That Magical Night

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Besides being "the biggest event in every girl's life"-as those in the teen industry refer to it-prom night is also a major marketing opportunity. Some 3.75 million teens will go to a prom within the next two months, and to gussy up for it, they will spend about $2 billion on clothing and accessories, according to Your Prom magazine. Styles, colors, and themes come and go depending upon what's hot in Hollywood or pop music. But some elements persevere, like picking the perfect dress. And while a date still ranks high as an important prom issue, increasingly prommers go in groups, or even alone; one-third of girls will go even if a guy doesn't ask them, according to Teenage Research Unlimited.

Les Fleurs du Prom: East Coast * 90 % "wristlets", 10 % bouquets

* Hot blossom: the rose

* Gift for girl's mom: a bouquet

West Coast * 95 % wristlets, 5 % headpieces

* Hot blossom: the rose (guys give a single one to girl)

* Gift for girl's mom: nothing

Southwest * 80 % wristlets, 20 % bouquets

* Hot blossom: the rose

* Gift for girl's mom: a single red rose

Southeast * 90 % wristlets, 10 % bouquets

* Hot blossom: orchids are overtaking roses

* Gift for girl's mom: nothing

Getting there * Teen driving on prom night is not encouraged:

* An average of 5,202 teens are injured and 48 killed in automobile crashes on a typical prom weekend.

Instead, climb into a limo: * Cost of a Ford Expedition Limo in New York City: $360 an hour

* Length: Two feet longer than a city bus

* Capacity: 30

* You get: laser light show, 3,000 watt sound system, mirrored ceilings

Glad Rags: She: * spends $196 for a dress;

* begins looking 12 weeks before the prom;

* shops at 11 different stores;

* tries on 36 different dresses; before finding the perfect frock.

He: * spends $162 on accessories and tuxedo rental or purchase;

* reserves his duds five-and-a-half weeks before the prom.

Colors: The Coasts: * "Pink was big before. But since Gwyneth wore it to the Oscar's, it'll be huge," says Carol Cagan, editor of Girl magazine.

Arkansas: * "Honey, they wouldn't wear pink here if you threatened to kill them," says Delores Alford, owner of Illusions Boutique in Hot Springs. They prefer hunter green, burgundy, copper, and silver.

Alaska: * "Mixed colors are big: purple and blue shaded in the same dress," says Roland Tresham at the Arctic Rose boutique in Wasilla.

The Cosmetic Girdle * 90% of tanning salons sponsor April and May prom specials. (Those under 18 need their parents' permission.)

* Average cost of a session in New York City: $8

* Average cost of a session in Tennessee: $3.50

* Biggest indoor tanning states: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

Prom is Cool "How important is going to the prom?"

* Very 43.3%

* Somewhat 41.9%

* Not at all 9.8%

* What's a prom? 5.0%

* 89% of female teens said proms were "in" in 1998.

* 76% said they were "in" in 1994.

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