BALTIMORE -- Michelle McGinn took three weeks to complete her gold-and-fire-red dress -- aptly named "The Phoenix."
Briana Angel found her dress at a bridal shop only to dismantle it and piece it back together to reflect her personal flair.
Sarah Lewis designed her prom dress and recruited the owner of a local fashion house to produce the elaborate frock.
Years ago, many teens would have scoffed at the thought of wearing a homemade dress instead of flaunting a stylish store-bought number. This year, a number of prom-goers are donning their own creations as they show off their knack for needle and thread. Fashion design shows like "Project Runway" and a do-it-yourself attitude have inspired high-schoolers to make their prom dresses this season.
They say being more hands-on allows them to incorporate their sense of style, control cost and -- most importantly -- stand out from the rest of their classmates.
"What they are doing is taking matters into their own hands," said Zoey Washington, owner of Little Bird Style, a New York styling company geared toward teens. "Anything where girls are taking their own personal style, developing it, and taking challenges is a great thing. They are coming up with a fusion of styles that they see on the runway and the red carpet."
Washington, whose client base stretches throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia, has noticed more teens taking an active role in the production of their prom dresses.
"It's more popular than adults realize," Washington said. "There's a spectrum there. It's not always that the girl is going to build her own dress from scratch. It can be anything from her changing the hem line and making the sleeves shorter, to going to Jo-Ann Fabric and doing it themselves. In some way, shape or form, she is going to alter the look."
One of a kind
Gina Kelly, fashion director of the popular teen (and prom-obsessed) magazine Seventeen, agreed in part.
"More creative girls are making their own dresses -- a la 'Project Runway.' They probably want to be designers and are proud they can do it themselves, so it's kind of cool to wear your own design. Some do go to dressmakers with an idea in their mind of their 'perfect prom dress' that no one else will have," Kelly said. But she also noted that, for most teenage girls, the do-it-yourself approach can't match the thrill of shopping.
McGinn, an 18-year-old senior at Marriotts Ridge High School in Howard County, Md., took two weeks to create her dress, which she wore to her senior prom last weekend. McGinn teamed up with another classmate -- Meredith Lopez -- to make the dress, which they also submitted for a class assignment.
The gown features a golden satin top, laced-up ribbon corset in back, a cascading skirt made of tulle, and pearl sticker gems attached with fabric glue. She made the entire garment for $80.
"I get to say I made it," said McGinn, who fell in love with sewing after taking a class as a child. "They (her classmates) can't go out and make the same thing I did."
McGinn, who has been making many of her clothes for years, isn't the least bit worried about what her classmates might say about the eye-catching dress. Besides, she unveiled it to rave reviews in her art class.
"There was a lot of squealing going on by the other girls," McGinn said. "They really liked it."
Washington said these creative types should be praised for their attempt to establish their sense of style -- especially at an event as important as prom.
"When I was in high school," Washington said, "it was about that long search to find that perfect look. In the last four years, you see that increase in girls who love to take different influences from fashion. They pack all those influences together and are in charge of their own style. It always surprises me that kids want to take on that added pressure to prom. To add on the extra element, I can't even imagine."
Fabric stores have been quick to notice the budding trend.
"It has become such a big part of our business that we now buy fabric just for prom season. Years ago, we did very little business during prom season," said Michael Bearman, owner of A Fabric Place, a fine-fabric store in Baltimore. "It started a couple years back and has been getting bigger every year."
Bearman, who has been in the fabric business for 37 years, said he has never seen so many young people interested in making their own clothes.
"Being in this business for so many years, it is wonderful to be part of the upswing," Bearman said. "I think it is just the start."
Professional designers see the demand for custom prom dresses, Bearman said. Many leave their business cards at Bearman's store with the hopes of catching the attention of teens who need help completing their designs.
Washington estimated that 50 percent of girls are "tweaking" their prom dresses.
"Every girl I know has taken her dress to a seamstress or tailor, or has added something or taken something off," she said.