It had taken Brittany Blue, 18, of Streamwood about 45 minutes to dress in her long, black prom gown, pull her short blond hair half up and put on her makeup - the light-colored foundation, the dark eye shadow, the fake blood splashed across her neck.
Brittany was one of nine South Elgin High School seniors who took part in a reenactment of an alcohol-related car accident late last month in the school's outdoor stadium, part of an assembly about the dangers of drinking and driving on prom night.
The assembly had been a "blur," said Brittany, who had played dead during the reenactment, stretched across the hood of one of two smashed cars.
"I couldn't open my eyes. I could just hear things. I was moving, I was moving and then I was in a body bag," she said.
Afterward, the seniors peeled off fake flesh and prom attire in the high school dressing room as they dressed for the rest of the school day. They talked about the upcoming South Elgin prom, held this Saturday at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, about graduation, about their last days spent together as a class - no less of a blur than the morning assembly had been.
"(Prom) is a lot of fun, but you have to be willing to spend money on it," said Mike Favia, 18, Bartlett.
He said he'd pay at least $300 for prom, including $150 for a pair of tickets and about $100 for a tuxedo rental, with a blue tie to match his date's dress - "a big thing here." If he wants to go in on a "party bus" with friends, he said, that will be another $100. And that's not to mention what he'll pay for a trip with classmates to the Wisconsin Dells the day after prom.
South Elgin Principal Melanie Meidel put that number closer to $500.
That's still pretty conservative compared to the average price nationwide a couple will pay for prom this year: $1,078, according to a survey of about 700 readers of Seventeen Prom and TeenPROM magazines last year and additional research by USA TODAY. Most of that will go toward the prom dress ($231) and rented tux ($127, plus another $100 for a tie, cummerbund and shoes).
Micalena Mikhail, 18, of South Elgin said she spent about $500 on her dress -- "I didn't have to get alterations, though."
"You just want to feel special," Micalena said.
And Brittany said, "When you look back at your high school photos, you want to look good."
That cost is one of many things Meidel said has "changed a lot" about prom since she was a senior attending the event in her high school gym. And that's something that's the same across all of the Fox Valley, echoed by residents who attended prom 34, 47 years ago.
For their memories of proms past, read this past weekend's Storyteller, No matter the year or circumstances, prom brings night to remember.
For more ways prom has changed, and become more dangerous, over the years, read Judges tell teens: Bad decisions can make prom a time of regret.