Fort Mill High School senior Sara Borer, a tomboy at heart, took time away from her sports to prep for her final prom on April 25.
Armed with best friend Lauren Davis, the girls hopped into Borer's Volkswagen on a recent Saturday and began a scavenger hunt at Carolina Place Mall in Pineville, N.C.
"I went to the mall last year, and the stores had a lot of dresses," according to Borer, 18.
At Dillard's, Davis started advising Borer on colors and fashions.
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"You'd look really good in blue, teal, or what about purple," said Davis, a senior at Nation Ford High School.
Borer walked to the prom section and two dresses piqued her interest: A leopard print and a bright blue gown. After an unsuccessful session in the dressing room, Borer and Davis moved on to another store.
Macy's proved futile.
JCPenney carried styles she considered too matronly. Borer blamed herself for a lack of planning.
"I waited too long this year and all the dresses are taken," said Borer, a member of the Fort Mill varsity girls' soccer team.
"The mall didn't have a variety of choices," she said.
But Davis wouldn't let her friend go home without a dress and suggested Concord Mills in Concord, N.C.
"Even though the mall is really far away, this one store inside of it has the biggest selection of prom dresses," Davis said of Group USA The Clothing Company, an extensive store catering to prom and wedding paraphernalia.
So they crossed their fingers, found directions and started the 35-minute drive.
At the mall, there was no time for foolishness. The girls put on their game faces and continued the hunt. After overcoming intimidation, Borer found two dresses, but picked through the racks to discover more. A few steps away, Davis found a couple more flattering gowns for her friend and they headed to the dressing room.
Dresses of different colors and styles ranging from a blue halter dress to a green backless flew in and out of the dressing room. But Borer couldn't find the perfect dress.
Neither could her friend.
"It's not flattering," Davis said of the blue halter.
After Borer tried on a couple of orange-colored dresses, Davis discovered that the color looked pretty on her friend. But the styles lacked pizzazz.
"I love the color, but the fit isn't right," Davis said. "We need to find more styles of dresses in that color."
Davis left the dressing area to find more gowns. Five minutes later, she came back with a handful of styles, but one color stood out - orange.
Even though Borer liked orange, she still worried about the fit.
"I should have brought my Spanx," she said, laughing from behind the dressing room door. "I have two more weeks to work out."
Nine prom dresses later, Borer stepped out of the dressing room wearing an orange strapless beaded with rhinestones.
"I like how it fits and the color and rhinestone make it simple, but not too plain," Borer said.
Davis added, "The prom dress is her best color and perfect fit."
The dress was so-so, Borer said.
"I don't love it, but I like it," she said.
But damage on the rhinestones and a hook was a deal breaker. Borer left the store gownless.
After sidetracking to the food court for some food therapy, Borer and Davis decided to look around the mall for fun.
When all hope was lost, Borer encountered a gown at BCBG Maxazria. The green dress was hiding on the sale rack. She decided to try it on.
"I saw it and thought it was perfect," she said.
And it was.
"It's my size and the right price, cut and color," Borer said.
Davis liked the black jewels on the dress and she believes they accentuate her friend's figure.
"I think Sara will stand out at prom because her dress is unique," Davis said.
Borer bought the gown and stepped out of the store with a bag in her hand and a smile on her face.
"It's a relief," she said.
But there is still more to do.
"The next thing is finding shoes to match the dress, looking up hairstyles and getting manicures and makeup done," Davis said as they left the mall to start their drive home.
Borer faces more preparation but understands prom isn't about the perfect dress or hair.
"This is my last prom," she said. "I want to spend it with my friends."