"I chose all black with a white shirt and a fuchsia vest and fuchsia bow tie," says Ronald Baines, an 18-year-old football standout at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees. Happily first in line, he's accompanied by his parents, for whom carefully chosen prom ensembles are something of a tradition.
Baines' dad, Ronald, bought a custom-tailored suit at Boyd's. And his mom, Mona Burch, hired a seamstress to replicate a gown in a magazine.
At 6 p.m. Tuxedo Junction opens its doors. Vince's son Gary, who runs the business, has additional cash registers and extra help; boys are divided into lines according to prom.
"What school?" asks Gina DiVentura, a former bridal-show model who has pitched in at Tuxedo Junction for 25 years.
Tonight she's handling the H's (Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, etc.).
"We're doing about 15 [proms] this weekend. About 400 tuxes," DiVentura says. "Gary keeps it organized. Stupid little things can go wrong, but nothing we can't fix. I've even sewed a few times."
One young man after another pays for and carries out a black plastic-wrapped tux on a hanger. The line keeps moving, but outside it keeps growing, too.
"We've got great personnel and an unbelievable system," Gary says.
He's inherited a salesmanship gene or two from his dad. "A high 90 percent of the tuxedos today are black, but we've got accessories in 2,000 color combinations," Gary informs me.
Among the customers, black-on-black jackets and pants are the rule. Except when they're not.
"All white with blue accessories," says Ibn Brockington, a 16-year-old sophomore at Timber Creek Regional High School in Gloucester Township.
"Traditional black-on-black with a purple tie and a purple-and-black vest," says Jeff Abbate, a 16-year-old Haddon Township High School junior. "My date's dress is black and white, but she's going to have purple flowers."
"Before the prom is all about the girls. The guys anticipate the after-prom," Dillon Warner explains.
Although the 18-year-old senior at Paul VI in Haddon Township coordinated his accessories with his date's outfit, Warner draws the line at footwear.
"I don't rent shoes," he says, pointing to his sneaker-clad feet. "I'm wearing Vans."
Gloucester City High senior Harry Marlles also is going his own way; despite a recent breakup, he is picking up his black-and-gray tux.
"I think he's going to look very handsome," says his mom, Jennifer, who didn't attend her prom back in '92.
For those of us who remember decorating the gym for the big night, today's proms seem incredibly posh. Upscale hotels and catering establishments such as the Crystal Tea Room in Center City are the rule; unique invitations and limo transportation are all the rage.
"The kids are a lot more into it," says Vickie Miller, a 41-year-old transportation supervisor who has come to Tuxedo Junction with her son, Nicholas, and his girlfriend, Nicole Mayza. The two are students at Woodbury High.
Miller grew up in Marion, Va., where her senior prom was held in 1988.
"I wore an '80s dress," she says. "It was white with a sash and straps.
"If I had to do it again, I would do it all up. And it would be great!"
Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or email@example.com.