2016 Prom Trends and What They Mean for Hair Stylists

Browsing prom trends for 2016 is like time-traveling in a machine with its gears in overdrive.

Trends are encompassing a variety of styles reminiscent of different time periods: Edwardian empire-waists, romantic/retro A-line shapes, plus Greco-Roman columns and one-shoulder draping for anyone’s inner Greek goddess. Also, the 80s-esque mermaid fit-and-flare skirt still pops up, and the tenacious high-low mullet dress of the last decade is still making appearances.

The sweetheart neckline is as popular as ever, but a search through the websites of designers like Alyce and Jovani also reveal some throwback touches: The Prom Dress time-machine stops in the 40s and 50s long enough to revisit boat-necklines and cap sleeves (worn both off and on the shoulder), but not long enough to pick up polka dots and flowered skirts. Prints and patterns are "out" this year -- or, at least, not in the mainstream.

Many dresses are receiving a jolt of 90s influence: midriff-baring crop-top styles with high slits and cutouts at the sides and back.

Color trends include jewel tones and neutrals -- mostly off-whites and blushes --  with lots of embellishment in exotic swirling patterns for a Bollywood-royalty look.

Some of the most popular dress designs include the cutouts mentioned earlier in colors like sky-blue and eggshell -- think Taylor Swift's and Rachel Platten's dresses from their respective music videos for"Out of the Woods" and "Stand by You."

In fact, the color of the moment appears to be blue (which, really, is always popular). But this year, expect to see it everywhere in a huge variety of shades: sky blue, robin's egg, Tiffany blue, turquoise, jade, navy, slate, sapphire, ice-blue and royal blues that border on indigo.

Somewhat absent from the spring 2016 color palette are yellow, orange, lime greens. Neons and many pastels (with the exception of pink and coral) seem to have run their course. Or perhaps they've migrated to hair.

So what do trend reports like this mean for hairstylists?

Luckily, the trending colors for this season are flattering on a variety of skin tones and hair colors. So chances are reduced that you’ll encounter a client wanting both a delicate blonde color service to compliment her chartreuse gown and a complex up-do.

One basic “unwritten” rule: the fussier/busier the dress, the more soft and simplistic the hair. Long, wavingstyles are nothing new, however: with the surge of high-necked dresses and crop tops on the Pinterest boardsthis season, a second look at an up-do may well be worth your client's time. Paired with a high-necked collar, an up-do can assist in creating the look of a long neck, or just showing off a great pair of sparkling earrings.

Up-dos are a task that can tend to polarize stylists: Some embrace the opportunity for creative construction and the satisfaction of seeing the look come together as a finished product. Other stylists find up-dos tedious, and they’re made nervous by the risk of the client not being satisfied and having to start over.

If your client does not come in with pictures of what they want (or, even more awkward: she does, but you quickly realize that her hair won’t achieve what’s in the photo), try starting with these questions:

  • “Do you want all of the hair off of your neck, or are you wanting more of a partial up-do?”
  • “Are you envisioning something with lots of texture, or something smoothed and sleek?” (Remember to take into account your client’s bone structure. For example: a young lady with a sharp jawline and cheekbones may look a bit harsh or aged with a tight, slicked-back chignon; meanwhile, girls with softer features might be well-served by such a pulled-together, mature look.)
  • “Sometimes curls or pieces of hair hanging down can be flattering and sexy, but will they annoy you or get in your way?”
  • “Is your prom/special event going to be held outdoors? Are you concerned about humidity, rain, wind, etc?”
  • “Will bobby pins or hair elastics bother you?” (Again, it’s a good idea to set your client’s expectations in a reasonable place before you begin. For example, if you notice that she has fine hair and/or lots of layers, now would be the time to gently let her know that it will require more tools and work to keep her updo in place all night.)

However, if up-dos are not high on your list of favorite things to do, fear not. Many of spring 2016’s prom dresses are photographed on models with hair worn in long, soft, glamorous waves, a style that works well with the variety of different period-reminiscent designs. However, be prepared to get requests for styles that incorporate braids: neat braids, messy braids, fishtail, French and so on. Also keep in mind that your clients may expect you to work around tiaras, flowers, embellished clips and more.

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