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Prom-enade Dressing: Tips for finding the perfect look for prom

Ah, Prom. Most people who have managed to make it through the not-so-glorious days of high school look back fondly on the occasion—or at least the John Hughes movie they wished they were in. Choosing a prom dress can be a momentous decision (though looking back on the styles through the filter of time and maturity is nothing short of hilarious), so we contacted a few experts to get their advice on finding the perfect gown.

1. Be open to trying on different styles.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a specific color or style of dress, but it’s best to be open-minded. Try different styles, colors, and fabrics to see what works best with your figure and skin tone.

“When girls come into my studio to try on prom dresses, they usually have a color or style in mind that they are determined to find and wear,” says Kelsey Forsee of Kelsey Girl’s Dress Closet, a rental and consignment shop for formalwear. “It’s great to have personal taste, but don’t be discouraged when you can’t find the dress you had in mind. Just be brave and try something new!”

Victoria Kotsovos of Kotsovos Bridal, Furs and Prom agrees. “Listen to the salesperson’s suggestions, because they know which styles flatter every body type. You might love a dress you never pictured yourself wearing.”

2. Find your dress first, then accessorize.
It can be tempting to try to create a look around a great pair of shoes or a nice piece of jewelry, but it’s much easier to let the dress be your guide.

“A memorable prom dress looks only as good as the accessories that complement it,” says Forsee. “The pattern and color of your dress can determine what accessories you'll need to create a trendy look.”

A few tips:

  • If your dress has a decorative neckline, consider wearing your hair up to show it off.
  • Wearing a classic little black dress? Have fun with colorful earrings or a bright shade of lipstick to brighten up your face.
  • A short dress is the perfect opportunity to show off your shoes—go for a pair with a lot of straps and details, or in a contrasting color.

“Rhinestone necklaces and earrings are favorites,” note Kathy Smith and Lauren Hope of Kenzie’s Closet, an organization that provides complete prom outfits for financially disadvantaged young women. “Evening dress shoes with a higher heel are popular, as are heels with a touch of bling.”

3. Give yourself time for alterations.
As with most fashion, fit is everything. It’s difficult to dance the night away in a dress that rides up or falls down, so buy your dress a couple of months before your prom to give yourself time to have it tailored.

“Most dresses need alterations,” notes Kotsovos, “so going to a store that has in-house alterations makes your experience much more convenient and ensures your gown will fit perfectly.”

4. Pay attention to trends, but don’t be a slave to them.
It’s great to look of-the-moment, but finding a dress in a flattering fit and color are more important than keeping up with the latest trend.

Currently, the most requested styles are short dresses and the mermaid-style dresses that seem to dominate the red carpet right now. “The mermaid is great because it can highlight the curves on an hour-glass figure, or add curves to a straight figure,” says Forsee. “Short dresses can look great on anyone and it’s a good option for those who want to show off their stylish shoes.”

In terms of color, classic navy and black have been outpaced by bold, colorful dresses. According to Smith and Hope, the most popular colors include hot pinks, poppy tangerines, bright kelly greens, robin’s egg blues, brilliant lavenders, deep amethyst tones, sassy reds, and shimmering golds.

If your dress has a unique pattern or design on it, you’ll want that to be the focal point. “You can draw people’s eyes to your dress by choosing accessories in complementary colors, instead of using accessories that are the same or similar in color,” says Forsee.

Overall, the prom dress shopping experience should be special—not stressful.

“We have observed the true magic that happens when the students find the dress that makes them feel totally beautiful and special,” say Smith and Hope. “Many times, we will help young women who have never had a dress on before—and especially not something like a prom dress or evening gown.”

No matter what your style, there are plenty of local resources to ensure you look and feel your best on your special day.

Big thanks to our experts for their input and advice! Please visit kotsovosprom.com, facebook.com/kelseygirlsdresscloset, and kenziescloset.org for more details about their services.