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Stevenson High School student designs prom dress for date

Tyler PecorStevensHigh School senior from Long Grove designed prom dress thhis girl friend Lauren Comitor VernHills will wear his upcoming

Tyler Pecora, a Stevenson High School senior from Long Grove designed the prom dress that his girl friend, Lauren Comitor, of Vernon Hills will wear to his upcoming senior prom. Tyler Pecora, a Stevenson High School senior from Long Grove designed the pro

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It’s over: Tyler Pecora wins the award for Sweetest Prom Gift 2011.

While the average boyfriend fumbles with the corsage he grabbed half an hour ago in a supermarket floral department and the more serious contenders whip out a tip for the limo driver, Pecora will be revealing to his sweetheart, Lauren Comitor, the present that he and his friend Courtney Hart have been working on since February: Comitor’s hand-made prom dress.

That’s right, ladies of Stevenson High School: Pecora and Hart, seniors, designed, cut and sewed together an original satin evening gown, which you will see Comitor wearing May 14. You can go ahead and be, like, super jealous, knowing that no matter how hard your man worked to win your affection this year, Pecora worked harder for his girl.

“It’s going to be a nice feeling,” Pecora said of showing off he and Hart’s work

The dress is full-length and sky blue, to be matched by Pecora’s black (and rented) tuxedo. As Hart and Pecora tell the story, it is a product of love, of course, as well as friendship, a scheduling fluke, an ultimatum — and one big secret.

Hart and Pecora both grew up interested in fashion: Hart enjoyed watching her cousin design outfits, then discovered Stevenson’s sewing and clothing classes, while Pecora, who plans to study medicine at the University of Iowa, has just always been stylish.

“I like to look good,” he said.

Hart and Pecora met as sophomores and have been friends ever since. Pecora met Comitor, a year older than him and now a freshman at the University of Missouri, about a year ago, when they became lab partners in chemistry.

“We just started talking a little bit, and it just kept snowballing,” he said.

He asked her to be his date for the prom, but Pecora had the notion of wearing a white tuxedo. Comitor agreed to go to her senior prom with a junior boy — but drew the line on the tux.

“She said ‘It’s my prom, I’m a senior,’” as her boyfriend recalled.

The couple have been making it work since then (“Long-distance relationships are tough,” he said), but as the time for Pecora’s own senior prom neared, he started thinking about the white tux again.

Then the fluke happened: At the start of the spring semester, Pecora enrolled in a sociology class, but got a “bad vibe” from it.

He dropped the class and filled the time with something he was more interested in — fashion merchandising.

Meanwhile, Hart was in an elite design class, and had just finished a dress she made from an image in her mind, not needing a pattern to follow. Her teacher, Christina Erickson, put Hart’s dress on display; Pecora saw what his friend could do, and got an idea.

“I said ‘Wow, that looks good ... why can’t I do that?’”

He dreamed up and sketched out a prom dress, and took the design to Hart. Would she be willing to bring his vision to life?

Hart needed some convincing.

“It’s a hard fabric to work with,” she said — a problem compounded by the fact that she would be building a dress for a girl living hundreds of miles away, whom she had never met, let alone measured.

But Hart took the challenge. And Pecora brought his girlfriend an ultimatum: He wears the white tuxedo or she wears his design.

“Now, it’s my prom,” he said.

Comitor entrusted herself to Pecora and Hart, and the two got to work. Pecora purchased the fabric (he found a half-off sale and got everything for $42) and cut the strips; Hart measured Comitor once, then spent weeks of 50-minute classes on sewing the pieces together.

Pecora’s design was imperfect, and Hart had to make a few adjustments during her work. But today, with their efforts nearly completed and the dress mounted on a mannequin, she is proud of her accomplishment.

“It turned out better than I thought it would,” she said, though the last details cannot be fixed until the wearer comes back into town. “I really need to see her again, before the final day.”

The dress includes the designer’s mark: The letters “TP” embroidered in a clarendon font, right above the satin strip that will cover Comitor’s heart.

But Pecora kept the whole process a secret from his parents. The future med student doubted that they would even believe he could make a prom dress, unless they saw his initials on the work.

When his father took him to pick out a tuxedo, Pecora took along a swatch of the fabric Hart was sewing as a guide. He said his father did not think much of it.

“He said ‘Where did you get a swatch from?’ and I said ‘It was extra fabric from the dress.’”

But Pecora finally revealed his project to them last weekend. His worry now is that as Mother’s Day nears, his mom will struggle with jealousy. Pecora has been working on a special project for her, as well — but it’s just a handbag.

After prom, Comitor will keep the dress, Pecora will move to Iowa City, and Hart will begin studying fashion design at Columbia College in Chicago. Hart is not going to Stevenson’s prom with a date as her boyfriend goes to school in Paris, Ill.

Already having enough on her plate, she picked her own dress, and checked the Facebook group to make sure no other girls had already bought one like it.

She and Pecora chuckled, because neither they nor Comitor had ever looked at the Stevenson prom group.

“We know that won’t happen,” Hart said.

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