COLUMBIA — With less than one hour left before show time, the bright lights above the mirrors in the hair and makeup room highlighted and enhanced the chaotic atmosphere as hair stylists and makeup artists scrambled to prepare the models.
Hillary Henry and Avery Kerr appeared quiet and calm as they sat and waited in line to get their makeup done. "You can kick me off of this salad any time," Kerr said to the makeup artist, signaling that she was ready.
Henry and Kerr were two of the five finalists in the Fashion Creative Express Project competition hosted by the Stephens College fashion department. The competition culminated with the [project] PROM Fashion Show on Saturday.
The grand prize for the competition was a $1,000 scholarship to Stephens College, as well as a VIP Prom Party and a gift certificate toward a limousine ride to the prom.
The finalists were selected by Stephens College fashion faculty and Ashley Litton, Miss Missouri USA 2004 — a Stephens alumna, gown designer and co-owner of Sassy Chic in Kansas City.
High school juniors and seniors from throughout Missouri were asked to design their fantasy prom dresses for the competition. The submissions could also include an essay, a mood board, a sketch or a photo of an original design.
Henry and Kerr, both students at Hickman High School, were encouraged to enter the competition by their sewing teacher, Shawn Huggans. Henry entered a sketch of a dress that was inspired by the silhouette of tree branches against a sunset. Kerr submitted a dress that she sewed; she spent two months working on it.
Three years ago, Kerr signed up for a sewing class in order to fulfill her art credit requirement, and she unexpectedly fell in love with it. But Kerr said she's always had a keen eye for what looks good.
"My earliest fashion memory is dressing up my Barbies, and I refused to let my friends change any of their outfits," she said.
Henry's interest in fashion also began with Barbie dolls. "My mom used to sew, so I would use her scraps and make dresses for my Barbies when I was young," she said.
The other three finalists in the competition were Maura Pozek of Reeds Spring High School in Kimberling City, Ilia Elizabeth Siegwald of Concordia High School in Concordia and Mckinzie Welschmeyer of New Bloomfield R-III in New Bloomfield.
Before the fashion show on Saturday, each finalist received a prom makeover at the Strand Salon and Spa.
The show began at 1 p.m. at the Stephens College Warehouse Theatre. The show was organized as a way of forecasting prom trends for high school girls and included dresses from Sassy Chic Boutique, The Gown House, DEB, Envy, Elly's Couture, Maude Vintage and the Stephens College Costume Shop.
After the five finalists walked in the show, Litton, along with Danielle Bounds, former Miss Earth United States, announced the runner-up and the winner of the competition.
Siegwald was awarded a $500 runner-up scholarship to Stephens College, which she will attend in fall. She plans to study fashion design and production.
"My legs were shaking because I was so nervous and because I really didn't expect to win," Siegwald said.
She said participating gave her real-life experience in fashion and showed her how backstage production works — something she plans to study at Stephens.
The winner was Pozek, who created an intricate dress made entirely out of soda can tabs woven together with two different kinds of ribbon. Pozek's dress took more than 100 hours to complete.
"I've never won anything, so it was really exciting," Pozek said. "We were all backstage, apprehensively listening while they were opening the envelope, and I really didn't think it was going to happen." Pozek will also attend Stephens College in the fall.
Jaimie Link, admissions ambassador for fashion majors at Stephens, said she was blown away by the finalists' talent.
"I couldn't believe that the girls are only in high school," she said. "If this is what they're doing now, imagine what they'll be able to do with four years of education."