By Mary Robbins Phelan
2:59 PM EDT, May 8, 2012
Move over, Aqua Net and tiers of tulle. For today's female promgoers, it's thermal heat protective hair products, pop idol-inspired curls, swanky dresses and spray tans.
Before local hair salons see their fair share of June brides, there is that period of time brimming with nearly as much excitement for clients and stylists alike: Prom Season.
In less than two weeks, Catonsville High School's senior prom will take place at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, on Aliceanna Street near Harbor East.
On May 12, Mount St. Joseph High School, the all-boys Catholic High School on Frederick Avenue, hosts its senior prom at M & T Bank Stadium.
The home of the Baltimore Ravens football team also is the site for the May 11 senior prom for Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, the Baltimore County magnet high school on Kenwood Avenue in Catonsville.
The combined prom for the juniors and seniors at Seton Keough High School, the all-girls Catholic high school on Caton Avenue, was May 4.
Catonsville High School's junior prom was May 5 and salons in Catonsville were buzzing as teenage girls prepared for the event later that night.
At the Perfect Touch Hair Salon & Day Spa on Frederick Road, 16-year-old Shannon Avara sat patiently as stylist Cara Platter wrapped her long brunet locks around the barrel of a specialized curling rod to create a head full of "Taylor Swift curls" after the teen received a full color treatment.
"The Taylor Swift curls are very popular this year," said Platter, referring to the ringlets of curls worn by the Grammy Award-winning pop singer.
"Anything wavy and curly is in," as are side ponytails, she said.
Avara said she wanted to wear her hair differently than her everyday look, which often meant it was up in a ponytail while she played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.
Her white dress was purchased at the Columbia Mall.
"White is a very hot color this year," Platter said.
Add to the dress white-and-gold stilettos and a tiara and Shannon's outfit is completed while her mom's wallet is depleted.
"It was about $200 for the dress, $50 for the shoes, $50 for a "mani" and "pedi," the hair session is $50 to 65," said Denise Avara. "It all adds up and it can be quite expensive. But it's one day a year. I didn't go to my prom. I want her to enjoy this."
While Shannon Avara said some of her classmates were getting spray tans for the junior prom, she opted for a much cheaper alternative: Jergens Natural Glow moisturizer.
"Much less expensive" than hitting a tanning salon, her mom noted.
A matter of style
"For us, this is the calm before the storm," Platter said of Saturday afternoon's schedule.
All the stylists will be working at once to accommodate the appointments that have been booked from the time the doors open until the last bobby pin has been put in place and the shop closes.
Sitting in stylist Magen Young's chair, 17-year-old Maddy Aldave was getting her hair ready to attend the Calvert Hall senior prom at M&T Bank Stadium that evening.
Aldave, a Catonsville resident, attends St. Paul's School for Girls in Brooklandville.
Her style of choice for her long red hair, selected out of a book of hair styles, was a half-up, half-down do, with looser curls.
She estimated her floor-length tan dress cost about $245, plus $35 for a "mani" and "pedi," $30 for a spray tan, $20 for shoes.
Young said up hair styles start at $65 and can take 45 minutes to an hour.
But it's time well spent. As much as Aldave enjoyed seeing her new look being created, Young was enjoying creating it.
"This is a great time of year for us. You get to be creative, instead of just cutting hair and coloring," Young said, as she sprayed Aldave's hair with a thermal heat protective spray that helps the curls to hold. "You are a part of making someone's last year of high school special."
At Hair M in Edmondson Junction, owner Kathie Nilsen used a curling iron to make "beachy waves" for a girl attending the Catonsville junior prom who did not want to be identified.
She was one of three "prom girls" the shop saw that day, where transformations took place for $35.
"I really enjoy this time of year," said Nilsen. "That is, as long as the girls know what they want, I enjoy it."
Nilsen's daughter, Bridget, 16, was excited to be a client that day as she got her hair "prom ready."
The 16-year-old Catonsville High sophomore opted for tight spiral curls and a side braid before attending the dance with her boyfriend, junior Shannun Gaines.
After her mom gave her a good dose of Freeze N Shine spray, "It's like super glue," Kathie Nilsen said, she was good to go.
At nearby Bertamini's Hair Studio on Edmondson Avenue, 17-year-old Rachel Lepsom beamed a bright smile as she looked into the mirror after stylist Rebecca Gravoski had completed her work.
Gravoski had created countless ringlets of dark brown curls that were swept to one side to cascade down her left shoulder.
The Catonsville High School junior's inspiration came from a photo she saw online.
"It looks beautiful," she said.
Her mom, Tammy Beck, agreed.
From tips to tails
She estimated she'd spent about $400 on prom preparations for her daughter.
And that included some subtle cost cutting. Lepsom used press-on nail tips purchased at CVS in place of a salon manicure. An untrained eye would not know the difference.
"Proms only come once in a lifetime," Beck said. "Everyone wants their child to have a good time."
Lepsom was the fifth "prom girl" client in the shop that day, Gravoski said.
Classmate Alexandra Stephens, 17, was also having her hair done for the dance that night.
Stylist Nickole Karfonta secured Stephans' tight curls into an intricate bun with more than 50 bobby pins.
Other prom clients earlier in the day requested "Carrie Underwood curls," inspired by the country singer.
Another popular choice was a "half messy bun with a braid," Karfonta said. "Braids are very popular this year."
On May 19, the shop has scheduled 14 girls getting ready for the Catonsville High School senior prom. In addition to hair, three are getting their makeup done for $45 a pop.
"We look forward to this all year. It's fun to make the girls happy and have them happy with all of their pictures," Karfonta said.
At Blue Iris Flowers on Frederick Road, the store was so busy on Saturday that owners Elizabeth Glascock and her mother, Catherine, stayed open an extra three hours. The Glascocks took ownership of the shop in April 2011.
"We are certainly more ready for prom season this year than we were last year, having just taken over ownership one month earlier," Allison Glascock said. "I think our prom business has doubled this year compared to last year."
The shop offers a $5 discount if a prom goer purchases both a boutonniere and a wrist corsage.
"A lot of times, it's the kids that have to pay for these things, so we try to give them a little break," she said.
They are busy preparing boutonnieres and corsages in advance for the Catonsville High School senior prom as well as orders forMother's Daythis weekend.
While roses and carnations are still the standbys when it comes to the big dance, Glascock said quite a few orders for orchids and other "mixes of flowers" are also coming in this year.
"White is still the most popular color, but a lot of people also try to spruce that up with a bit of color," she said.
And not just young women are keeping local merchants busy during prom season. At Cy's of Catonsville, a Frederick Road institution that has renting tuxedos for 72 years, owner Cy Mayer said business has been brisk.
"We've been very busy," said Mayer, who hires six extra staffers to help out during the prom season.
One of them is Andrew Janney, 20, who graduated from Catonsville High School in 2009. He's been helping out Mayer for the past three prom seasons.
"There is a lot more white this year," he said. "A lot more than I ever remember."
For $95, promgoers have their choice of renting one of 157 different tuxedos.
The price includes coat, pants, shirt, tie, vest and shoes or as Mayer puts it, "everything but a date. From head to toe, you're good to go."