- It is almost prom season.
- There are things you can do to ensure that you have the perfect dress for prom night.
- From leaving room in your budget for tailoring to reading up on your school’s dress code – here is how you can find the perfect dress.
Prom might be one of the biggest events of your high school career. You probably want to look and feel as special as the occasion, and this starts with finding the perfect prom dress. Picking out a prom dress can be both exciting and stressful, but with a little preparation, you can avoid making some of these common shopping mistakes that can ruin your big day.
Wearing an uncomfortable outfit can make your try-on sessions frustrating
Before you head out to look for a prom dress, make sure to choose a frustration-free shopping outfit. If you will be visiting several stores in one day, wear something comfortable that can be easily slipped off and on. Avoid shoes with laces, tight jeans, button-up tops, or layers. The harder it is for you to get in and out of your clothes, the likelier you are to have an unsuccessful shopping trip.
The wrong undergarments may affect the fit of your dress
Besides dressing comfortably, celebrity stylist Ali Levine told INSIDER that it’s important to have the right undergarments when prom dress shopping. Consider wearing a strapless bra, seamless panties, and bring along any other shapewear or support undergarments you plan to wear on prom night.
Having these on hand will help you get the right fit and give you the most accurate picture of your completed look. It’s also a good idea to bring along shoes with the heel height you expect to wear to determine if alterations will be needed.
Shopping with too many people can make it difficult to pick the right dress
Limit your prom dress shopping companions to just one or two people. Not only is it cumbersome to haul a bigger group in and out of dress shops, but too many opinions can also lead to confusion, second-guessing yourself, and settling on a dress you don’t really love. Consider only bringing a family member or a friend whose opinion you trust.
Splurging on an expensive dress isn’t your only option
One of the biggest mistakes shoppers make is assuming they have to spend hundreds of dollars on a designer prom dress. You can find an array of affordable gowns at department stores (don’t forget to check the clearance racks), juniors boutiques at the mall, and department store outlets. When shopping at a trendy store that’s popular among your friends, Levine recommends asking around to see what everyone else has picked out to limit the chances of anyone unintentionally “twinning.”
If you truly have your heart set on a designer dress, or simply want something a little more unique, consider ordering a gown through a formalwear rental company. For a fraction of the retail price, you can rent the dress of your dreams. You can also find less expensive designer gowns and other budget-friendly prom dresses at consignment stores, by joining a prom dress resale group on Facebook, or by borrowing a dress from a friend.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying on dresses outside of your budget
Before you start looking for a dress, come up with a realistic budget. Once you know how much you can spend, only visit the stores that carry dresses in your price range. It may be tempting to try on that pricey designer gown you saw in a magazine, but there’s a real possibility that you will end up falling hopelessly in love with something you can’t afford. Instead, Levine recommends using magazines to create a vision of the style, cut, and colour you would like in a dress, and then using that inspiration to find something similar that falls within your budget.
Don’t get hung up on the size
Don’t rule out a dress because the number on the tag doesn’t represent what you consider your “normal size.” Unfortunately, there is currently no enforced standard of sizing, meaning designers can size their apparel however they choose. In 2011, the New York Times published a chart showing that a size 8 could vary by up to 5 inches depending on the brand. This disparity in sizing is never more evident than when it comes to formal attire. If you love the dress and it fits well, it doesn’t matter what size is printed on the tag.
Ordering a dress from an overseas online retailer can be disastrous
It can be tempting to save some money by ordering a discounted designer-inspired prom dress online. But that steal of a deal can end up costing you much more in the long run. Many of these online retailers can take months to ship and ultimately deliver ill-fitting, cheaply made knock-offs that look nothing like the original image posted on their site. Returning the dress may even cost more than the original purchase. When it comes to online shopping, Levine warned, “it’s kind of a gamble.”
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) explains that these websites are often unsecured, and can compromise your credit card number as well as other personal information. You should always research the company, read reviews, and check for a BBB rating before making an online purchase.
If you find something you love on a reputable site, Levine highly recommends knowing your accurate measurements and following the posted size chart. “Look at pricing, the materials listed, and the picture,” she said, “That should give you an idea of what it will be like even if you can’t touch it.”
Don’t forget to budget for alterations
“Alterations are your best friend,” said Levine, “I always tell my clients to plan on alterations so it fits you like it was made for you. A good tailor can take any inexpensive look and turn it chic.” Whether it’s bringing up the hemline, shortening the straps, or covering a plunging neckline, the majority of prom dresses can benefit from some minor alterations.
Unfortunately, tailoring comes at a cost. According to Cheung’s Tailor Alterations in Minneapolis, prom dress alterations can range from $US35 to $US400 depending on the style, fabric, and amount of work needed. Before purchasing a dress that needs alterations, be sure that the cost of tailoring falls within your budget and timeframe – most tailors require at least three weeks to work on your dress, especially during prom season.
Don’t buy a dress without knowing the return policy
Before you buy your dress, ask about the return policy. Some stores have smaller return windows for formal attire, ranging anywhere from three to 30 days. This will give you a little time to get an estimate on alterations or to get a refund if you change your mind.
Always keep the receipt and all tags attached to the dress during the return window. If the dress is a final sale, make sure that you’re 100% positive that it’s the one before making a nonrefundable investment.
Remember that altered garments cannot be returned.
Not adhering to the dress code may get you kicked out of prom
Many high schools to require their students to sign a prom contract which includes dress-code guidelines. Before choosing a prom dress with a low neckline, a high slit, cutouts, exposed midriff, or an open back, make sure that it adheres to the dress code. If you break your contract, your school may deny you entry into the prom or require you to cover up.