Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPIB: Prom Spectacular (by Steve Moser)

One of the worst parts of having worked at a tuxedo shop is that you suffer from “Prom Brain” every spring.  So, if you’re going to be thinking of prom anyway, why not embrace it and help your teens at the same time, right?  I can’t take credit for the basic idea of this program.  It was done at my library a few years before I started there.  In fact, my first exposure to the Prom Spectacular concept was coming on behalf of the shop where I worked at the time to try to sign up guys to become prom reps for our store.  What I didn’t know at that time was that I would end up working for the library and would be reviving this program in just a few years!

If you’ve ever been to a bridal show, then you’ve seen the Prom Spectacular concept in another form. Our program is basically a bridal show for prom kids.  What are the most important aspects of a successful Prom Spectacular?  There are two: a slew of local businesses to provide information and support for your program, and a fashion show.    As you enter our program, you’ll find our auditorium ringed with tables covered with displays.  Each participating business is given one six-foot table to set up as they please. 

Here’s a starting point for you.  First, you need to pick a date.  The timing for a program like this is tricky. We’ve found that mid-February seems to be the best time for the program.  In January, teens are not ready to think about prom.  By March, many of them have already found their prom dresses and set up their tuxedos.  

After you have a date in mind, you’ll need to line up dresses and tuxedos for the fashion show.  We get all of our dresses from the Deb Shop at our local mall.  They have been easy to work with and they bring staff members to help the girls change into and out of their dresses.  They are asked, because I know nothing about women’s clothing, to provide write-ups for the dresses that will be in the fashion show.  I round up 8-10 girls to model the dresses and they go to the store to pick out 2-3 dresses each to model.  The Deb Shop even provides shoes for the girls to wear if they don’t have their own.

Our tuxedos come from our local Men’s Wearhouse.  I line up 4-5 guys to model tuxes for the fashion show.  The guys each have two tuxedos to model with a change of vest and tie for each tuxedo.  That gives them four looks total.  In the fashion show, sometimes the models walk separately; sometimes they walk as couples if the colors of the vests and the dresses work out to match. Since our local Men’s Wearhouse staff is all women, and myself, and the thought of women in the room with teenage guys who are changing clothes makes me nervous, I get the pleasure of getting the guys into and out of their tuxedos in time for their next appearance on the runaway.  I assure you that this is not an easy task.  It has come to my attention that the majority of teenage guys have apparently never had clothing with buttons-and tuxedos have a LOT of buttons!

The Ohio State Beauty Academy is located in Lima, so I luck out on that one.  They send students to the library the day of the program to do prom hairstyles for each of the girls who are modeling for the fashion show.  The girls are in charge of their own makeup.  

Last year we doubled our attendance from the previous year.  I approached our local radio station, 93.9 KISS FM and asked if they could provide one of their on-air personalities to emcee our event.  I got DJ OldSkool, who hosts the after school hours on air.  He’s the one the teens are listening to while they’re procrastinating instead of doing their homework.  The radio station put together a music mix for the fashion show and he came and hosted the event for free!  Best of all, they gave me free advertisements on the air on four different stations!  I also promote the event in the area schools with flyers, on the announcements, and all other media outlets that will let me show up and talk. 

To round out the businesses, we include two local florists, and Chad Hughes of Lifebulb Design – a local photographer who promotes senior pictures and also photographs the event for me.  For the girls, we have a Mary Kay salesperson who shares makeup information and an Avon sales rep that can help with makeup as well as jewelry!  With a little digging, almost any community can provide a variety of businesses involved in prom night plans.

Program day starts early as I pick up a continental breakfast that’s been donated by our local Panera Bread or another similar restaurant.   I do this because we start hairstyles around 9:00 a.m. And my experience is that teenagers haven’t been up long enough to eat breakfast and get to the library on time at this point.  Maybe this is because I’m a guy, but I was caught off guard the first year with how long prom hairstyles take. I guess I’m spoiled with short hair that only takes about 30 seconds just out of the shower! Starting at nine provides just enough time that the hairstyles are done and we can do a run-through of the fashion show at 11:00. A practice run is a necessary evil as the teens need practice to be able to slow down.  If I let them walk at their pace, our fashion show would be about 10 minutes long!

After a rehearsal, and a lecture on walking slower and taking a few laps around the stage, we eat lunch. I’ve been blessed with donated pizza every year we’ve done this program.  After lunch, and for the last 30 minutes before the program starts at 1:00 in the afternoon, I send the teens up to the main floor to roam around in full prom gear to try to nab all the last minute promotion I can get!

We start the program at 1:00.  The models are sequestered in their changing rooms with cards and magazines to keep them busy.  The public is ushered into the auditorium and given 30 minutes to visit with the participating businesses and gather information on what they need for prom and how to save some money in the process.  Many of the vendors do prize giveaways. We make announcements throughout this time to let them know how long until the fashion show starts.   

I’ve found that starting the fashion show 30 minutes into the program ensures that patrons actually visit the businesses who are participating in the event. When we started with the fashion show, we lost the majority of our crowd immediately after the show, so many of them didn’t even make it around to all the tables.

I try to space out each model’s appearance in the fashion show so they have enough time to change without too much stress, but inevitably, we have one close call every year.  Someone is being zipped up as they run down the hall.  I have a volunteer or staff member at the back door of the auditorium who is in charge of making sure the models enter in the correct order.  I also intersperse blurbs about each business with the other write-ups in the fashion show to give us a little extra time for the quick changes.  Honestly, the fashion show has always been a success.  People say good things about it, but it’s all a blur to me because it goes by so fast!  We usually end up with about 20-25 minutes of fashion show.  After the fashion show patrons are invited to continue visiting the vendors for additional information. 

Overall, Prom Spectacular is a lot of prep work and can be a crazy half hour during the fashion show, but over the years, we’ve grown the program to include about 12 local businesses, and to bring in an audience of around 150 people.  Since everything is provided by the participating businesses, and the food is donated, the program costs me little to no part of my programming budget.  The businesses enjoy participating in the event, we get a lot of good PR, and it’s worth the work in the end because it helps my teens get ready for a big event in their lives!

Steve Moser is the Teen Librarian at The Lima Public Library.
He can be reached at 419-228-5113×121 or at mosers@limalibrary.com
Information on this year’s Prom Spectacular and additional photos can be found at www.facebook.com/LPLTeens – we’d love your “like”


  1. This is such a fun idea! I bet teens LOVE being asked to participate 🙂

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