How to Shop for Prom Dresses

Having a teenage daughter is basically a code phrase for you will never have enough shampoo, feminine hygiene products, or cash. Another iconic symbol of teenage girls is the illustrious prom dress. What I have come to find out, is that all girls unite in a secret prom-dress society, and pledge to keep the prom dress commandment: "Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, wear the same dress to more than one dance." My daughter, a God-fearing disciple, took the oath.

So here we are. Besides an upcoming high school dance, Daisy has a big event coming up which requires a couple of new fancy schmancy dresses.  Excited to have some time together and go shopping, off to the store (after store, after store, after store, after store, after store) we went.

Since it is the season for PROMs (which is really teen code for Politely Refuse Our Mother's Style), I thought I would jot down some of the valuable lessons I learned. That way, if Daisy ever needs another formal dress, ie an eventual wedding dress, I could re-read this post and then promptly beg / bribe / pay Daisy to elope.

Before going shopping, I found it helpful to know ahead of time what the basic specs of the dress will be: a general idea of top color choices, the style (ie long, cocktail length, short, unbelievably short) and a general price range we were willing to spend. Talking about the price ceiling with your daughter beforehand will prevent surprises and lower the odds of having an entertaining debate full of love and harmony in the store. In theory.

This process of pre-narrowing the choices can help save time "in the field." After nailing down a general sense of what you are looking for, it is time to shop. I suggest you take along the essential Prom Dress Shopping 72 168-Hour Kit, which includes:

  1. The shoes that will be worn with the dress (especially if you do not have access to custom alterations)
  2. A camera
  3. Jewelry (if you already have it) to try with the dress
  4. Water (to maintain a well-salivated oral cavity for all the gulping you will do... "they are charging $750 for a piece of fabric the size of a notebook?!?!"
  5. Snacks: whatever it takes to 'stabilize' your blood sugar (ie mood...)
  6. Tooth guard: these protect your enamel when performing the "bite your tongue / grit your teeth maneuver" also known as muffling constructive truth.
  7. Bike helmet: this is an important safety item to protect against butting heads. Plus it is handy tool for knocking sense into the aliens who clearly kidnapped your daughter...."no the natural waist is NOT three inches below the hip bone."
  8. Gloves: you don't want to leave fingerprints when you rob a bank, do you?
  9. A robe or swim suit cover-up (*see item number 4)
  10. An iPod with 342 hours of Brian Regan.
  11. Sense of humor (*see items #4, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Now let's talk about the actual shopping part. We all know that growing up, our mom's didn't quite have the handle on fashion like we did. My mom, bless her heart, simply had old-fashioned taste and didn't always recognize true 80's 'hip'ness (not to be confused with 'hippiness') when she saw it. For example, she thought moon boots were ugly. Imagine! Lucky for my daughter, I have closed that parent-child chasm. With my impeccable taste and finger on the pulse of today's fashion,  I know what Daisy should wear. If only she hadn't taken that other well-known teenage oath...."We are not about to listen to advice from an old person, defined as 'a person who remembers when there was no Velcro'." - Dave Barry 

Yes, clothes shopping with your children requires skillful balance....knowing when to offer your support by way of opinion, and when to suddenly have a little tickle in your throat which leads to coughing fits.


Well, I hope these tips can help to make the most out of your shopping. And by making the most of it, I don't necessarily mean finding the perfect dress.... I mean

  1. Coming home still talking to one another
  2. Not having to declare bankruptcy

Above all, the most important thing is to cherish the time together. After all, being with our teen-agers is like holding melted jello in our hands...it (they) slip(s) right through our fingers, leaving nothing but an imprint of color and a memory of how it felt to hold the precious substance in our hand, if only for a moment.

I'll be busy thinking about that when I'm starting up my new organization..MAPs (Mothers Against Proms). First order of business: A secret oath.

**Editor's Note: Any likeness to the actual story and/or characters are highly intentional. Actually, the truth is, although I tease, I do not blame Daisy for my frustration in the difficulty of finding a dress. I blame the clothing industry. Why can't they make a beautiful dress at a reasonable price with decent coverage?  My daughter really has been awesome through this. She is not willing to compromise her values of modesty and is very sensitive to our budget. I love her dearly and treasure our moments of trying on dress after dress after dress.

Photo by Kristel Poole


Nat said...

Oh, the good ol' days. I remember them well, except mine involved going to the fabric store and picking a pattern and fabric. My mom always made mine...she was a great seamstress. Plus, it saved money...seven kids on a school teachers salary (this was when fabric was reasonable to buy).

I love the picture of that red dress! Fancy Schmancy indeed. And how fun is it that you get to buy a couple dresses! I love Junior Miss! Good Luck Daisy!!

Jac Smak said...

This is so funny. Well done!

LGH said...

Jenni, I have now posted three comments to this blog; none of them shows up. So, I'm trying once again. This was absolutely delightful. IT was spot on. And, I agree, Janessa really is great throughout the process. Good luck.

Mrs. Olsen said...

Oh prom! This post makes me scared for what lies down the road for me. So glad you have a sense of humor about it all. I remember my mom made me a dress for senior prom, and I was a little annoyed that she sewed the skirt portion with pinched ruffles. I wanted a straight edge and felt like a nerd. But I had fun at the dance and that's what matters.

Now...you must post a picture of your daughter in her prom dress (if and when you find it).

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

Hey, fun post. A reader refered it to me because I just went shopping for a Homecoming dress with my daughter. After reading your post though, I thought I'd mention that I bought my daughter's dres at greathlengthsshorts.com. Reasonably priced, beautiful, and modest. Wahoo!


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