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Seeking originality? DIY your prom dress!

In an era when clothes are mass-produced overseas and sewing machines are considered vintage housewares, do people make their own prom dresses anymore? You betcha.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

In an era when clothes are mass-produced overseas and sewing machines are considered vintage housewares, do people really make their own prom dresses anymore?

You betcha. asked readers to submit photos of their homemade prom dresses, and we received images of cute one-of-a-kind dresses and fun stories to accompany them.

“When the dress I wanted to buy for prom sold out of my size, I asked my mom to make one just like it,” Anita Graef of Evanston, Ill., wrote about this year’s dress-hunting adventures. “Unfortunately, our sewing machine broke, and she ended up sewing it by hand in just a couple of days! Fortunately for me, the dress ended up looking miles better than the one I originally wanted to buy!”

Some readers shared photos of dresses they made for themselves decades ago.

“I attended prom in 1985 at Monticello High School in Illinois,” Tamara Braden wrote. “My boyfriend, at that time, was Jeff and he was a gentleman.  He had tears in his eyes when he saw me in [my] homemade dress.  I did not worry about wearing the same dress as any other girl, because I knew mine was ‘one of a kind’! Other girls were amazed I could sew such an elegant dress. It is one of the greatest memories I have of high school.”

Hear that, ladies? One of the greatest memories of high school. Piper Weiss, author of the new book “My Mom, Style Icon” and creator of a blog by the same name, understands that sentiment. Since she started her blog two years ago, she’s received thousands of photo submissions from people eager to show off how stylish their moms were before kids came along. Some of the most popular submissions to the site are — you guessed it — images of young women wearing homemade prom dresses in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

“Prom is such an important moment in your early womanhood,” said Weiss, 32, who is based in New York. “It’s one of those lifetime moments, when you stood and you posed for a photo, back at a time when photos weren’t taken as often. ... Most of the dresses in the submissions are handmade, which really kind of blows my mind.”

In years past, preparing for the prom was a project. Moms and daughters studied fashion magazines, bought patterns, invested in fabric and spent weeks creating something utterly exclusive.

“So much went into it, and it sounds almost ritualistic,” Weiss said. “A lot of these women never designed anything again. They weren’t designers. ... But they made a dress that was unique and they defined themselves, which is a really important thing to do when you’re a teenager.”

Readers share their prom pictures

Slideshow  23 photos

Readers share their prom pictures

With the release of the movie "Prom," readers offer pictures from their big night, from the 1960s to 2011.

Is any of this inspiring you to make your own dress this year? If so, here’s some incentive: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores holds an annual contest for students between the ages of 14 and 19 who create their own prom outfits. The grand prize for the Jo-Ann Own Your Look 2011 Prom Contest is a whopping $50,000. (Second prize is $5,000, and third prize is $2,500 — not too shabby, either.) Details about the contest, which ends June 15, can be found by clicking here.

Weiss offered other ideas for securing a one-of-a-kind look and saving big bucks at the same time:

  • Buy a vintage dress, ideally for pennies on the dollar at a thrift store. “Hem it yourself, or take it to a tailor and for $20 take out the shoulder pads and have the sleeves sewn in, or cut the bottom off and turn it into a mini-dress,” Weiss suggested. “Or buy a sash at H&M and add it. It’s a the way to adopt the notion that our mothers had.”
  • If you really know how to sew, take the vintage approach a step further. You can find vintage fabrics at and old pattern books and fashion magazines at and
  • Remember how in “Pretty in Pink,” Andie uses two different dresses to fashion a one-of-a-kind pink dress to wear to the prom? You can do something similar with a dress your mom is willing to part with, or with two or more of your own dresses.

  • Raid your mom’s closet and wear one of her dresses. That’s what reader Abby Davis, a high school senior who lives in Pine Mountain, Ga., did this year. Davis submitted a fun photo of herself wearing the dress her mom wore to prom back in 1982. “Not only did my mom love to see me in her dress but she loved saving money!” Davis wrote. “It was a very special night for my mom and myself.”

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