20 a couple. Coeur d’Alene High School and Lake City High School tickets cost $50 and $55 respectively and include dinner.

Top the whole evening off with photographs, that’ll be another $15 to $50, thank you.

Susie Cowan, owner of Affordable Elegance, said three teenage girls left with two prom dresses stuffed in a backpack Monday. They hadn’t paid for the gowns.

A customer who was in the store at the time of the theft, later spotted the girls with the dresses at the Silver Lake Mall.

When police caught the girls, Cowan had a chance to talk to them.

“I’m a new business owner and I don’t have an abundance of cash flowing out of my pocket,” Cowan said she told them. “In effect you’re taking the last piece of bread from my plate.”

The girls apologized and returned the dresses. Cowan agreed not to have them arrested although she still expects charges to be filed.

But retailers say the biggest problem they have around prom time is with teenager and their parents trying to return dresses after they’re used for the prom.

“It was bought with one night or one day in mind and they don’t want to see a $110 dress hanging in the closet,” Emporium manager Hansen said.

Many stores now place special tags on prom dresses. If the tags are removed, the dress can’t be returned. The tag also is put in an conspicuous place where it can’t be hidden.

Many teenagers say they are surprised at how much the prom costs.

“I didn’t think there would be so many things to buy,” said Jackie Iverson, 18. “It adds up.”

To save money the honest way, many girls foraged through their friend’s closets for dresses, jewelry, shoes - anything that fit and matched.

Ocie Aguilar, 18, used the money from two jobs to pay for her part of the prom. She was worried about buying an expensive dress and then only using it once.

So, “I bought a dress that wasn’t like really extravagant so that I could wear it to weddings or a day out on the town,” she said. Her good grades also helped get her a discount on the price of the prom ticket.

Whatcott will try to recover some of the $105 she spent on her prom dress by taking it to Affordable Elegance after the dance. The dress store will try to resell the gown for her, giving half of what it sells to Whatcott and keeping the other half for the store.

Steve Booth did a pretty good job saving money this year. The Lake City freshman was asked to the dance by Scarth, a senior, who bought the tickets for them.

Scarth also will make dinner. “It’s cheaper to make and it’s more personal,” Scarth said.

“Mom is paying for the tux, she just kinda offered to because I don’t have any money,” Booth said with a laugh. “I got a pretty good deal.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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