TUNE INTO THE FINALE
"American Idol's" two-night finale is Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
You don't have to look further than a Chattanooga boutique to find dresses worn by Lauren Alaina Suddeth on "American Idol."
Some of the cocktail dresses and evening gowns worn on-air by the Rossville, Ga., 16-year-old have been provided, at no cost, by Chuck and Vikki Prado, owners of The Prado Collection, a high-end formalwear store at Hamilton Place.
Mr. Prado said he sends three or four dresses to Suddeth every week, and the performer makes the final selection of what she'll wear.
The Prados' relationship with Suddeth started just after she aced the Nashville audition and headed to Hollywood.
"We had heard about the girl from Rossville, Ga., being on 'American Idol,'" Mr. Prado said. The Prados have a customer from Rossville who is a friend of Suddeth's parents.
"We told the client that we'd like to dress Lauren. Within an hour and a half, Lauren was in our store," he said. "She was excited."
When Suddeth left three days later, she took along the now-familiar pink cocktail dress and matching pink cowboy boots that she wore when finding out if she had been chosen for the finals.
Show host Ryan Seacrest and judge Jennifer Lopez made spirited on-air comments about the short, ballerina-style dress with matching pink, sequined cowboy boots.
"That's an interesting choice," Seacrest said about the outfit. "That's got as much personality as you do." He dubbed her footwear "Barbie cowboy boots."
Lopez said, "What's this outfit? Tell me about the outfit - pink boots and all the sparkles? Did they make it special for you?"
As it turns out, "they" did, indeed. The dress was custom-designed for Suddeth, Mr. Prado said.
On last Wednesday's show, Suddeth wore one of Prado's light-turquoise, floor-length gowns. The gown, as well as Suddeth's performance, got rave reviews from the judges and from a couple of Chattanooga fashion experts.
Emily Goodin, owner of Boutique Couture in downtown Chattanooga, said she looked like a "prom queen in the beaded gown - age-appropriate and pretty."
Suzanne Bishop West, owner of Frankie & Julian's fashion boutique on Frazier Avenue, said the strapless gown made the 16-year-old Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleader look regal. "The gown made her look much taller and so elegant, but simple - a perfect combination," she said.
Goodin and West said Suddeth's sense of style has matured since her audition in Nashville.
"From the small-town, country girl to the lovely young lady she is today, in just a short time Lauren Alaina has blossomed in front of our eyes," Goodin said.
"You can tell that Lauren loves the drama of color. We saw that in her first audition when she was in the multicolored dress with bright makeup. However, I think she's learned how to work color into her wardrobe with an improved sense of style."
"She has definitely transformed in front of our eyes from a shy Chattanooga girl to a true star and hopefully soon to be American Idol," West said. "Her hair and makeup look great on the show, and my personal opinion is that her hair has improved dramatically since her audition, much more sleek and chic."
West is not a fan, though, of Suddeth's heavy makeup.
"I think she has way too much makeup on for a girl her age. Even though she is performing onstage, I feel her makeup is overdone and that a more natural look would suit her best. She's only 16, and I hope she doesn't grow up too fast with her newfound fame," West said.
Goodin likes Suddeth's ongoing fashion connection with her country roots.
"Throughout the season, she has definitely kept true to her country roots by mixing cowboy boots with her outfits onstage," Goodin said. "Although I wasn't a fan of all of her boot pairings, the style of music she's known for made her adorable in all of her country-inspired frocks."
West said she loved the white ballerina-style skirt (not a Prado selection), also worn during last Wednesday's show. "It really made her legs look long, and it showed off her tiny waist," West said.
West, on the other hand, didn't like the skinny jeans/orange tunic/white cowboy boots outfit she wore during one of last Wednesday night's performances.
"The song (Faith Hill's 'Wild One') was perfect for her, but this ensemble was not," West said. "She always has the confidence to pull off anything, but it accentuated her curvy figure instead of flattering it, and I was not a fan."
According to a family member, Suddeth has lost 20 pounds during her "American Idol" run.
"Idol" fan Nanette Hawkins of Fort Oglethorpe, who saw the performer on her recent visit home, said Suddeth looks much smaller in person.
"She is not as big as she looks on television," she said. "We all know the camera adds pounds, but it really does to her. Maybe sometimes it is the clothes she chooses."
Reviews on Suddeth's fashion choices have been mixed.
"There were moments during the season that I felt like her style seemed as if she was trying too hard - too many accessories or patterns, chunky dimensions in her hair, etc.," Goodin said.