March 19, 2014 05:11 PM

Angela Weiss/Getty

Eva Mendes has only been designing her collection for New York & Company for a few seasons now, but her design experience goes way back: She created her own prom gown. But unlike many girls who went to prom in the ’90s, she has no regrets about the dress — thanks to a little inspiration from Julia Roberts.

“It actually wasn’t that bad! Considering it was early ’90s and I styled it after the red dress that [Roberts] wears in Pretty Woman,” she tells PEOPLE at an L.A. event for her latest New York & Company collection. “I saw it when I was in ninth grade, and I held on to the image of her in that red dress … in the four years I didn’t deviate from my love of that dress. I just made a short — and what I thought was a cooler — version of that. Looking back, I could have done a lot worse!” (See the photo, below!)

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She may not be wearing rom-com-inspired ballgowns anymore, but her style is still super-girlie. “I’m definitely not a ‘jeans’ girl. I’m a dress and skirt girl, and I think that I gravitate towards things that are very feminine,” she says. “I think the way the ladies in the ’50s and ’60s did it, they knew what they were doing back then.”

That influence is evident in her latest collection, which is full of full skirts, nipped waists and ladylike prints. And nothing makes her feel better than seeing someone in her designs. “It’s the best! But I’m constantly taking notes on how I can make anything better,” she says. “I want women to know that when they get a piece that’s Eva Mendes [for] New York & Company, that it’ll fit well and they can feel great in it.”

There is one more thing women want to know from Mendes, so we had to ask: How does she get her signature headscarf to look so amazing? “Practice, practice, practice. Oh, and Youtube videos!” she shares. “The old school ones, like from the ’50s. I found one from the mid-’50s, black and white, and this beautiful woman has a tutorial on how to make your turban.”

What do you think of Mendes’s designs? Have you shopped the collection? Any fun prom dress stories? Tell us below!

–Alex Apatoff, reporting by Reagan Alexander

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