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Prom Dress Shopping: A Beginner’s Guide to Gorgeous

No other formal event can stress out a high school girl as much as prom – especially when it’s time to shop for the dress. If you’re attending prom for the first time, you’ll want to wear a dress that shows how cool you really are. When you’re a senior attending prom for the last time, everything has to be absolutely perfect. Either way, you put pressure on yourself to find the best dress there is for you. This short guide will help you make the hunt for the prom dress a whole lot easier so you can focus on perfecting your moves for the dance floor!

  • Know What You Want

Planning for your prom dress shopping day always starts days or weeks before you set out for the store. Peg styles that you like and colors you prefer. Go through your favorite style websites and start pinning photos of dresses that appeal to you. Include those that look almost perfect but have a detail or two that you want to change and that can be easily done by your mom or a seamstress.

  • Get the Nod of Approval for Your Choice(s)

Once you’ve chosen your dress silhouette ideas, show them to someone whose style you trust. You want to make absolutely sure that the silhouette works for your body type, and not just something that you’d like to wear if you had that perfect shape. The approval of others is not hard and fast – after all, it’s your dress and not theirs. But at the same time, it pays to have another opinion about the choices you make, especially for an important event like prom.

  • Check with Your Date

If you’re going to prom with a date, it might be a good idea to check with him regarding the color of the dress you’re planning to buy. While you’re not expected to go matchy-matchy, at the very least you wouldn’t want to clash with him, right?

  • When You Hit the Mall!

Take a day trip to the mall with your mom or best friends and keep your eyes peeled for dresses that closely resemble your dress pegs. Bring the printouts with you and show it to whoever’s with you so they can help keep an eye out for you. Start with your favorite retail shops but don’t forget to hit the department stores. You’ll be surprised to find out how many great deals there are in department stores that tend to go overlooked in favor of big-name fashion.

  • Regarding Fit and Dance-ability

Make sure that, before you choose a dress for your final fitting, you test the waters as to how easily you can move around. Is the dress too restrictive? Are there wardrobe malfunctions waiting to happen? You don’t want a drooping neckline that could bare your bosom when you bend down to tighten your shoe strap or reach over to pass your camera to your BFF. Ask your mom or a friend to look at you from afar to check whether the dress is see-through from a distance, too. Sometimes that’s easily fixed with a slip or underdress but sometimes not. Pantomime possible prom movements while wearing the dress. Your goal, apart from a totally lovely prom gown, is one that lets you have fun and move around in comfort.

  • Alteration Options

If you find a few dresses that don’t exactly match your dream, fear not. You can still take them to an alteration shop or have your mom add a few embellishments. Don’t dismiss a dress because it doesn’t come in the cut you prefer. Keep an eye out for dresses that can be nipped in where you want it, or the skirt made fuller (or slimmer), or even one that can be loosened a little if feel the need to hide  a “figure flaw.” It’ll take a bit of imagination and brainstorming with whoever accompanies you to the dress shopping expedition, but that makes it all the more fun, right?

  • Don’t Forget Accessories

Once you have a few candidates for a dress, keep in mind that you’re putting together a look that includes accessories. Jewelry, shoes, purse… If you’ve already bought or found something you love, takes it with you so you know if it’ll work with the dress you find.

  • Should You Shop Online?

Hundreds of retail stores offer online shopping, so many girls seriously consider buying a dress off the Internet and have it shipped to their homes. This isn’t a bad idea provided you know the store is reputable, that they provide all the details you need to determine whether the dress will look good on you or not, and that you can return it without penalty, preferably for free. If you see something online that comes from a local store (for instance Macy’s or Nordstrom) but the store itself doesn’t’ have the dress in stock, often they’ll order it in, but make sure it’s returnable. Also, many times if you order online, you can return the dress to the local store instead of shipping it back. Keep in mind though that there are many unscrupulous online retailers are out to cheat you by sending you dresses that don’t look like what you ordered, or worse, not sending your order at all! Make sure you check the reviews to determine whether an online retailer is indeed reputable, and check for their returns option just in case what you ordered does not fit you very well.

Important note: Especially on Amazon, you can find one dress that comes in different colors, but not all colors have free shipping, and not all colors are returnable. Make sure you red the fine print.

  • Shopping’s Not a One-Day Deal

Unless you’re incredibly lucky, that is. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find the dress of your dreams on the first try. Having a critical eye such as yours – which is a good thing! – just means you have to look again, this time in a different place. One big thing to consider is the possibility that someone else will show up in your dress. Always ask the sales clerk how many pieces they have of that style. If they say you’re looking the last one out of six, you might want to let that one go and continue your search. And don’t eliminate the possibility of shopping in a neighboring town. The farther away from home you buy, the less chance of your twin standing beside you in the group photo.

Here’s the bottom line:

Consider shopping for your prom dress to be a treasure hunt, always remembering that sometimes the best treasure is “buried” somewhere not so obvious, so have fun! Finding the perfect prom dress is an adventure, not a chore!