PLATTSBURGH — Dolly Phillips bobs in a sea of prom gowns.She's so busy, she hasn't bothered to count them. She's also working on two wedding gowns."This time is really stressful," said Phillips, who owns Designs by Dolly, located above the North Country Co-op in downtown Plattsburgh.She has been in the business for more than two decades, so her clientele is generated word-of-mouth. She primarily alters the high-school student's gown to get just the right fit.Strapless still reigns as the gown of choice — floor-length with fuller skirts, trendy fabrics."They're very pretty dresses as opposed to sexy," Phillips said. "They're all different colors, every color you can imagine — green, yellow, coral, aqua, pink and white. Just beautiful pastel shades."The busier Lan Xiang Hipko is, the happier she is at Lan's Tailoring, 23 Clinton St. in Plattsburgh. Like Phillips, Hipko offers alterations and dress making. Show her a picture, and you can have the gown of your dreams.
Her conceptual skills are not surprising in one who holds advanced degrees in engineering. Her husband, Gordon, brags about how she cut out a suit for him on the kitchen table without using a pattern or anything."I love to sew and make my own designs," Hipko said.Lan's tailoring is open three days a week — Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., so catch her while you can or make an appointment.Based in Saranac, Debby Carter has created custom formal wear — formal gowns, bridal gowns and prom gowns — for almost three decades. She also fixes broken zippers, hems and creates costumes, specialty items and children's wear.Her prom gowns are made partially from patterns and her own design."I like to have someone come to me and (I) look at the figure type and personality," Carter said. "I like to create a design specifically for that person. Choose the right color for her skin tone, that kind of thing."
With her clientele, strapless and beading is still hot."The metallics are popular, the chocolatey-coppery kind of tones," Carter said. "The last few years, blues and oranges were predominant. This year, I'm doing a little bit of every color."The ballroom-princess look with full skirts is popular with juniors."I find the girls who are seniors go for something more sophisticated, more fitted, slinkier."She likes to start making custom gowns in January. Sometimes, she starts before December."Girls are buying gowns earlier and earlier every year. They're so excited. They want to be the first to have their gown."Custom gowns take many fittings and hours of labor. Carter works with students for 10 area proms, so there is a lot of demand.
"I will have done three custom gowns by the time proms are over," Carter said. "I would have altered 200."