April 26, 2012 at 11:07 am
Guest blogger Marian Merritt, member of Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board, on her “prom mom” experiences.
This is a big week. Not a big prom week, but the last week before college decisions are due. M and I are rushing about, visiting her East Coast school options so she can make an informed choice by the deadline. This is hard–possibly harder even than selecting the prom dress and certainly more important.
Yet prom is never far from our minds. We even managed to do a little dress shopping on the way from the train station back to our hotel one day. And M has shown me that fabulous Facebook page where the girls are sharing their thoughts about dresses by posting photos of themselves modeling potential gowns in store dressing rooms. We’re seeing dresses with head-to-toe sparkle and others with solid colors with no sparkle but intricate fabric details like pleating or flowers. Inevitably, there are a few girls who are drawn to dresses with very little fabric at all. I can’t help but hope M stays with a more modest floor-length strapless dress or perhaps one with a small slit. Some of what I’ve seen on that social network page is backless or has cutouts along the torso. For me, they’re a bit too Hollywood or Las Vegas for a high school event.
I am apparently not alone in my level of discomfort with the increasingly skimpy dresses our girls are looking at. Some schools are preparing detailed fashion guides to ensure chaperones don’t have to turn away girls at the door because their dresses are too revealing. The Wall Street Journal covered this trend in an article called “For Prom, Schools Say “No” to The Dress”, spoofing the name of a popular bridal fashion television show. So why is this happening? Is it the celebrity-culture of having shocking, news-getting dresses for the red carpet? Let’s hope no prom attendee is considering a dress made of meat, a la Lady Gaga. That would get a little gamey as the evening wears on. There have always been a few kids who like to shake up the social norms, so it’s certain some girls will wear tuxedos or choose something more casual, like dressy jeans, to make a statement. And to me, that’s absolutely fine. It’s great when teens express their individuality in ways that don’t compromise their standing in the school’s good graces.
Honestly, M and I rarely battle over the prom dresses. The times I have issues are when she opts for tops that are too low cut or skirts that are too short. I hate the inventor of Daisy Duke-style shorts and don’t get me started on the trend for tighter-is-better jeans. I pick my battles. As long as M keeps ready-at-hand appropriate outfits for dinner with her grandfather, an interview and other serious events, I allow more leeway on day-to-day ensembles. I’m embarrassed to admit she’s worn flannel pajama pants to school under her uniform skirt but only because she complains the classrooms are very cold in the morning. On one of her college tours this week, we saw a student walking across campus in pajama pants. I had M swear then and there she’d never do that, even if she had overslept and was running late for class. You have to show respect for the professor and respect for yourself. At least M pretended she agreed with me but once she’s off at school, how would I know?
So here are some prom dress shopping tips for you to use before you head out to the store with your daughter:
- Set a budget and decide who is paying for what. There’s the dress, shoes and other accessories. Then there is hair and makeup which some have done professionally and others do themselves, but you may need new cosmetics. It can easily get very, very expensive and it’s better to get the money discussion over with so no one gets confused about limits.
- Find out if the school has dress code or guidelines for attire for the evening’s events. Make sure your choice complies.
- Ask your daughter how she is coordinating with her classmates to avoid buying the same outfit. If there’s a social networking page, take a look together so you can become familiar with the school’s fashion trends.
- Make sure your daughter really tries on the dress. Sequins and crystal embellishments are beautiful but can hurt when sitting down or make the dress heavy. Have her sit on a bench or chair while wearing the dress. Equally important to consider is a long slit, or very tight mermaid style. Comfort matters when the prom last several hours!
- Pay attention to underwear requirements. Will she need a special bra for strapless or criss-cross styles? What about shapers like Spanx undergarments? Plan and purchase accordingly, well in advance. Make sure she wears these new items for a few hours to ensure they work as desired and are comfortable (or at least tolerable.)
- Discuss shoes. How high a heel is she considering? Discuss her date’s height and how things will appear in photos or how comfortable a heel is as the evening wears on. Maybe consider getting a pair of those folding flat ballet shoes for her to slip in her evening bag as a comfortable option.
- How will your daughter wear her hair on the big night? Make sure any planned styles work with the dress style. If there is detailing on the shoulder and she wears her long hair in cascading curls, is that ok? Will she need rhinestone combs or clips? You’ll want them to match the details on the dress.
- Pay attention to a store’s return policy. Prom dresses are a highly seasonable item. The stores don’t want girls returning a worn dress so they often have much stricter policies. Don’t purchase several dresses to make your decision later, only to get stuck with several Cinderella outfits and no balls to wear them at. Not unless you have a fairy godmother.
Above all, have fun! If you are lucky, as I’ve been, and your daughter lets you participate in the dress shopping and decision making, try to savor these wonderful moments of mother/daughter bonding. See if you can extend your time together by taking a break for coffee or going for dinner together. Prom is such an important milestone in her life and her dress is possibly the most important fashion decision she’ll be making for a long while. That is, until she selects her wedding dress. So consider this a big warm up for that wonderful day and feel free to get all misty-eyed now, like I’ve been.
Marian Merritt is a mother of three (two teens and a tween) and works for security company Norton by Symantec. You can read her internet safety blog atwww.norton.com/askmarian. She serves on Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board and has written the award-winning Norton Family Online Safety Guide, now in its third edition.