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Palmdale's pop tab prom couple got by with a little help from friends

From pop tab to prom dress
Diana Diaz

The pop tab prom couple of Brie Fainblit and James Lawrence made it to prom on April 11 with a little help from Los Angeles Times readers, who read about Fainblit's homespun efforts to make her own dress using soda can tabs and black yarn last weekend. Highland High School in Palmdale, California hosted their annual Prom at The Vineyards in Simi Valley.

While many students were planning elaborate "promposals" (a proposal to go to prom), buying expensive prom dresses, making dinner reservations, and renting limousines, Fainblit fashioned her own dress out of soda tabs and black yarn, along with blood, sweat, tears, and lots of Band-Aids for her bleeding fingers. Along with the dress, the couple completed the look with a pop tab purse and choker for her, and pop tab vest, belt, and bow tie for him.

One generous Times reader, and new friend, donated the services of a seamstress to help Fainblit finish the dress, a driver to take her to buy shoes, jewelry, cufflinks for her boyfriend, a hairdresser to help her prepare for the big night, and even a limousine to take the couple to and from the school where they were bussed to and from the prom location. "It was really cool. I was really happy. We had so much fun," said Fainblit to the Times.

Money is tight for the twosome, and for the Fainblit family. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Highland High sweethearts couldn't afford to go to the annual Homecoming dance, and staged their own event at home. The family also suffers significant financial hardships. Fainblit's mother is disabled and they live on a fixed income.

Her supportive boyfriend, James Lawrence, helped weave the dress. He tutored another student in math at $10 an hour to pay for 2 tickets to prom at a whopping $110 apiece. That's $220 for two students. He even paid an extra $20 so his girlfriend could run for Prom Queen. Sweetly enough, the young lovers met in drama class. Lawrence had a singing part in the school musical, while Fainblit worked as stage manager. They plan to attend Antelope Valley College together next year.

Fainblit wasn't voted Prom Queen, either. She said that she only made one poster, which was torn down. Meanwhile, popular girls (AKA jealous haters) handed out lotion and various trinkets to campaign for the top spot of Prom Queen. The real question is, how did it all become so elaborate?

The price of prom at $110 a pop is outrageous. School dances should be about having fun, dancing, and hearing the music that gets kids dancing in the school gym, as seen in the musical 'Grease' or the classic film, 'It's A Wonderful Life.' It seems that Highland High school is conscious that some students need help and staged a prom dress give-away using donated dresses.

The sad truth is, there are many young people who can't raise the money for prom and don't make headlines. Others make poor choices. One Sacramento girl succumbed to prom night pressure by selling pot brownies with an underage friend to raise funds for a dress, sending one student to the hospital. Instead of a fabulous prom, her bake sale bust reward was 9 days in jail, 4 years probation, and possible deportation to Mexico.

In the end, the pop tab prom dress was a huge hit. Fainblit reported that many of her classmate asked to touch it or take pictures with her. Her favorite moment was slow dancing with her super-awesome boyfriend in a spotlight, surrounded by a circle of friends. It sounds like the real Prom Queen was the one in pop tabs.

Please see Saturday's Los Angeles Times 'City Beat' article for more information and photos, as well as the original article Short on money, Palmdale teen crafts a soda can prom dress.