Ah prom! That magical season of romance, festivity, and outrageous promposals. Whether she’s going with a group of friends, her true love, or the guy who sent 10,000 balloons to your house with his request for her to be his date written on ONE of them, your daughter will need a dress. This means that a prom dress shopping trip is in your near future.
It’s serious business, finding the perfect prom dress. Even the most laid back mom and the most low-key teen can become frazzled. As the day wears on, the pressure rises. Some girls can get confused and overwhelmed by the multitude possibilities. Others will despair that there is nothing that will work (Seriously, Mom. NUH-THING!). Whichever the case, by the fourth or fifth store, panic can start to set in, and emotions can start fray. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few strategies and a little preparation, you and your daughter can get through this mother/daughter rite of passage relatively unscathed.
Here are six tips to help you make the most out of your Prom Dress Shopping Day.
1. Get a good night’s sleep.
Shopping for a prom dress can take all day. I’m not kidding. Literally. All. Damn. Day. So, you’ll want to get an early start. You’ll also want to be alert for your shopping experience. Lose focus for a second and you could jeopardize the entire mission. You must be ever alert to subtle changes in shade, length, neckline, and sparkliness. Over the course of the day you will view a vast array of dresses, and it’s easy to become disoriented. It takes mental sharpness for you and your daughter to think back over the last 12 or 13 dresses and try to determine whether she looked better in azure blue, admiral blue, Aegean blue, cerulean, or lapis.
2. Eat a good breakfast.
Think whole grains and high protein. There is a very good chance that you won’t have time for lunch, and those mall kiosk pretzels offer precious little in the way of sustenance. You might even consider carb-loading the night before. And don’t forget to hydrate.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
This is imperative. You cannot afford to fall behind. I’ve heard of too many crippled mothers abandoned and left to die alone in the Macy’s dressing room.
4. Call in reinforcements.
Your daughter’s best friend. Your best friend. Your sister. Your mother. Your manicurist. Your mail lady. I guarantee you that at some point in the day, despite your best efforts and preparation, your eyes are going to glaze over. When that happens, having another woman step in to offer an opinion will be invaluable.
5. Create a Prom Dress Shopping Supply Kit.
- Band-Aids – in case you do get a blister.
- Snacks – again, no time for lunch.
- Hair accessories – you can’t really make a fully informed decision unless you can also experiment with a variety of hairstyles.
- Some reading material to keep you occupied while she’s in the fitting room – a magazine, newspaper, The Complete Works of Jane Austen. Whatever it is, you’ll likely be able to finish it before the day is over.
- Smelling salts – for when you see the price tag…
6. Be ready for sticker shock.
You tell yourself you won’t over spend. You’ve set a budget. You know your limit. Maybe you’ll get lucky. If you’re very very lucky. You will find The Dress right out of the gate, and you and your daughter will head to the nearest Starbucks where you will toast your good fortune over a couple of white chocolate lattes. But don’t count on it.
It’s more likely that by noon, you will have laced, buttoned, snapped, and zipped your daughter into approximately 7,000 dresses. And there are so many things to consider with each dress. When it comes to sequins there is a fine line between glamorous and gaudy. In the case of taffeta, a mere layer or two can mean the difference between whimsical and wild. Slits up the side of a dress can be tasteful or trashy. Gowns can be too fitted or too frumpy. Hem lines sweeping or scary. Necklines shocking or severe. How do you find a dress that is flattering to her figure, the best color for her skin tone, not too pageanty (but still glamorous) and that is also unique (but not too far out), understated (but not too plain) and age-appropriate (but not too childish)?
By the time she tries on the perfect dress, you will be so relieved, that the last thing on your mind will be the price tag…Until you see it. But by then it is too late. You and your daughter have already proclaimed this dress The One. There’s no turning back now.
Of course this raises the question, “Where was this dress 6,999 gowns ago?” Is this a little-known formal wear selling strategy? Lull the customer into a sequin-induced stupor rendering her senseless of anything but The Dress? If such a strategy exists, I can tell you, it’s brilliant and it works!
Yes, Moms. Prom dress shopping can be a grueling ordeal – both financially and emotionally. But when the big night arrives she will glide down the staircase or sweep down the hall wearing The Dress, and wiping tears of joy from your eyes, you will swear it was all worth it. And once you’ve snapped three or four hundred photos and waved a teary goodbye, you will sit down, pour yourself a glass of wine, and thank your lucky stars that prom only comes around once a year.
More by Laura Catherine Hanby Hudgens: