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THE CLASS OF '02

NEW YORK -- Prom is big business. There's the hair and the nails, the corsage and the limo. And most importantly: The Dress. All across the country last month, girls got ready for the biggest night of their high school careers -- and they did it...

NEW YORK -- Prom is big business. There's the hair and the nails, the corsage and the limo. And most importantly: The Dress. All across the country last month, girls got ready for the biggest night of their high school careers -- and they did it in style, from fairy-tale princesses to elegant sophisticates to red-hot temptresses. WWD was there to catch all the glamour and drama at schools in New York, Connecticut, Atlanta and Illinois.

With dresses averaging between $135 to $150, and shoes $100 to $250, many girls took design control into their own hands -- or their mothers'. Tiffany Clarke, a senior at Manhattan's Washington Irving High School, showed up in a dashing white top hat and tails. "I wanted to look unusual, so I came up with the design and my mom made it," she said. The accessories? A white cane and spangly sandals. Danielle Cooreale, 17, from Wilton High in Connecticut, felt the same way and created an eye-catching sequined floral dress with red tulle trim. "It's the first thing I've ever made," she noted. But if a superlative were to be given for Most Creative Use of a Household Item, the winners would be Natalie Williams and her date Christopher Eaton, at Chicago's Oak Park-River Forest High School. They whipped up intricate outfits with duct tape.

Meanwhile, others were looking to fill their fantasies. "I just want to be a princess tonight," said Washington Irving's Nettye Hampton. "I am usually a jeans-and-sneakers kind of girl, but tonight is my night to shine." And shine she did, transformed in a pink fairy-tale number with a fitted bodice that spread into what seemed like miles of sparkly tulle and crinolines. But she wasn't the only one. Girls at Atlanta's Westminster school chose sweeping debutante looks. And in Chicago, Tyra Funches and her friends Alicia Hill and Krystal Adams arrived in their dreamy ballgowns, while their classmate Lisa Locascio wore a gold empire-waisted dress with butterfly appliques. "I thought it looked like something from Titanic," she said.

Just as some looked to Cinderella for inspiration, others went the siren route. Ariana Balestrieri from Bronx High School of Science vamped it up in a sexy black corset and layered pink skirt, while Washington Irving's Katiria Marales turned heads in a racy black number with a plunging V to rival J.Lo's notorious Versace dress.

These young ladies also got creative with their accessories, many choosing fresh flowers to pin in their hair. At Bronx Science, Mikaela Gross donned a satin cloche to cap off her flapper look. But lest we forget, the night is meant for dancing and when it came to their feet, many girls opted for comfort rather than stiletto chic. Some went for flip-flops or China slippers, and in the Bronx, Jodi Sussman and her date John Marra went for basic black, right down to their matching Converse kicks.