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5 Prom Dress Tips: Surviving Prom Dress Shopping

The day arrived. My daughter and I were headed out for prom dress shopping. I had pictured this exciting day many times. We’d looked at countless dresses online. I was ready!

But what I did not picture was how exhausting, expensive, competitive and, yes, lovely the day would be.

Prom Dress Shopping Advice for Parents: 

1. Be prepared.

Chances are you will go to more than one mall, more than one dress shop, and maybe even more than one town or city in order to locate this “perfect” dress. Bring multiple bras, as different dresses require different set-ups in that area. Also, bring several dress shoe options, so you can see how varying heel heights and styles go with a particular dress.

2. Set a budget in advance.

Prom dresses can cost a lot more than you might expect, especially the designer dresses. It is best to have a budget in mind and to have discussed it beforehand with your daughter, as I did with mine. I was hoping that she would keep that budget in mind as she perused rack after rack of these glittery, rhinestone-embellished long gowns. While my daughter was cognizant of the budget, she did mention several times how it was not what her friends were spending on their dresses. Although there was a great deal of back and forth about her budget, in the end, I stuck to my guns.

3. Have a stance on styles.

Clothing styles in general have changed quite a bit from when I was teen shopping for clothes. It seems like the line between what adults wear and what teenagers wear is blurring more and more. For example, the clothing I see in the junior department often mimics the clothing I find in the women’s department, even the sexy styles! This same concept holds true with formal wear. There are some provocative styles available to our girls. While I did not feel the need to discuss that possibility before this excursion began, I most definitely did while my daughter perused the options. We agreed on some opinions but not on all. I find it best to continue to use the words “classic” and “elegant.” Those words scream unsexy.

4. Don’t be surprised by how much your daughter knows.

As you probably recall from your own prom, the dress is a big deal. A. Really. Big. Deal. And has likely been the topic of your daughter’s conversation with her friends for weeks, if not months. My daughter already knew the low-down on each designer and she was well-informed about which stores she should check out. She had an amazing working knowledge of what each designer’s dresses cost and which of her friends had already chosen which designer. It is fairly unbelievable but, if your daughter is like mine, you will be amazed at how much information regarding this topic she can retain compared to her ability to recall her Spanish vocabulary words for a quiz. For the record, there is no comparison.

5. Appreciate this special moment.

After several hours of schlepping, arguing over cost (regardless of the fact you clearly expressed the budget), combing through the plethora of dresses and holding back my judgment for some of the styles that she adored, my daughter finally said “yes to the dress.” The image of her in the full-length mirror in that overly warm dressing room is like no other.

After this never-seeming-to-end day, my daughter was smiling, almost beaming, from having found her perfect dress. I found myself smiling at her reflection too. Here she was, getting ready for her last high school dance, and I realized that I would never have traded this crazy experience for anything.

Lisa Katz

Lisa Katz is a freelance writer based in Florida. Her work has appeared in Giggle Magazine, Wellness 360, and The Huffington Post. Read more of her work at lisakatzbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @LKatzBooks.